How to make easy, versatile frittatas

“Frittata” must be Italian for “kitchen sink.”

And so we find another recipe fit for these straitened times, using up all the tasty bits leftover in the refrigerator, bound together by the always-appealing yet easily-gotten egg.

For such a basic recipe, frittata directions abound yet, to my mind, some are obligatory.

Always add some sort of whole-fat dairy such as whole milk (either as straight milk or whole-milk Greek yogurt), crème fraîche, whipping cream, Mexican crema, sour cream, or even buttermilk. It “custardizes” what might otherwise become a dried-out omelet. In a pinch, 2  percent milk works, but it’s really more like just adding water.

The milk-to-egg ratio is important. For every 6 eggs, use at least 1/4 cup dairy. The cheese, if used, doesn’t count here; it’s in addition to the whole milk and it’s generous.

For every 6 eggs, use up to 1 full cup of grated cheese. Drier or firmer cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano or Gruyère go on top generously; wetter cheeses such as ricotta or goat’s cheese go inside minimally.

The other ingredients, whether leftovers or raw-to-start, need to be fully cooked and at room temperature before assembling the frittata. An easy go-to measure is 2 cups of add-in ingredients (leftovers, cooked vegetables, pasta, rice or other grain, chopped meat or bacon, and the like) for every 6 eggs.

Many frittata flavorings or additions, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, squashes, greens, sausage filling, aromatics (especially onions) and potatoes contain enough moisture to waterlog and spoil the frittata if that wetness isn’t cooked and evaporated out of them before the eggs go in.

The correct pan matters. The best skillet to use is of well-seasoned cast iron because it serves both to begin the frittata on top of the stove (the “frittata,” or “frying” section) as well as stand the heat of the oven in order to finish the frittata.

Heavy, stainless steel works because it distributes heat well, but you may need extra oil or clarified butter to prevent the eggs from sticking. Thin pans will burn the eggs using frittata’s combination of heat levels. Whichever sort of pan you use, a 12-egg frittata necessitates a large 10- to 12-inch pan.

Season early and season heedlessly. You won’t be able to get herbs and black pepper into the frittata unless you add them at the start, but all seasonings are meant to go a long way in any egg-based dish. So add them with abandon. (Add salt keeping in mind its prior presence in any add-in ingredients or chosen cheese.)

Today’s recipe is for a basic frittata, using the measurements just discussed. It doesn’t stipulate specifics, such as what sorts of cheese or other add-in ingredients to use. Those measurements and particulars are left to your pantry, imagination or a couple of “turns” or variations inspired by other writers on cooking.

Basic Frittata

Makes 6 wedges.


  • 6-8 large eggs, whisked
  • 2 teaspoons dried herbs such as oregano, thyme, herbes de Provence, or 1-2 teaspoons spices such as cumin, cayenne pepper, smoked or regular paprika, or 1-2 teaspoons herbs and spices mixed, all to your taste
  • 1/4 cup whole-milk dairy
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or less, depending on other ingredients used)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee
  • 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • 2 cups add-in ingredients (meats, leftovers, grains, etc.)
  • 1 cup shredded or crumbled cheese


Heat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Add the chosen herbs or spices, or their combination, and the salt and pepper, to the whisked eggs and dairy, mix well, and set aside. Over medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil in a 9- to 10-inch oven-proof skillet (ideally cast iron).

Put the add-in ingredients in the skillet and heat, stirring, until any excess moisture in them is given off.

Give one last whisk to the egg mixture and add it all to the skillet, tilting the pan if necessary to assure that the eggs have reached in and around all of the add-ins. Cook for 2 minutes or a bit more, until the egg at the edges of the pan begin to set.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cut through the frittata in the center; if raw egg runs into the center, bake for another minute or more. If none runs, pull the frittata from the oven and let it settle on the stovetop for 4-5 minutes more.

For a browned top on the frittata, hit it with a broiler element for 1-2 minutes.

The timing overall depends on how robust the pan, the sorts of ingredients, the size of the (“large”) eggs and the evenness of heat in the oven.

Kuku sabzi: Samin Nosrat, in her book “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” gives this Persian turn on the frittata. Some of her directions differ from those here, but to make kuku sabzi use as add-ins 2 bunches chard and 1 large leek, both chopped up and well-cooked of their moisture, and 4 cups finely chopped cilantro (leaves and tender stems) and 2 cups chopped dill (leaves and tender stems). Omit the dairy and up the butter by 50 percent and eggs (by 2-3).

The kuku sabzi will take a little longer to bake because it is thick, but the point, in general, is to have it redolent of things green.

Mark Bittman: A master at variations, Bittman offers several turns on a basic frittata in his “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” One is a “pasta frittata” using 1/2 pound already cooked or leftover pasta as the main add-in. Another is the same amount of already-cooked grain (quinoa, for example, or farro or bulghur).

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