This frittata was inspired by a recipe that my Italian grandfather used to make for our family’s breakfast feasts. It was a dressed up Italian version of scrambled eggs, featuring lots of delicious add-ins, including spicy Italian sausage, bell peppers, some zesty dried chile, and lots of Pecorino cheese. My grandfather would make that dish for extended family and friends in their north Denver kitchen, but I remember it best, growing up, as a highlight of sunny morning picnics, cooked on a campstove in the Colorado Rockies. I loved how my grandfather could take the simplest of ingredients and turn them into something extraordinarily delicious.
I still make his dish, particularly for weeknight dinners, but lately I have become enamoured with frittatas. I have experimented with a few different techniques, including cooking them on the stove and flipping them and finishing them in the oven. But my frittatas started tasting a lot better after I started using some of Heidi Swanson’s methods that she describes in her awesome cookbook, Super Natural Every Day. First, I recommend making frittatas in a cast iron (or other heavy pan). I have found that removing half of the cooked vegetables from the pan and adding them just before the pan goes into the broiler results in a lighter, less-dense frittata. The vegetables are more pronounced and retain their individual flavors. Finally, finishing the frittata under the broiler yields a puffier frittata that doesn’t overcook and get rubbery and the cheese melts to perfection. Use a lower broil setting, if your oven has one. The other secret to a perfectly cooked frittata is to not brown the underside of it, which is why I keep the heat low while it is cooking on the stove.
I coined this dish Pizza Frittata because the act of making this dish is not unlike doing the prep for a pizza, layering vegetables and cheese onto a “crust” and then sliding it into a hot oven to crisp.
To my mind, frittatas (and really egg dishes in general) are ideal for a cheap feast—they are nutritious, adaptable, they can stretch to serve a crowd, and they are delicious!
- Serves 4 people with leftovers; 6 people perfectly. if you are serving more people, double the amounts of all of the ingredients and add additional eggs -- ten eggs are ideal for eight guests.
1/2 pound Italian sausage (a mix of hot and sweet is ideal, but if you are cooking for less adventurous palates, sweet is fine), links removed
3 tablespoons oil (divided, you may not need all of this) -- I use organic canola or rice bran
1 small or half of a large sweet onion, thinly sliced
6 ounces (about 4) Yukon Gold or other small potatoes, sliced thinly (skin on is okay)
1 green or red bell pepper, cored and seeded and cut into long strips
3 good-sized garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil (a decent supermarket brand is fine)
8 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk (not skim), a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper, added
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh herbs (for this contest I used parsley, but in the spring I like to add chives and in the summer basil is a nice addition), chopped
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
½ teaspoon good quality crushed red pepper flakes (pepperoncini)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Your best extra virgin olive oil (you will only need a drizzle)
- First, cook the sausage. Place about 1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil in a cast iron or other heavy oven proof skillet. Place the sausage in skillet and saute, turning occasionally until exterior is carmelized. Or alternatively you can roast sausage on an oven-proof rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Slide baking sheet into the oven. Roast for about 30 minute until exterior is caramelized. It’s not necessary to turn the sausage, but you can if you want to. Remove sausage from cast iron pan or baking sheet and when cool enough to handle, cut sausage into one inch pieces. (If you have used skillet to brown sausage, wipe out all but 1 tablespoon of oil and drippings.
- Heat skillet that you used to brown sausage over medium heat. If you browned sausage in oven or there are not enough drippings, add one more tablespoon oil. When it is hot, add onion and potatoes and sauté for about five minutes or until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add peppers and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until potatoes are golden and onion is starting to brown. Add sausage and give everything a good stir. Add garlic to pan and continue to sauté for another minute or until garlic begins to give off a heady aroma. Add salt and pepper and pepperoncini and take pan off heat. Remove half of the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Drizzle small amount (about a tablespoon olive oil) over vegetables remaining in pan.
- Turn heat on burner down to low and turn on the broiler (low setting if your oven has it). Add egg mixture to cast iron pan and cook on stovetop until eggs are set on the bottom but still are a bit wet on the surface. Run a spatula underneath the frittata to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the pan. I also find it helpful to swirl the pan to ensure that the eggs are in one layer and are cooking evenly.
- Remove pan from heat. Add reserved vegetables and ¼ cup herbs to pan, spreading them evenly on the frittata. Sprinkle Pecorino cheese on top. Slide pan into the oven for 1-2 minutes or until cheese is golden and frittata has begun to puff up and finish cooking. Do not walk away or your frittata will burn!
- Remove from the broiler and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon herbs. Drizzle with your best olive oil. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.
- Serving suggestions: We enjoy fried potatoes or grits topped with butter and Parmesan cheese with this dish. For leftovers, make a frittata sandwich. Warm frittata in low oven. Toast slices of ciabatta bread. Rub a garlic clove over the bread and brush with olive oil. Add wedges of warmed frittata and some lightly dressed arugula with red wine vinegar, olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. Heaven on a plate!