Quitters never win, but sometimes winners make the entire package of pasta out of sheer noodle-based gluttony and then, well, what are you going to do with half a pound of perfectly good cacio e pepe? Throw it out? Give up on your dreams?
Fritatta is something I can never spell right on the first try, but it just means “fried” in Italian. The Pinterest People are posting recipes for “easy frittata” that start with frying bacon and wilting spinach and chopping healthy things like butternut squash and beets and arugula, but to me a frittata is always the answer to “how can I de-sog this pasta”, and also “how can I make something tasty in 15 minutes or less without trying that hard.”
Fritattas where you have to do a bunch of work are, not to put too fine a point on it, dumb. I’m not chopping extra stuff or finishing anything under the broiler to make what is essentially a glorified omelette. Fritattas are about two things: the cheap thrill of successfully flipping an entire pan of leftover pasta, and elevating your sad soggy leftovers into a crispy treat.
The thing about food is you have to want to eat it, which means the cardinal rule for leftovers is Never Eat the Same Thing Twice. Eating cold leftovers out of the same bowl you stored them in is extremely relatable at 2am when you’re just trying to scrounge for nutrients like a small plucky rat who lives behind a dumpster, but in the cold light of day, when you’re staring at a bowl of crusty unmentionables and trying to convince yourself to both #hashtag self-care and #hashtag not spend money on takeout, it is very much Not the Move.
If you stay nimble and switch food genres fast enough, the Demon of Fridge Depression won’t be able to get her scaly claws in you, and you can pretend you’re taking yourself out for lunch at a chic little cafe.
Frittatas are one of the lowest-effort ways I know of to take everything weird and gross in your fridge and make it delicious again. They respond well to cheese, ancient vegetables, weird spices and sauces, and limp noodles that have completely given up on life. Mixing all of these together with copious amounts of eggs will give you a golden-brown crispy pie of goodness, making your sad fridge buddies shine like a bunch of Queer Eye miracles.
EASY FRITTATA LEFTOVERS MAKEOVER SEQUENCE
This is one of those recipes where I usually Just Go For It, so we’re going to have to go on a little narrative journey this week in which I remind myself what I actually do and with what.
Let’s say you made an entire pack of spaghetti last night for dinner, which is 500g/a little over a pound, and you and your sister ate half of it, so now you have like 8 and a half ounces of cooked spaghetti. Probably you tried to make it fancy, but let’s pretend it was a Butter Noodles ‘N Cheese kind of night. No one’s making three-hour sauces where you have to chop a bunch of stuff every day.
You have your bowl of cold noodles and whatever leftover sauce they’re in. Crack probably 5 eggs in there. Fritattas are Pasta with some Egg, not Egg with some Pasta. You don’t need to clean yourself out of eggs, is what I’m saying, but if they’re about to go bad you can probably use up to 8. How many eggs would you put in an omelette for yourself? And then double it (for two people.)
Second ingredient: More grated cheese. Whatever you used yesterday, use more. Like ½ a cup. Plus salt and pepper to taste (1/4 tsp of each).
This is all you need for it to be tasty, BUT – canvas your fridge. Got some leftover cooked vegetables looking all sad? How about some forlorn deli meats of mysterious origin? Herbs on the verge? Tragic mushrooms?
Get that stuff in there. This particular frittata has some Ancient Salami that I cut up with scissors, plus extra garlic sliced and heated in a little olive oil with some red pepper flakes because I was feeling frisky and could handle adding a step.
You could do feta and spinach and beetroot, thyme and roast chicken chopped up small, caramelized onion and ham. Whatever you would put in an omelette/on a flatbread will work. Mozzarella and cherry tomato and basil is a classic, or mozzarella and pastrami and leftover cabbage – eclectic but perhaps a new favorite! Who knows. Be your own hero.
I will say that I find this works best when the pasta’s been cooked in a plain-ish sauce to start with: cacio e pepe, or aglio e olio, or lemon and butter, or something. That way, it blends with whatever you want to add, because everything goes with cheese, olive oil and garlic.
I’ve never made a fritatta with tomato-sauce-based leftovers, because in that case there’s usually enough sauce to heat the noodles in. But I can’t imagine that it would be bad. Maybe it is! Report back with your findings.
Stir everything together well – the noodles will loosen up and stop being a solid block as you draw the egg through them. Let them sit for like 5 minutes while you heat up your big old pan.
Size-wise you’re going to have to eyeball it. You want the finished frittata to be around 2 to 3 inches thick, so for a one-person serving use a smaller frying pan. For the half a pound of pasta we have going on in this example, get the big frying pan out.
If you have a cast iron, that’s great, but you’re going to have to be able to flip it at some point and those bitches are heavy. Of course, if you have a cast iron you can just put it in the oven under the broiler like a fancy person and finish it that way, to which I say, get your own blog. Maybe you’re one of those lucky people with a frittata pan, which is two interlocking frying pans that form a lid, but I only know one person who has one of those and she’s got an open tab at Sur la Table, so.
Pour a generous glug (at least a tablespoon if not two) of olive oil into your cold pan and heat gently. You don’t want anything sticking when it’s time to flip, so don’t be shy. Olive oil is good for you.
Pour your Egg Mess into the pan and shake it out to even it up. Don’t worry if it doesn’t hiss or sizzle yet. This is a recipe that goes by the Thick Pancake Rule, which means slow heat is better– the key to getting a golden brown crispy crust is not to sear it, but to let it heat gently and Leave it the Fuck Alone. Everything’s gotta have time to heat all the way through.
This is the point where you hang out with your new buddy Frittata. For probably 7-8 minutes. As the pan continues to heat up, the olive oil will start bubbling up around the edges, which is great. You don’t want the heat to make the oil snap and smoke, but a nice active bubbling is great.
You’ll know it’s ready to flip when the edges are golden brown and set, and you can lift up the side with a spatula and the whole thing moves as one so you can peek at the nice bronze crispy underside. It should smell toasty and irresistible, but it’s okay if the top still looks suspiciously sloshy.
Now we flip. Here are your options:
- You’ve got a plate big enough to cover the circumference of your frying pan. Great. When it’s time to flip, cover the pan with the plate and turn the whole thing over. Do this away from open flame, and use both hands covered with oven mitts to make the flip. Put the plate down on the counter and take the frying pan off the top, return it to the heat, and slide the frittata back into the pan. Poke everything back under the top crust and pat yourself on the back.
- You don’t have a plate, but you have a cutting board or a baking sheet that will do the trick. Yes, it has to cover every part of the frying pan or you’ll get piping hot frittata innards all over your floor and/or body. You can do the same steps as above, but it’s harder when you’re using something that’s completely flat because the juices will run. If it feels too big and unwieldy, try:
- You want me to try to flip an entire frying pan’s worth of pasta? Who am I, Emeril? Cut your frittata into quadrants with your spatula as it’s cooking in the pan, and flip each one of them. Who cares if it looks nice, it’ll cook nice and you won’t get second-degree egg burns and that’s fine. Noodge everything under the cooked crust again and enjoy your 4 mini frittatas.
- I have actually flipped an entire frittata using just a spatula by tilting the pan down at an angle, sliding the frittata onto the length of the spatula, and flipping it back up onto the pan surface vertically like a madwoman. I don’t recommend this, but it did work perfectly that one time and I am the Jean-Claude Van Damme of the frying pan arts.
Cooking the second side won’t take as long, maybe 4 minutes or so. It doesn’t need to get a ton of color, it just needs to set so there’s no raw egg left anywhere. It should feel firm and springy when you jiggle it with your spatula.
When it’s done, slide it off the pan and onto a chopping board, slice into wedges, and marvel at your Resourcefulness and Economy. Goes really well with a fresh green salad, or tomato soup, or both.