From simple ingredients come great things! Italian cuisine is based on simplicity with most dishes containing only 4 to 8 ingredients. Italians rely on the quality and freshness of the goods they use in the preparation of their traditional dishes as opposed to the complexity that some other cuisines rely on, such as the Haute-Cuisine of France. Much of (though not all) Italian cuisine falls under the very healthy Mediterranean diet that concentrates on the use of olive oil, many varieties of fruits, vegetables and legumes, unrefined cereals, a high percentage of fish and dairy, and a low percentage of meat.
As simple as Italian cuisine is, for the most part, the frittata sticks to that tradition in its simplicity of ingredients and preparation. Not only that but the beauty of the frittata lies also in its incredible diversity when it comes to flavours and choice of ingredients. Allow me to explain what a frittata is exactly before I go any further.
A frittata is an Italian egg-based dish that is similar to an omelette though it differs in that the ingredients are mixed with the raw egg rather than being placed on top of a partially cooked thin layer of egg which is folded over before serving. It roughly resembles a quiche in how it’s prepared however, it lacks the pastry crust a quiche always has. The frittata probably has the most similarities to a Spanish omelette (Tortilla Española) in thickness and preparation however, the ingredients in a frittata are far more liberal and less traditional than those typically found in a Spanish omelette.
Similar to a Spanish omelette it can be prepared in a deep skillet over low heat and then transferred to the oven once the bottom has set or it can be baked in a pie dish from start to finish, similar to the Middle Eastern egg-dishes known as Kookoo or Ijjeh. The Fornetto pie dish seen in the image is ideal for a nice deep frittata and as is true with all egg-based dishes and baking, the benefit of the non-stick surface of the Fornetto ceramics is ideal. Click on the image to check out the pie dish!
Now knowing that a frittata is an egg-based dish one needs to ask themselves what ingredients they want to use to combine with the eggs for the “egg-cake”. Vegetables, cheeses, meats, and pasta are all variables and the choice is literally up to the person preparing it.
Keeping with a more traditional Italian flavour, one may use Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses in combination with Prosciutto ham and vegetables. On the flip side, you may choose to adapt a frittata to reflect flavours more traditional to your area by using Sharp cheddar and bacon or blue cheese and leek.
The possibilities are endless however, personally, what differentiates a frittata from any other omelette-type dish is the frequent use of pasta by the Italians. In my family, it was typically made with leftover cooked pasta with a mix of finely chopped seasonal vegetables ranging from Rapini or Broccoli Rabe to eggplant or broad beans and incorporating a strong cheese like Grana Padano and spicy Italian sausage.
Before beating your eggs vigorously, you’ll have to prepare your filling and allow it to cool to room temperature. While cooking the pasta and the ingredients remove the eggs from the fridge to allow them to warm up, as warm eggs beat better than cold eggs. Once the pasta and the veggie/meat ingredients have cooled they can be thoroughly combined and mixed with the beaten eggs.
The frittata should be baked in the Fornetto at 200C (390F) on the middle rack for about 30-40 minutes tented with tin foil for the first 20 minutes to stop browning on the surface.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. The frittata will slightly shrink and pull away from the sides.
While the frittata is cooling and the oven is still hot, roast your favourite vegetables to serve with the frittata. When roasting vegetables in the Fornetto in this manner I like placing them closer to the top position as the ceiling of cooking chamber acts as a broiler (salamander) really well and roasts from above perfectly.
When the frittata has cooled enough turn it out onto a pie plate and serve in wedges with the roasted vegetables. Click here for my complete vegetable and Italian Speck frittata recipe and preparation method!
Frittatas make an excellent dish to serve warm or at room temperature for brunch, lunch or for a picnic. Since you’ll be baking it in the center of the oven and at a temperature that is ideal for baking bread, you may want to contemplate baking a fresh country bread under the frittata on the baking stone at the same time to serve with it.