Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pasta Frittata

Menu plans come first, then an ingredient list and finally a shopping trip. That would happen in an orderly world, but not in my kitchen this week. We moved back ashore, have been here for almost two weeks, but haven't quite transitioned mentally. For example, in the boat galley I know the exact location and quantity of foodstuffs, tracking them all with an Excel spreadsheet. But here in the house, life has been considerably more random. Three shopping trips in three days was fun, great retail therapy, but I was still scrambling meal by meal, short of ideas and some basic supplies.

I needed a plan: First use up fresh items or leftovers in the fridge. Next take inventory of staples.  Organize the cupboards, leaving a shelf or two for our special houseguest's items. Then deal with menu plans and a shopping list.

Note to self, "begin with small steps".  I opened the refrigerator door, scanned the shelves and waited for inspiration to strike... and waited... and waited. Nothing drew my attention. What was I expecting?  little waving arms like over-eager students calling "Pick me, pick me!"? No, not happening. I hoped for an "Aha!" moment, some irresistible combination utilizing a bit of this and a piece of that to create a satisfying one-dish meal. Finally I pulled the following out of the fridge and pantry...
  • Fettucini - extra left from a spicy pasta dish with peppers and sausage
  • Assorted cheeses, vegetables and toppings - left from a pizza-making party
  • Fresh eggs
  • Fresh basil 
  • Salt, pepper, dried herbs and various hot sauces
A pasta frittata was my solution. You know, good old spaghetti pie, but without the red sauce. My oldest and clearest memory of this dish comes from an ancient Frugal Gourmet television show. The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian provided a simple recipe and I have used that easy, two-step process in the decades since. 
  • Step One: saute some savory filling ingredients in a skillet, and then plop them into a large mixing bowl. 
  • Step Two: Add a few eggs, selected seasonings and some cooled, cooked pasta to the bowl; toss to mix and return to the skillet to cook until the bottom is browned; then flip and brown the other side.  

That's it, a pasta frittata. The real beauty of this dish is it's versatility. You can cook it on the stovetop or bake it in the oven. It welcomes a multitude of add-ins, yet is quite delicious with a bare minimum of eggs, cheese and pasta. Use this dish to feed a few, or stretch it with more pasta and eggs to feed a crowd. Pasta frittata is an old friend and could become a regular in my kitchen.

Friday’s Pasta Frittata
serves 6-8

Step One: The basic fillings
2 TB olive oil or an olive oil/butter mix
1 cup crunchy vegetables, diced small  (red pepper, poblano pepper, corn, broccoli, onions…)
Garlic to taste
1 cup cooked meat, chopped or shredded (bacon, sausage, rotisserie chicken, maybe even canned tuna) - optional

Step Two: For the pie
Savory additions (olives, capers, pepperocini, sun dried tomatoes…)
4 cups cooked long pasta (spaghetti, angel hair, fettucine…)
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup Dairy (milk, cream or half and half)
Dash of nutmeg or a splash of hot sauce
1/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes, optional

Optional Toppings:
2 TB each fresh basil and Italian parsley, julienned
Another 1/4 cup shredded fresh Parmesan

Step One:
Heat the oil in a large 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat and saute any raw vegetables for 3-5 minutes, until they just begin to lose their crispness. Add the fresh garlic and cook another minute or two longer until fragrant. Add any remaining Step One ingredients, like cooked vegetables, carmelized onions, optional cooked meat. Mix and cook just to heat. Remove to a large bowl.

Step Two:
Add the Step Two ingredients to the bowl and toss to blend, coating each pasta strand with the egg mixture. Reheat the skillet and add everything in the bowl to the pan. Cook until the bottom is golden brown. Place a large plate over the skillet and carefully turn the skillet over so the frittata rests on the plate. Carefully slide the pie back into the skillet and brown the second side.

Top with more Parmesan, fresh basil and parsley. Serve wedges from the skillet or a platter, warm or at room temperature.

Note: This approach works with almost any savory filling, but it was a memorable failure with leftover clam linguine. The flavor was too strong and the reheated clams were quite tough. 


  1. I love the idea of creating a d'lish dish out of leftovers. This recipe sounds tempting.

  2. enjoy your walkabout. we're back as well. followed your trek on cruisenews. affectionately, inky's crew.

  3. Leftover slices were great snacks - great idea here.


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