Frittata di Pasta
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This recipe for Frittata di Pasta is brought to you in collaboration with BC Egg, who have financially compensated me to develop it. All opinions are my own.
Possibly the tastiest way to make use of leftover pasta, frittata di pasta (aka frittata di maccheroni) is a wonderful pan-fried egg dish that's incredibly easy to make, and easy to adapt to the ingredients you have on hand. In fact, it's so good, you'll probably want to start making pasta expressly for frittatas.
I like to think that I'm pretty good with pasta. I research and develop my recipes carefully, and I put in a lot of time and effort. But you know what I'm not good at? Making an appropriate quantity of pasta.
The thought process (a charitable term) usually goes something like this: "Hmm, I'd hate to run out. Better make a little extra. Well now there's only a little left in the packaged. Might as well just cook that too."
I'm not complaining though, as I love leftover pasta. I love it a little too much, in fact. The logical part of my brain tells me to save the pasta and turn it into a new meal. Sadly, this usually turns into a late-night duel with the instinct-driven lizard region of my brain, which tells me to stand in front of the fridge and eat cold pasta at out of a Tupperware. The lizard brain is very convincing. But I'm pleased to say that I think this might actually be the ultimate recipe for leftover pasta - good enough, even, to make me actually quell the desire to sneak cold penne when no one is looking.
Frittata di pasta, also called frittata di maccheroni, is exactly what it sounds like. An Italian egg frittata, made with pasta. It's particularly popular in Campania (the region of Italy surrounding Naples), where it's long been made to use up the leftovers from a big Sunday dinner. It's a simple, highly adaptable meal that transforms leftover pasta into a substantial meal. Said meal also happens to be delightfully portable, making it perfect for lunches, picnics, or any other meals on the go. All you need for the basic recipe is pasta, eggs, some Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter, salt, pepper, and a little oil for cooking. But the basic recipe, lovely as it is, is really just a jumping off point. Frittata di pasta begs for customization. Got extra pasta sauce? Throw that in! Some mozzarella? A bit of pancetta? Go for it! The basic idea lends itself wonderfully to an endless variety of options and modifications. I've given three different versions (on top of the base recipe) here, but you can easily come up with your own versions too. In fact, I'd love to hear what your favourite add-ins are in the comments!
While frittata di pasta is a popular way to make use of leftovers, there's nothing stopping you from making pasta expressly for this. In fact, it was such a hit with my family (even with my notoriously egg-averse eldest son) that I have a feeling I'll be doing that more often than not. It's a fantastically fast and easy meal to make either way.
General Recipe Notes
I've included plenty of tips here because... well, that's what I do. But frittata di pasta is both easy to make, and fantastically adaptable, so don't feel intimidated about jumping right into the cooking process.
If you're looking for the TL;DR version, I'd recommend you just glance through whatever variation you're doing, and take note of the section about 'mastering the flip.' Getting the frittata out of the pan and back in again is the closest thing to 'tricky' in this recipe, but if you work carefully and use plates to help you out, it's a snap.
Pasta Types & Tips
Given that this recipe is all about using up leftover pasta, it's no surprise that you can use basically any kind of pasta you've got handy. I suppose certain types might prove a bit too challenging (lasagne and cannelloni jump to mind), but anything that can be mixed fairly evenly with the eggs and cheese should work fine. If you're making pasta expressly for frittata di pasta, then a long pasta like spaghetti or bucatini is always classic, and should work very nicely. That being said, I'm also partial to penne, which gives a rather different texture, and looks really fun when you cut into it (see the ragù version in the pictures above and below). I think this is probably obvious, but frittata di pasta is best made with dried pasta, rather than freshly made, both for textural reasons, and because fresh pasta really deserves to be enjoyed on its own merits.
Regardless of the pasta shape you choose, there are a few tips and tricks that will help you get the best results. First and foremost, note that the quantity given in the recipe is 425 grams (15 oz) of cooked pasta, not dry. This is generally equivalent to about 180-200 grams (~7 oz) of dry pasta, cooked al dente. I know that not everyone is fond of weight-based measurements, but it's rather difficult to give the measurements in cups, as a) different types of pasta will have different volumes, and b) it's a royal pain to measure cooked spaghetti (etc.) in cups. If you're can't measure the pasta by weight, go with what looks right. Mix pasta into the eggs and cheese until it looks like you've got a pretty decent, pan-filling quantity of pasta that's still easily enveloped by the liquid ingredients.
The texture of your pasta - and therefore the texture of the frittata di pasta - is also an important factor to consider. Do not overcook your pasta. I'm a stickler for this kind of thing anyway, as I can't stand overly soft pasta, but it's especially important here as the pasta will absorb moisture from the eggs and (milk, if you're using it), softening further. If you're cooking pasta expressly for making a frittata, I recommend actually cooking the pasta to a stage that's a step below al dente. This is sometimes called filo di ferro (literally 'iron string'), so named for the firm, barely-cooked 'wire' running through the center. Pasta cooked in this style gives (in my opinion) the best texture for frittata di pasta.
Finally, a note about pasta made on the same day vs. the day before. If you're making the pasta on the same day you intend to use it, then I don't think there's any need to add milk to the egg/cheese mixture. If, however, your (plain) pasta has been in the fridge and ended up a little dehydrated or starchy, consider adding the 1/4 cup of milk for a slightly softer frittata di pasta. If you're using leftover pasta that's already mixed with sauce (e.g. pomodoro), you might find that it's still wet/soft enough to use without the added milk. In the end, we're not talking about an enormous amount of milk, so don't feel like you're going to ruin the recipe if you include or exclude it either way.
Parmesan & Alternatives
There are a few great alternatives to Parmigiano-Reggiano (i.e. 'real' Parmesan cheese) that you can use as substitutes, or as supplements in your frittata di pasta. My first choice for a substitute is almost always Grana Padano, which is a wonderful cheese that happens to also be a bit cheaper. Pecorino cheeses are another great option, though they do have a sharper and more distinctive flavour profile. Consider mixing pecorino and Parmesan 50:50. Non-Italian hard cheeses made in the style of Parmigiano-Reggiano are fine too, especially if you already know of one you like to use.
If you're a strict vegetarian, it's worth noting that Italian hard cheeses generally are usually made with calf rennet, and are therefore non-vegetarian. There are, however, some cheeses made in a similar style that use vegetable rennet instead. I went into this subject in a great deal more detail in my recipe for Carbonara, so I suggest heading over there if you're looking for more information.
Mastering the "Flip" - Technique Notes
Frittata di pasta is very easy to make. Follow the directions, don't let your pan get too hot, and let the eggs set and you'll be fine. That being said, there is one step that causes a bit of trepidation for some, and that's getting the frittata out of the pan, flipping it, and getting it back in.
This step is a bit tricky because the you need to pull a large frittata (that isn't fully cooked, mind you) out of a pan, turn the whole thing over without making a mess, and get it back into the pan. The easiest way to do this is with a pair of large plates. Once the frittata is ready to flip, use a large spatula to carefully slide it out of the pan and onto one of the two plates (cooked side down). Easy so far. Now take the second plate and put it on top of the frittata. Sandwiching the two plates together in your hands, flip the whole thing over. You can now carefully slide the frittata (cooked side up) back into the frying pan. No mess, no fuss, no broken frittata/dreams.
I use a medium (10 inch/25 cm), well-seasoned cast iron frying pan to make frittata di pasta. If you're using a lighter weight non-stick, or you've got amazing wrist strength, you might want to try the single plate method instead. This involves placing a plate directly into the pan, flipping the whole thing over to transfer the frittata, and then sliding everything back into the pan (uncooked side down). Personally, I find the two plate method a bit more forgiving (especially when working with a hot and heavy cast iron pan), but if you're comfortable with the one plate flip, go for it.
Both flip techniques are actually pretty easy, but do make sure that the frittata is relatively well set before you attempt them. If the top is very runny, you're going to end up with a gooey mess when you flip it over. If you're worried that the bottom is browning too much before the eggs can set, reduce the heat of your stove. A very hot pan will burn the surface of the frittata before it can set properly.
Leftovers from your Leftovers
Leftover pasta becomes frittata di pasta. Leftover frittata di pasta becomes... well, tomorrow's lunch.
While you can cook mini batches of frittata di pasta (assuming you have a small enough frying pan of course), I recommend you just go all-in and make a full-sized batch. It keeps very well in the fridge for a 3-4 days. If that's not enough time to get through it, or if you're making multiple batches for meal prep, it also freezes quite well. I recommend freezing individual slices wrapped in foil (or wax paper), then storing these in a freezer bag or container. These will keep for 6 months or more, and are great for easy lunches, snacks, or picnic foods.
Recipe Variation Notes
There's not a lot of complexity to the variations given in the recipe, but I've still provided a few tips and substitutions for each one in the section below.
It's worth remembering that all of the versions below are optional variations; you can simply stick with the simple base of eggs, parmigiano-reggiano (or a similar hard cheese), butter, salt, and pepper. If you do go this route, I suggest having extra cheese on hand to serve, or adding a bit extra to the egg mixture (I go a little light on the Parmesan in the base recipe to let the add-in ingredients stand out a bit more).
I cheated on the name here, because there's no one 'classic' recipe for frittata di pasta, but the combination of cheese and savoury pancetta is certainly one of the most popular go-to versions.
I precook a bit of pancetta in the frying pan to use here, but you could use uncooked pancetta too if you prefer it that way. It will cook in the frittata to some degree of course, but I find that I like the more pronounced salty/savoury hit that you get when you brown it in a pan first.
I chose to mix the mozzarella and pancetta in with all the other ingredients, but you can also make your frittata with a sort of 'filled center.' Set the cooked pancetta and mozzarella aside, and add about half of the pasta/egg mixture to the frying pan. Layer the reserved ingredients in the pan, then add the remaining pasta mixture over top.
No pancetta? No problem. Diced cooked bacon or guanciale, shredded prosciutto, and diced salami all make great additions.
Want to switch up the mozzarella? Caciocavallo, scamorza, and provolone are all great substitutes, and I would bet that havarti would be a lovely non-traditional option. If you don't have any soft cheeses that you want to use, simply add some extra Parmesan.
"Al Sugo" Notes
"Al Sugo" means with a basic tomato sauce. We could also call this "al pomodoro" - and indeed, I made pomodoro sauce to test out with my frittatas. I quite like all three variations that I've made here, but if you happen to have good basil and fresh mozzarella di buffala or fior di latte, this version might have a slight edge.
Any tomato sauce can be used to make frittata di pasta, so feel free to use marinara, arrabbiata, amatriciana, etc. Tomato-based meat sauces can also be used (see the next section for notes on that subject). You can switch up the additional toppings to suit whatever style of sauce you choose.
This version is very easy to prepare - simply stir your favourite tomato sauce into the pasta/egg/cheese mixture and you're good to go. Keep a close eye on the frittata sauce as it cooks and consider using a slightly lower heat, as the tomato sauce can burn a bit more easily than some of the other ingredients.
When it comes to serving, I like to use fresh oregano because I enjoy the flavour, and I have a ton of it in my garden. Fresh parsley would be lovely too.
A classic Bolognese ragù makes a great addition to frittata di pasta, but any meat sauce will work beautifully.
Bolognese sauce is a subject of some contention in some food circles, both in terms of the accompanying pasta (spaghetti is a no-no in Bologna), and in terms of the quantity of tomato used. As I've mentioned before, this controversy is a bit of a recurring theme when it comes to Italian food inside and outside of Italy. While tomatoes are virtually always included in Bolognese ragù, they tend not to dominate. Instead, the focus is on the meat, soffritto, wine, and, somewhat surprisingly, milk. Neapolitan meat sauces often feature a lot more tomato, and more closely resemble the generic meat sauces that are frequently called 'Bolognese sauce' outside of Italy.
I'm not going to weigh into the controversy right now - both are delicious, and both would be fantastic in this recipe (if you do want to know more about the subject, this article is an interesting read). If you do use a meat sauce that's heavier on the tomatoes, make sure to keep an eye on the heat of your pan (as with the pomodoro), as they're more prone to scorching.
You can stir leftover sauce into pasta (leftover or freshly made) to make your frittata, but if you've got leftovers that are already mixed together, go ahead and use that.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single serving (1/8th portion) of the "Classico" version of the recipe (with mozzarella and pancetta). Nutritional profiles will vary depending on the ingredients you choose to add.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
Frittata di Pasta - with Variations
- 5 large eggs
- 15 oz cooked pasta (see note)
- 1.5 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1/2 cup grated), plus extra to serve
- 2 tbsp butter softened
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup milk optional (see note)
Variation 1 - "Classico"
- 3.5 oz pancetta diced and fried (or cooked bacon)
- 1.75 oz mozzarella or caciocavallo, or similar, cubed
Variation 2 - "Al Sugo"
- 8 oz pomodoro sauce or marinara, or other tomato sauce
- 1 large fresh tomato diced
- basil to serve
- fresh mozzarella to serve
Variation 3 - "Ragù"
- 8 oz meat sauce (ragù bolognese)
- fresh oregano to serve
- Note: If you're following one of the variations below, be sure to read it before proceeding.Mix the eggs, Parmesan, butter, salt & pepper thoroughly in a large bowl. If you're using day-old pasta, add the milk as well (see note).
- Add the pasta to the mixture and toss thoroughly to combine.
- Heat about 1 tbsp of oil in a medium frying pan. Add the pasta and egg mixture to the pan. Fry over medium heat until relatively well-set and golden on the bottom (6-7 minutes).
- Carefully transfer the partially cooked frittata to a large plate (cooked side down). Add the remaining oil to the empty pan. Flip the frittata over onto another second plate, and transfer back into pan, uncooked side down. Cook for an additional for 4-5 minutes.
- Remove the finished frittata from the pan and set aside to cool. Serve warm, or at room temperature.
Variation 1 - "Classico"
- Follow the steps for the basic recipe, but mix the mozzarella and cooked pancetta into the pasta before frying. Alternatively, add half of the pasta/egg mixture to the pan, then add the cheese and pancetta in a single layer before adding the remaining pasta. Serve with extra Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Variation 2 - "Al Sugo"
- Follow the steps for the basic recipe, but mix the pomodoro into the pasta before frying. You may want to reduce the heat a little bit, as the tomato sauce can scorch a bit more easily than some of the other ingredients. Top the finished frittata with diced tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella before serving.
Variation 3 - "Ragù"
- Follow the steps for the basic recipe, but mix the meat sauce into the pasta before frying. Top the finished frittata with fresh oregano and extra parmigiano-reggiano cheese.