Healthy Recipe Essentials: Frittata

Make an extra special egg dish for breakfast or brunch that kids and adults will love. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a ball experimenting with all kinds of flavor combinations. First, let’s walk through the basics.
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Make an extra-special egg dish for breakfast or brunch that kids and adults will love. Once you get the hang of the basic recipe, you can use whatever ingredients are in season (or in your fridge.)  It's all about learning the simple technique -- here's how you do it the healthy way.

Frittata Basics

Frittatas are of Spanish and Italian decent and are basically an open-faced omelet. They can be cooked in smaller pans for individual sizes or in larger pans and then sliced, similar to pizza.

Here are the simple steps to make a basic frittata:
  • Preheat broiler.
  • Pre-cook meats and veggies (if needed.)
  • Pre-heat a nonstick sauté pan and coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Whisk eggs and other ingredients; pour into heated pan.
  • Stir eggs gently until they begin to set. Lift edge of eggs to allow raw eggs to run underneath. Continue to cook until eggs are almost cooked through.  They should be slightly runny on top.
  • Top with a small amount of cheese, if using.
  • Place pan in broiler to finish cooking. It’s done when it’s slightly brown on top.
  • Slide frittata out of pan onto serving dish.

Video: Watch Ellie create the perfect frittata.
The Eggs

Eggs contain a tremendous amount of nutrients. Many lighter recipes call for egg whites alone, but don't count out the yolks! They're packed with vitamin A , E, B12 and Dselenium and the antioxidant lutein. If you’re looking to cut back on some calories but keep your frittata mixture thick, substitute half of the eggs for egg whites -- 2 whites equals one whole egg. You can also opt to replace some of the eggs with egg substitute -- 1/4 cup equals 1 large egg.

The Healthiest Mix-Ins: Fresh Veggies and Herbs

Pre-cook veggies like broccoli, asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, peas and pretty much any veggie your heart desires. This is a great way to use up those little containers of leftover veggies from the week's meals. The more, the merrier – you’ll be adding about 25 calories per 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables and a ton of vitamins and minerals.

Fresh, raw veggies, like chopped tomatoes or baby spinach, add lots of flavor and don't require pre-cooking.  Another great flavor-booster: fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, mint and basil.

The Calorie-Packed Extras: Meat, Cheese and Pasta

Trouble begins with the higher-calorie extras. Meats like bacon and sausage can add tons of calories, sodium and preservatives. If you really need a morning meat fix, choose a leaner meat like chicken breast, turkey or Canadian bacon. If only bacon will do, chop 1 or 2 cooked slices and sprinkle in so there’s a little in every bite.

Frittatas are a great way to use up leftover pastas like orzo and spaghetti, but again, don't go overboard or the calories will add up quickly. Go for no more than 1/4 cup cooked pasta per serving.

Cheese is another add-in that can get out of control. To get maximum flavor for the calories, sprinkle just a little of a strongly-flavored hard cheese (about 1-2 tablespoons per serving) on top just before broiling.  For soft cheeses like goat or feta, mix about 1 ounce per serving into the egg mixture.

Suggested Flavor Combinations
Here are some of our favorite frittata flavors:
  • Broccoli, onion and cheddar cheese
  • Lox and arugula
  • Potatoes, basil and Gruyere cheese
  • Onion, peppers and olives
  • Cauliflower and feta cheese
  • Tomato, asparagus and Fontina cheese
  • Potatoes, zucchini, mushroom and Asiago cheese
  • Tomato, basil and part-skim mozzarella
  • Turkey bacon, spinach and goat cheese
Recipes to try:
TELL US: What's in your favorite frittata?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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