Packing a Picnic …

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I used to think frittatas were a utilitarian way to use up expiring ingredients; a dish that got the job done, but didn’t inspire much excitement.

It wasn’t until Christopher and I stayed at Locanda Rosati in Italy’s Umbria region that I had any notion frittatas could be darn near transcendent. One night, the Rosati brothers brought out several of these Zucchini Frittatas–served at room temperature–for the big farm table full of guests and I thought, “oh great, a frittata.” Boy did my tune change when I took a bite. It was luscious and creamy and full of flavors that spanned the spectrum from rich to fresh. (side note … strange that my food epiphanies tend to happen around eggs)

Quite frankly, I refused to believe it was a frittata. I tried to pry the recipe from the brothers for days, but they insisted the dish wasn’t worthy … it was “just a few eggs, and some zucchini from the garden,” and something called prezzemolo (that one took a while without a dictionary … it means, wait for it, ‘parsley’).

But I persisted, and managed to piece together a recipe based on a series of conversations more than anything else. Over breakfast, Giampiero leaned over with wrinkled brow and insisted that both the vegetables and the eggs needed to be coddled over very low heat. In the hallway, Paolo stopped me to say that I should salt both the vegetables and the eggs. In the end, I was able to capture the secret for replicating that divine dish called a frittata in my own kitchen.

I’m so glad I did. Since then, it’s become a summer staple both as a simple dinner and a go-to picnic dish. In fact, as soon as I finish typing I’m going to make one to take to Preston tomorrow. I’ll tuck it away in the cooler and pull it out along with the cheese to warm up a bit before serving. Then I’ll pair it with a hunk of really good whole grain bread and mixed greens tossed with my Go-To Vinaigrette. Simply divine.

I may have started out my life thinking frittatas were no more than a vehicle for emptying out the fridge. But I’ve learned … and now I know there’s nothing better to pack for a picnic.

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Zucchini Frittata

By the luscious, creamy texture and complex flavor of this zucchini frittata, you’d never guess it was barely more than squash, onion and eggs. Choose the freshest eggs you can find for this since they play such a prominent role. We like to pack this frittata for picnics with a fluffy bibb lettuce and herb salad and my Go-To Vinaigrette.

Zucchini Frittata

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: Serves 6

Zucchini Frittata


  1. 1 pound zucchini
  2. 1 pound sweet onion
  3. 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  4. 1/4 cup minced parsley
  5. Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  6. 8 large eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to broil with rack in top third of the oven.

Slice the zucchini and onion crosswise very thinly, preferably on a mandolin. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and sauté vegetables for 10 minutes, until tender and just softening but not yet brown. Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool for 5 minutes. When slightly cooled, pour vegetables into a large bowl, add the eggs and mix thoroughly. Season again with salt and pepper.

Heat a large, nonstick sauté pan (if using the same one you used to saute the veggies, wipe it out thoroughly) over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Swirl the oil around the pan, then pour in the egg mixture, tilting the pan to spread it evenly. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, running a spatula around the edges and shaking occasionally, until the center of the frittata is just about set.

Transfer pan to the oven (if your handle is rubber, cover it with aluminum foil before doing so) and broil for 3-4 minutes, until the top of the frittata is evenly browned.

Invert the frittata onto a large serving plate and serve warm or at room temperature.