As most people know a frittata is an Italian style omelet. Frittatini, (free-tuh-tee-nee), translated as "little frittate," are a little different. Considered a peasant dish, it has all the qualities of a meat dish, but without the meat. They look like chicken nuggets and are basically balls of chicken cutlet batter, without the chicken. And, you stew them in tomato sauce like meatballs.
Frittatini are a speciality of my Nonna's and as I prepared them it smelled exactly like her kitchen. Its such an easy dish to make, especially when the only protein you have in the fridge are eggs. First you start with a basic tomato sauce. I make many versions of tomato sauce based on what I have on hand and how much much effort I want to put in so I will consider this "chunky, low effort, half-fresh sauce". While the sauce is cooking down, you start to make the frittatini batter, fry them, then add them to the sauce. They soaks up all the delicious flavor of the tomato sauce.
Traditionally, like with meatballs, you would eat your pasta with sauce first, then the frittatini would be the second course with a salad. But here in the great USA we take our meatballs and our frittatini with our pasta, and our second course is our second helping.
First, the sauce. An excellent tomato sauce takes time. It calls for fresh tomatoes, a food mill to take out the tomato seeds and skin, and it calls for fresh basil. Today, my basil was rotten, I only had 2 fresh tomatoes and I was too lazy to take out the food mill with its many parts to clean. This did not stop me from making a very good sauce. I used a can of sauce to supplement my tomatoes and a frozen basil cube from Trader Joe's (Nonna would be offended by this). Its not the same as fresh basil and it leaves bits throughout the sauce that bother me aesthetically because it looks like canned sauce with all the unnecessary seasoning, but it gets the flavor in there. And, if you don't have any basil at all, you can still make a good sauce.
TOMATO SAUCE (chunky, low-effort, half-fresh)
2 fresh tomatoes (if you have them)
1 - 8oz can of tomato sauce (or chopped tomatoes or whole peeled tomatoes)
1/4 onion chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
pinch of sugar
1 basil cube or a few fresh basil leaves (optional)
Sautee the onions and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. If you have fresh tomatoes, add them and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Once the tomatoes begin to release some of their juices, add the can of tomato sauce with a little bit of water. If you add whole peeled tomatoes, break them up with your wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 20-30 min., stirring occasionally. While the sauce is cooking down, prepare the frittatini.
2 heaping TBSP of grated cheese
4 heaping TBSP of unseasoned bread crumbs
2 TBSP milk (soy works fine, too)
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 TBSP chopped parsley
Beat your eggs with milk, then add the rest of
the ingredients gradually. You want to focus on
the consistency of the batter more than the
exact measurements here. You want the
frittatini batter to be firm but moist. Once the
oil is ready, scoop the batter with a large spoon
to make chicken nugget size pillows in the oil.
The shape does not have to be perfect. Fry until
golden on each side then add to the tomato sauce.
By this point the sauce should be done and you can
turn it off and let the frittatini stew in there while
you boil your pasta.
Serve the frittatini with pasta and tomato sauce and garnish with grated cheese.