Tortilla española, literally "Spanish tortilla," is at its core a layered potato, onion, and egg frittata--simple, satisfying, and very adaptable. It's also one of the strongest food memories I have of my childhood, both on the dinner table and as a regular feature in my lunchbox. It's beautiful to look at, with a pretty stained glass effect when the tortilla is sliced. Plus, to bite through the alternating layers of tender egg and creamy potato...! SO satisfying.
This version for Spanish tortilla is unfussy, with a streamlined method that makes it easy to improvise.
Growing up we usually just had the simplest version, without any extra add-ins or spices. Occasionally my mom added peppers, or maybe some cured Spanish sausage, which made it even more of a treat. For my personal "basic" version, I always add a touch of pimentón (smoked paprika) and roasted red peppers. You can easily leave those two ingredients out, and you can easily add even more ingredients in!
This tortilla is an open playing field. Fresh bell pepper, sauteed mushrooms, diced ham... Just remember, like any baked egg recipe, moisture is the enemy. Pre-cook any veggies or meat before folding them into the egg, either separately or by adding with the onion and potato to steam!
This Spanish tortilla with red peppers is a little bit traditional and a little bit personal.
I was in college before I found out that lot of recipes confit the potatoes in at least a cup of olive oil, rather than boiling or steaming. Maybe I'm biased by familiarity and nostalgia, but I've always found that the extra effort of all that oil was never worth the trouble (and often ended up distractingly greasy). I prefer to add that olive oil flavor directly to the eggs.
Normally there is a lot of in-and-out of the pan, cooking the onions and potatoes in separate steps. If you're rendering raw meat like sausage, or really crisping up some mushrooms, then the extra steps make sense. But for the simpler versions, just skip it-- cook everything all at once. I also avoid pouring the egg into the full skillet, because I don't like having to be so fussy about making sure the egg evenly coats the potatoes and veggies. Mixing in a bowl is faster and tidier.
If tortilla española becomes a regular on your table...
You might end up needing a vuelve tortillas! A plate with a low handle on the back for a sturdy grip, it's the traditional way to flip your tortilla (in fact, "vuelve tortilla" literally means "tortilla flipper"). I've seen industrially made metal and plastic ones, but I've always coveted the hand-painted ceramic vuelve tortillas that my mom has... You can find similar ones at The Spanish Table but I personally think the ones on Etsy are much prettier... (*Not affiliate links. I don't have space for a vuelve tortillas in my pantry, so I'm satisfying myself with pushing others to buy them...Hah!).
Need to round out the meal? These are two of my favorite salads to pair with Spanish tortilla.
It doesn't matter if it's brunch or tapas night, an herbacious salad is a great complement to the starchy, eggy goodness of a tortilla. My favorite is a simple lemony arugula-parsley salad with toasted seeds. Far more fun than a basic lettuce salad, but just as easy! Another great option is a crunchy zucchini and herb salad with almonds and shaved cheese (Manchego would be a perfect sub for parmesan!).
Notes for Success:
You can technically use any potato for this tortilla, but I strongly recommend yukon gold or white potatoes. Russet potatoes are much fluffier when cooked, which makes them much more fragile. You're more likely to bust them up when folding them into the egg mixture, ruining the stained-glass effect. On the flip side, waxy red potatoes will hold up well to the folding, but can take longer to cook and be a bit firm on the tooth compared to creamier yukons.
When flipping the tortilla out of the pan, there are two key strategies that will lead you to success:
1). Use a plate that is larger than the skillet. This recipe calls for a 10-inch skillet, so the ideal plate would be a standard 12-inch dinner plate or serving platter. A large cake stand would also work well. Lacking any of those options, simply use a cutting board or the back of a baking sheet. Once flipped, you can slice then and there or gently slide the tortilla onto your serving platter of choice.
2). Be brave! The more you hesitate when flipping the more likely something (the plate, your hand, etc) will shift and get off-balance. I like to put an oven mitt on one hand to hold the pan and use a bare hand on the bottom of the plate. Then, in one smooth motion, just flip the whole thing over! Ta da! And if something does go awry, I can tell you from personal experience that broken tortilla is just as delicious as neatly sliced tortilla.
And speaking of skillet size, yes! You can make this in a 12-inch skillet if that's what you have. Just keep in mind that the tortilla will be thinner, which means much less pretty stained glass-like layering and a slightly quicker bake time.
Recipe: Spanish Tortilla with Roasted Red Peppers
- 6 eggs
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ¾ teaspoons smoked paprika
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1½ pounds white or yellow potatoes, See Notes
- 1 cup chopped roasted red pepper, patted dry
- Step 1Preheat your oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, paprika, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.Peel the potatoes, halve them, and slice them into ¼-inch thick half moons. Try to keep the thickness as uniform as possible, to ensure they cook evenly. A mandoline is very helpful here.
- Step 2In an oven-safe nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium until shimmering. Add the onion, potatoes, and 1½ teaspoons salt. Fold to distribute everything evenly. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, about 10 minutes. If your onions and potatoes begin to brown, lower the heat slightly.Fold in the roasted red pepper and cook, uncovered, until the peppers are heated through, and any excess moisture has evaporated, just a minute or two. Add the still-hot vegetables into the bowl with the egg and fold gently to coat the potatoes, separating any slices that stick together.
- Step 3Return the skillet to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the egg and potato mixture and distribute in an even layer. Transfer to the oven and bake until completely set in the center, about 20 to 25 minutes.Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack until no longer piping hot, at least 10 minutes. Run a silicone spatula around the edge and under the tortilla to loosen. Place a large serving plate (ideally with at least a 12-inch diameter) on the skillet like a lid then invert the pan, letting the tortilla plop onto the plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.