Learn to Love Leftovers—Let No Food go to Waste!

From The Lecture Series: The Everyday Gourmet — Making Great Meals in Less Time

By Chef Instructor Bill BriwaThe Culinary Institute of America

When chefs look in the refrigerator, they don’t see leftovers; they see possibilities. For many meals, you can add fresh ingredients to leftovers or prepared foods to enhance their flavor and make them seem like something new.


Behold – the frittata.

The Flexible Frittata

A frittata can become your go-to meal any time of the day: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This dish is quite easy, and you almost always have the ingredients to make it: eggs and leftovers.

Begin with the leftovers you have on hand, such as sautéed mushrooms, cooked cauliflower, and risotto.

This is a transcript from the video series The Everyday Gourmet: Making Great Meals in Less Time. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

From your pantry or refrigerator, you might add some sun-dried tomatoes. Use just enough eggs to bind these ingredients together and stir. You could also add some herbs or green onions, but if you plan to serve the frittata with a salad, these additions aren’t necessary.

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Season with salt and pepper, but keep in mind that the leftovers are seasoned already, so you want to add only enough salt and pepper to season the eggs.

Using Leftovers to Make a Delicious Frittata


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 oz cooked cauliflower, or other leftover vegetables, diced
  • 1 oz wild mushrooms, roasted or sautéed
  • 1 oz Parmesan or Pecorino, shaved thin
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions

Heat a nonstick pan and add some olive oil. Pour in the frittata mixture, making sure that all the ingredients are coated with egg.

As it’s cooking, the frittata should move freely in the pan.

Turn the heat down if necessary so that the eggs cook gently—not too aggressively.

When the egg is almost completely set, use the pan lid to flip the frittata over. If you’re nervous, you may want to do this step over the sink.

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Slide the frittata back into the pan and turn the heat down a little more. You might even turn the burner off because there is plenty of residual heat to finish cooking the dish.

Shape the frittata a bit with a spatula while some of the egg remains uncooked. When it’s done, the center should still be just a little moist.

fritatta with leftover spinach, cheddar cheese and mushrooms

Top it off with some grated cheese.

While the frittata is cooking, make a small salad of arugula and radicchio, dressed with the vinaigrette noted below. Remember, you can store this vinaigrette in a jar in the refrigerator and just give it a good shake when you’re ready to use it.

Slide the frittata onto a plate and serve immediately with some of the salad on top, seasoned with pepper. Or you can make a sandwich with the salad and frittata to take to work with you for lunch.

Learn more about how to cook with what’s on hand in your house

Fritatta Sandwich and Salad

Use Leftovers to Make a Basic Vinaigrette


  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • salt, pepper, and sugar to taste

Cooking Instructions

Start with a tablespoon or so of mustard, which acts as an emulsifier, helping the lemon juice and oil to mix. Add some shallots and salt and pepper, then squeeze in some lemon juice. Whisk these ingredients and continue whisking as you add oil. The proportions for vinaigrette are usually three parts oil to one part acid. You can flavor this with fresh herbs of your choice, such as basil and tarragon.

Common Questions About Using Leftovers

Q: How can leftovers be used?

The best way to use leftovers is to build them into catch-all dishes like pizzas, frittatas, salads, soups or fried rice type dishes where they are combined with a filler such as pizza dough, egg, soup stock or lettuces.

Q: How can leftover fruit best be used?

The best way to use leftover fruit, before it is covered with mold, is cooked down into jams or jellies, blended into smoothies, or frozen into ice cubes or granitas.

Q: Is bacteria destroyed when reheating leftovers that have been left out from refrigeration?

Bacteria may often not be completely destroyed when reheating food that has been left out at room temperature. There are two types of heat-resistant bacteria which can form in food left out over two hours, and so as a general rule this food should not be eaten.

Q: What is the best temperature to reheat leftovers at?

The optimal temperature reheated food should reach is at least 165° F for at least 10 minutes. When reheating soups or liquids, make sure they reach a rolling boil.

This article was updated on 1/13/2020

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