Not a classic potato tortilla, this one is with spinach and cheese.

On Tuesday, the TV chefs were making three kinds of tortilla, in honor of the Día Mundial de la Tortilla Española. (The one with potatoes, truffles and ibérico ham looked sensational.) That was the inspiration I needed for a vegetarian meal for guests that day. World Tortilla Day seemed the perfect excuse.

My efforts—a spinach tortilla—were a learning experience (more about that later). As it turns out, World Tortilla Day was actually way back on March 9. The cooking show was a summer re-run. Never mind. Tortilla is perfect any day, any season, hot or cold.

I’ve written about the “secret” to making a good tortilla many times before: use lots of good olive oil to cook the potatoes before incorporating them in the beaten eggs. My editor once asked, “Why do you need so much oil if you’re using a non-stick skillet?” The answer is that the deep oil, which is later drained off and saved for another use, allows the potatoes to “poach,” not fry, cooking them uniformly on a medium heat without browning and without clumping together. 

Years ago, when I learned tortilla-making skills in tapa bar kitchens, tortillas were made in deep, slope-sided skillets of rolled steel. The pans were thin and lightweight, making it possible to turn the pan upside down, and, with continued use, they gradually became seasoned, making them, in effect, non-stick. And, no, a cast-iron skillet can’t be substituted because it’s too heavy for the tricky maneuver of flipping the tortilla.  

For this spinach tortilla, which has no potatoes, the advice to use plenty of oil is not so essential. But, those instructions to use a “non-stick skillet,” are critical. What did I learn with my spinach tortilla? That I need a new non-stick skillet! This tortilla did not shake loose from the center of the pan, so turning it over caused it to fold in on itself. Not pretty.

A non-stick skillet should be dedicated to tortilla making and egg scrambling and nothing else. It should never be used on high temperatures. For searing chops, get out the cast iron or carbon steel skillet.  

And size matters. For this tortilla with five eggs, which serves two, three, four or more, I used a 10-inch skillet. It came out about two inches thick. If you want a thicker tortilla, use a smaller skillet. I cooked the bulky spinach (bagged spinach leaves lista para cocinar, washed and ready to cook) in a deep pan.

Spinach tortilla is terrific as part of a vegetarian meal. Serve it at a brunch buffet or as a  lunch dish. I like it topped, Ottolenghi style, with a dollop of Greek yogurt. A tomato salad and good bread are the perfect sides. 

Serve tortilla as a tapa, for breakfast, brunch, lunch or supper. This one is vegetarian.

Serve tortilla with bread and a salad. This one is cherry tomatoes.

Spinach Tortilla

Tortilla de Espinacas

Serves 2 to 4.

10 ounces fresh spinach

5 tablespoons olive oil (divided)

¾ cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, chopped


Freshly ground black pepper

5 large eggs

½ teaspoon pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)

¼ teaspoon cumin

2 ounces grated cheese (1 cup)

Chop the spinach and set it aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep skillet. Sauté the onions and garlic on moderate heat, stirring, until beginning to turn golden, 5 minutes. Add the spinach. Mix it with the onions and sauté for a minute until spinach begins to wilt. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper. Turn the heat down and cover the pan. Cook just until spinach is completely wilted, about 4 minutes. Don’t add water unless necessary to keep the spinach from scorching.

Drain spinach well.

Place the spinach and onions in a sieve and drain well, pressing out as much liquid as possible. (If desired, save the liquid for another use.) 

Combine eggs, spinach.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, pimentón and cumin. Stir in the cheese. Stir the drained spinach into the eggs and combine well.

Firm edges. Shake pan to keep tortilla loose.

Heat remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a 10-inch non-stick skillet. Pour in the egg-spinach mixture. Use a heat-proof rubber spatula or wooden paddle to “scramble” the eggs and spinach as they begin to set. Use the spatula to firm the sides. Without stirring, allow the tortilla to set on the bottom and edges. Shake the pan to keep the tortilla loose and sliding on the bottom.

Working over a bowl to catch any drips, place a flat dinner plate on top of the skillet. Using a hot pad if necessary, hold the plate on tightly and invert the skillet so that the tortilla is turned upside down, onto the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the skillet to cook the underside, another 1 to 2 minutes.

Not pretty! The tortilla stuck to the pan in the center, so didn’t properly release when the skillet was inverted. I need a new non-stick skillet!

Lift the edge with a spatula and slide the tortilla out onto a plate.

Use a spatula to lift an edge of the tortilla and slide it out onto a serving plate.

Serve the tortilla hot, room temperature or cold. 

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