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Traditional Spanish Tortilla

As a little kid growing up in Spain, I clearly remember my father’s weekly trips to the town of his birth, a little town called Quinto de Ebro. Quaint and small (less than 1000 people at the time), to meet up with his school friends, then all adults, for Sunday lunch with his grandmother, my great grandmother.

She was all of 4-foot-tall, skinny as a rail and OLD, leathered skin and bronzed from working outside for many years. Her single front tooth kind of freaked me out as a kid, but it became her endearing feature as she grinned from ear to ear every time she would see me. I also remember that she always dressed in black, the traditional garments worn after the death of a husband. She never wore anything other than black for the rest of her life. Her name was Trini (short for Trinidad – Trinity), the Spaniards were very traditional Catholics and almost every woman was named after a religious figure, the most common one being Maria (Mary, mother of Christ), typically used in conjunction with another religious name: Maria Jose, Maria Jesus, Maria Rita, Maria Elisabeth….

Before arriving at my great grandmother’s home (built in the 1700’s) we would stop off at 6 to 8 different bars in the center of the town for our weekly tapas fill. We would get together with my father’s old school mates (now all adults) and would meander from bar to bar to indulge in tapas and a beer or glass of “tinto”, a shot of red wine, and for me, being a kid, it was cut with “Gasiosa” (a 7-up type of soft drink). We would enjoy such delicacies such as boiled eggs with anchovies, calamares (deep fried squid rings), gambas (grilled shrimp), olives, cheeses and tortilla. We would eat to our bellies content and then make our way over to Trini’s house where we would all sit, family, friends and anybody that wanted a hearty lunch.

Trini lived for Sundays, she so enjoyed feeding her men and boys (traditionally the women stayed home preparing lunch for their families, making the bar tour typically an all-male adventure.). And I do mean feed! We would usually start with a Spanish tortilla (see the recipe below) and macaroni with a subtle tomato and onion sauce that was to die for.

Then we would transition to platters of meat, usually lamb chops along with cooked chorizos and morcilla (blood sausage) and all enjoyed with more vino tinto and much more!

The meal would culminate with a wonderful flan that Trini used to prepare in anticipation of the troop’s arrival. No matter how many people showed up, she always seemed to have enough to go around!

The memory of her tortilla still makes my mouth water today. It was truly a culinary highlight for me as a little kid following the adults around from bar to bar. Those were different times! - it wouldn’t happen these days, but that was a different era! It turned out that most of the tapas bars that we frequented were either owned by one of the friends or one of their family members, and I was a kid and adopted by all the “ancianos” (old men) of the town, and spoiled by the entire group.

Recipe for Spanish Tortilla


  • 1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 pounds large Russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4" slices

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 8 large eggs, beaten to blend


1. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion, and salt. Use a heatproof spatula to coat potatoes with oil. When oil begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, turning frequently, until potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes.

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer potatoes and onion to a large heatproof bowl. Add beaten eggs and stir gently to combine; do not break up potatoes. Strain oil into a glass measuring cup; wipe out skillet.

3. Heat 3 tablespoons reserved oil from measuring cup in skillet over medium-high heat. Add egg-potato mixture and cook, stirring constantly but gently to keep potatoes intact, until eggs begin to set (eggs will look scrambled), about 2 minutes. Spread mixture in an even layer; reduce heat to medium-low. Preheat broiler to high.

4. Cook tortilla, shaking pan occasionally to prevent it from sticking, until eggs are nearly cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until top of tortilla is just cooked, about 2 minutes.

5. Remove from oven. Invert a large plate over skillet. Using oven mitts (skillet and potatoes will be very hot; use caution), hold plate firmly over skillet and flip, releasing tortilla onto plate. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving.

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