How To: This Ingredient Will Take Your Leftovers to the Next Level

This Ingredient Will Take Your Leftovers to the Next Level

I may be in the minority when I say this, but I love leftovers. Whenever I'm cooking for less people than the recipe calls for, I cook the full yield anyway. And when I go to a restaurant, I order whatever I want—regardless of how much I can actually eat in one sitting.

For the rest of you that loathe eating food more than once or simply hate the way reheated food tastes, eggs are a budget-friendly and easy way to breathe new life into your leftovers. With a bit of ingenuity and a lot of eggs, leftovers can be repurposed into a new meal that even the biggest grumps can enjoy. Here are my five favorite examples of ways in which eggs can prevent your leftover blues.

1. French Fry Frittata

Try saying that five times fast! On a more serious note, leftover French fries are a sad affair—soggy, starchy, and not very fun to reheat. But before you toss them in the trash, try making a frittata instead.

A frittata is an egg-based dish that is either cooked over the stove or baked in the oven at low heat. It's solid enough to be sliced like a pie, but soft and delectable on the top and in its center.

French fries are a perfect addition to frittatas because they add flavor and saltiness to the dish. Add other vegetables and protein to make a well-rounded meal like the beautiful chorizo French fry frittata featured below, or cook the French fries with some onions in egg for a creative version of a Spanish tortilla—either way, your French fries will taste better than ever.

Image by Valentina/Cooking on the Weekends

(If you don't want to try making a frittata or Spanish tortilla, there are still other ways to make day-old French fries taste good again.)

2. Mashed Potato Balls

Mashed potatoes tend to fare better than French fries in terms of reheating capability, but that doesn't mean we can't find a better way to enjoy them the next day—and there's no other time-tested way to make something taste even better than to deep-fry it.

I love using leftover mashed potatoes because they're very easy to work with: simply roll the cold potatoes into a ball, dip in eggs, then coat with breadcrumbs. After a minute or two in frying oil, your old and cold mashed potatoes are amazing pockets of crunchy flavor.

This excellent recipe from the Taste and Tell blog uses instant mashed potatoes, but can easily be substituted with leftovers from the night before. And don't be afraid to get creative: mix bacon, ground meat, cheese, onions, or anything else you can think of into your mashed potatoes before rolling them into balls for extra flavor.

Image by Deborah/Taste and Tell

3. Pizza Bread Pudding

Okay—I'll be the first to admit that this may be the least-necessary recipe on this list, mainly because leftover pizza always tastes so damn good. But there are so many different ways to enjoy leftover pizza: and despite how crazy this idea sounds, pizza bread pudding is one of the best ones.

Cut your leftover pizza into large cubes or squares, then distribute them evenly in a baking dish. Add any additional vegetables or proteins that will compliment your pizza, then pour a mixture of eggs and milk into the dish until the pizza is completely covered. Let the baking dish sit for an hour so the pizza has time to absorb the eggs, then bake and prepare to like "pizza pudding" way more than you could've anticipated.

Image by Mama Max/A Mama with Ideas

(If you'd like more specific quantities and helpful steps with pictures, A Mama with Ideas has a great recipe tutorial.)

4. Free Table Bread French Toast

This topic may be sensitive for some, but don't be ashamed to admit it: it's perfectly normal to take the free breadsticks on the table home. It's a waste, otherwise—sanitary practices dictate they have to toss the bread as soon as you leave. The thought of perfectly good food going to waste grinds my gears, so I pack the bread out of principle.

Normally, I choose to toast leftover bread to reheat it, but turning my leftover bread into French toast using egg sounds way more delicious. Slice the bread, dip it in egg, and pan-fry on both sides for a fantastic addition to your brunch.

If the bread you've saved is savory, don't worry—you can make French toast savory, too. The recipe pictured below from The Food Charlatan is a crisp, perfect Parmesan-encrusted take on French toast that I love.

Image by Karen/The Food Charlatan

5. Spaghetti Pie

Pasta is a tricky food to reheat. If the sauce ratio is off, then the noodles dry up in the microwave. Reheating pasta on a stove can be messy, especially if a lot of cheese is involved. And let's be honest—one day of spaghetti leftovers is fine, but by the time you make it to Day 3, you're desperately trying to figure out a way to make your leftovers more appetizing.

Well, guess what—eggs can turn your spaghetti into a dense, pasta-filled pie that will knock your socks off. Mix eggs into your leftover pasta, empty into a pie pan, and bake the pan for 20 minutes. Ta-dah! Your new favorite repurposed spaghetti pie is ready to eat.

This spaghetti pie recipe from Pinch of Yum is my favorite, largely because her enthusiasm for this pie is infectious. She also tops the pie with added sauce and cheese, which increases both its tastiness and aesthetic appeal.

Image by Lindsay/Pinch of Yum

When in Doubt, Scramble All the Things!

If none of your leftovers fit any of the categories above, an almost foolproof way to transform your leftovers is to chop them up and either scramble them or add them to an omelet.

PaleOMG has a tasty breakfast scramble recipe that serves as a great starting point, but feel free to experiment with flavors of your own. If you have leftover hamburger lying around, chop up the patty and scramble it with zucchini, rosemary, and sage. Or perhaps you have leftover steamed veggies—add some salsa and cumin for a Mexican-style veggie omelet. The possibilities are endless.

Image by Juli/PaleOMG

Whether you choose to improvise or follow any of the recipes listed above, you'll find that eggs are an amazing and versatile way to step up your leftover game. What are your favorite ways to repurpose leftovers? Let us know in the comments below!

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Cover image via Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times

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