Eggs in Purgatory (or Basically, Italian Shakshuka!)
Soft-cooked eggs simmered in a robust tomato sauce flavored with garlic, herbs, and red pepper flakes. This Eggs in Purgatory recipe requires a handful of ingredients and is ideal to serve for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or even dinner!
IT’S ITALIAN SHAKSHUKA!
Just imagine the soft-cooked eggs simmered in slightly fiery tomato sauce loaded with herbs and garlic. It’s warming and comforting and filling all at the same time. It’s something I’ve made us for a quick lunch, would be ideal for serving for Mother’s Day brunch, and feel equally comfortable making this for dinner as it’s quite filling.
Eggs in Purgatory was breakfast on our first morning on the Amalfi coast when we had the best Roman holiday a few summers ago. It was a somewhat chilly morning, and we had worked up quite an appetite from the long walk over from our Airbnb. Everything at that particular restaurant was made from scratch, and you could just taste the freshness of the eggs and tomatoes.
I’m transported back to Positano every time I make this recipe. Needless to say, it’s one that we both truly love and make over and over again. Both for the flavors and the feelings.
What are eggs in purgatory?
Eggs in purgatory (or Uova All’inferno or Uova in Purgatorio) is the Italian version of Shakshuka. A hearty, herb-scented, spicy, and robust tomato sauce with poached eggs. I suspect the ‘purgatory’ portion of the name describes the fiery (or somewhat spicy) taste of the tomato sauce.
It is usually served with toasted slices of baguette. Great for breakfast, brunch or brinner.
What do you need to make eggs in purgatory?
- Olive oil: starting in a cold pan with cold oil, we’re going to infuse it with flavors
- Fresh garlic: the fresh garlic and crushed red peppers are the foundation of this recipe
- Crushed red pepper flakes: use as much or as little of the crushed red pepper flakes. There’s no right or wrong answer here!
- Finely chopped onions: The onions will cook in the garlic-infused olive oil to further enhance the sauce
- Crushed tomatoes: I find this recipe works best with crushed tomatoes. Whole tomatoes or even diced tomatoes could work, but I do suggest giving them a quick whiz in a blender so they breakdown into a chunky sauce before using.
- Fresh chopped herbs: I used freshly chopped parsley and basil for this recipe. Extra points if you’ve got an herb garden, and you use homegrown herbs!
- Eggs: You can use 5-6 eggs depending on your needs. This recipe serves 3-4 people as a meal.
- Crusty bread: I love making a batch of my no knead bread, then slicing, drizzling it with olive oil, and when it’s hot off the grill pan, I rub it with a cut clove of garlic. That just adds the most delicious flavor!
How to make Italian style eggs in purgatory:
- Infuse the oil. The first step is to take your time and infuse the oil. Start with a cold heavy bottom skillet with cold oil. Add the minced garlic and the red pepper flakes, and let the pan and oil heat up on the low setting. Stir it every so often, when the oil heats up, the garlic will start to simmer gently. At that point, you’re ready to proceed. Kick the heat up to medium-high, add the onions and saute them for 3-4 minutes or until they soften.
- Let the sauce simmer. Then, add the crushed tomatoes and season generously with salt. Add in the chopped parsley and basil and allow the sauce to cook over medium-low heat until it reaches a simmer. Let the sauce simmer and thicken before moving forward.
- Add the eggs at the right moment. Once the sauce is done, use a spoon to make a well. If the well holds, you’re going to crack an egg into a clean bowl, and gently lower the egg into the well (you may need to make the well more pronounced ounce again before adding the egg.) Then, repeat this with the remaining eggs. Allow the eggs to cook, covered. You’ll cook them for a few minutes if you like them runny, and longer for more set eggs.
- Toast the bread: While the eggs are cooking, drizzle olive oil on slices of bread. On a hot cast iron skillet or grill/griddle, toast the bread on both sides until it’s done to your liking. Rub with the cut side of a clove of garlic if you’d like and sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon salt.
Can I skip the infusing portion of the recipe and just start with a hot pan and oil?
I highly encourage you to take the extra 5 minutes to infuse this sauce. We’re only using a handful of humble ingredients, so the more care we give to these ingredients, the more they will reward us in the end. Every step helps in building flavors.
How do I know my sauce is thick enough to add the eggs?
Once the sauce is done, use the back of a spoon to make a well in the sauce. If the well fills up very quickly with sauce, it’s still a little runny and needs a few more minutes. It takes about 12-14 minutes of simmer time for the sauce to thicken. However, it will heavily depend on the consistency of the canned tomatoes, so it could be shorter for some and longer for others. This test helps us ensure the sauce doesn’t run over onto the eggs.
Why do you crack the eggs into a bowl and not directly into the sauce?
Cracking the egg into a bowl allows you to have better control when lowering the egg into the well. Also, the smooth rim of a bowl ensures you don’t accidentally pierce the yolk (on the shell) as you’re lowering the egg into the pan.
How do I reheat the leftovers?
This is best when eaten fresh. We usually prefer to finish off the eggs, and if there’s sauce leftover, you could always just add a fried or poached egg once you reheat the sauce!
However, if you do have leftover eggs: remove the leftovers from the refrigerator 30 minutes prior. Then, add the sauce portion to a pan and let it heat through with a tablespoon or two of water. Once heated, I add the egg back on top, lower the heat, cover, and let it heat through until warm to the touch.
Other Italian inspired recipes:
- Roasted Garlic Rosemary Focaccia
- Lemon Olive Oil Pound Cake
- Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Caprese Cake (Flourless Chocolate Cake)
- Homemade Pizza Sauce
- Arrabbiata Sauce
- Tomato Basil Bruschetta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ - 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (to preference)
- ¼ cup finely chopped onions
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons EACH: chopped parsley AND torn basil, plus more for serving
- 5-6 large eggs
- no knead bread, for serving
- SAUCE: Grab a large skillet that you have a lid for. Starting in a cold skillet, add the olive oil, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes to the skillet and sauté for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally so nothing burns. Then kick up the heat to medium-high, add the onions and continue to stir and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes and season with a generous sprinkling of salt. Add the chopped parsley and basil and cook over medium-low heat until it reaches a simmer. Then, let simmer for 12-14 minutes.
- EGGS: Add a cracked egg into a bowl. Using the back of a spoon, make a well in the sauce. If the well holds for 30-40 seconds, the sauce has reduced. If it doesn't allow for it to continue cooking for a few more minutes. Then gently add the cracked egg into the prepared divot. Repeat this with the remaining eggs. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes if you prefer runny egg yolks, and another 1-2 minutes for more firm eggs.
- BREAD: While the eggs are cooking, drizzle the bread with a little olive oil and toast on a hot grill or griddle. Rub with a clove of cut garlic if you want it to be extra special and sprinkle with a hint of Maldon salt.
- FINISH: When the eggs are done, serve topped with additional chopped basil/parsley with fresh parmesan (optional) on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired.