The Italian-Ish Way to Make Breakfast for Dinner

eggs in purgatory
Photo Credit: Kristin Teig

Sheela Prakash

While eggs are most expected at the breakfast table, they really are the ultimate any time of day ingredient. This easy, Italian-inspired recipe proves their worth well beyond the morning hours. The origins of the name, uovo in purgatorio, or eggs in purgatory, is unknown. But, if you’re familiar with Middle Eastern shakshuka, this is just the Italian version.

In fact, shakshuka and eggs in purgatory are really quite similar. Both involve eggs poached in tomato sauce. The difference lies in the spices. Where shakshuka traditionally calls for turmeric, cumin, and coriander, my take on the Italian egg dish is heavy on garlic. And it delivers just the right amount of heat from red pepper flakes. 

The eggs are poached until just set, then topped with melty crumbles of goat cheese and lots of chopped fresh basil. Serve the saucy mess with crusty whole grain bread and it’s a complete meal that’s comforting and wholesome any night of the week, but especially on a busy weeknight. 

Crushed Tomatoes vs. Whole Peeled Tomatoes

While you can reach for a can of crushed tomatoes here, I really like to use canned whole peeled tomatoes instead, and crush them gently with my hands in a large bowl before adding them to the skillet. It’s an extra step but they have a richer, sweeter flavor than tomatoes that are pre-crushed, and I love the irregular bite-size pieces you get from crushing them yourself. It makes the whole dish a bit more rustic, homey, and satisfying.

Reprinted with permission from Mediterranean Every Day: Simple, Inspired Recipes for Feel-Good Food (Harvard Common Press, September 2020).

Eggs in Purgatory

  • Serves: 4
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Ingredients

  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons (32 g) tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (about 1/2cup)
  • Good bread, for serving (optional)

Directions

  1. Empty the canned tomatoes with their juices into a large bowl and carefully crush them with hands (you’ll have some bite-size pieces remaining).Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté.until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Sauté. until fragrant and the tomato paste has slightly darkened in color, about 1 minute.
  3. Carefully pour the crushed tomatoes into theskillet, stir in the salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Gently simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
  4. Using the back of a spoon, make 4 small wells in the sauce. Crack 1 egg directly into each well.
  5. Gently spoon some of the sauce over some of the egg whites, leaving the yolks exposed (this helps the whites cook faster so they set before the yolks).Cover the skillet and place it over medium-low heat.
  6. Cook, lifting the lid occasionally to check the progress, until the whites are setand the yolks are cooked to your desired doneness, 8 to 12 minutes. The eggs should still jiggle a bit in the centers when you gently shake the pan. Removefrom the heat. Sprinkle with goat cheese and basil and serve with bread,if desired.