Best Italian Eggs in Purgatory Recipe

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Italian Eggs in Purgatory, or “Uova in Purgatorio,” is made with few basic ingredients and less than 30 minutes to make. This is my nonna’s recipe for this savory egg dish cooked in a hearty tomato sauce.

Make sure to serve with lots of crusty bread to soak up the sauce!

finished eggs in purgatory dish with extra basil as a garnish.
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Best Eggs In Purgatory Recipe

I adore this simple dish, and I know you will, too! It’s an easy one-pan meal that makes a healthy comfort food. It’s one of my favorite brunch recipes.

  • Versatility: Eggs in Purgatory can be enjoyed for breakfast, brunch, or a hearty dinner. It’s a versatile dish that suits various occasions.
  • Flavorful Sauce: The tomato-based sauce is infused with garlic, onion, and chili flakes, creating a flavorful and slightly spicy base for the eggs. The bubbling tomato sauce is perfect for dipping ciabatta bread.
  • Runny Egg Yolks: The eggs are cooked until the whites are set, but the yolks remain runny. The creamy yolks add richness to the dish when broken and mixed with the tomato sauce.

The eggs nestled in the rich tomato sauce, sprinkled with cheese and fresh basil, make for a beautiful classic Italian dish. You’ll also love Lentils with Egg, Deviled Eggs, Sausage Meatballs, and Ragu Meat Sauce.

finished eggs in purgatory dish with extra basil as a garnish. Bread on the side for serving and dipping. Egg yolks visible with and dipping bread.

Simple Ingredients

The recipe uses basic ingredients that are likely to be already in your kitchen.

ingredient shot for recipe.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Provides a rich, fruity flavor to the dish and serves as the cooking oil for sautéing.
  • Onion: Adds sweetness and depth of flavor to the tomato sauce.
  • Garlic: Infuses the dish with a savory and aromatic element, enhancing the overall flavor.
  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes: Forms the base of the tomato sauce, providing a luscious and tangy backdrop.
  • Chili Flakes: Introduces a subtle heat to the dish, enhancing its spiciness.
  • Salt: Enhances the ingredients’ natural flavors and balances the overall taste.
  • Eggs: The star of the dish, providing a protein-rich and creamy texture when cooked in the tomato sauce.
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese: Adds a salty and nutty flavor, contributing richness to the dish.
  • Fresh Basil Leaves: Infuses a fresh and aromatic element, giving the dish a burst of brightness.

See the recipe card for quantities.

How to Make Eggs in Purgatory Instructions

With minimal preparation and cooking time, this recipe is perfect for a delicious and satisfying meal on busy days. Here are the step-by-step photos for making this classic southern Italian dish.

How to make Italian Eggs in Purgatory step-by-step instructions: saute onion in olive oil.

Prepare the Sauce: Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until it becomes translucent.

How to make Italian Eggs in Purgatory step-by-step instructions: add garlic.

Stir in the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.

How to make Italian Eggs in Purgatory step-by-step instructions:

Pour in the canned crushed tomatoes, chili flakes, and salt. Simmer the sauce for about 15-20 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. 

How to make Italian Eggs in Purgatory step-by-step instructions: mix the sauce with a wooden spoon.

Create Wells for the Eggs: Using a spoon, make small wells in the tomato sauce for each egg.
Crack one egg into a small cup or bowl and then slide it into the well. Repeat with each cracked egg. Sprinkle a bit of salt on each egg.

How to make Italian Eggs in Purgatory step-by-step instructions: make little wells and add the eggs in the sauce.

Simmer: Cover the skillet and allow the eggs to cook in the simmering tomato sauce on medium heat. Cook 5-8 minutes for well-cooked eggs and 4-5 minutes for soft-cooked eggs. Cook until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still a bit runny- my preference is right around 4-5 minutes with runny yolks.

finished eggs in purgatory dish with extra basil as a garnish.

Cheese and Basil: Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over the eggs while still in the skillet.

Tear fresh basil leaves, scatter them over the top, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Enjoy your authentic and flavorful Eggs in Purgatory with crusty bread! Buon appetito!

Substitutions

  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes:
    • Substitute with fresh tomatoes, diced tomatoes, or tomato sauce. Adjust cooking time to allow fresh tomatoes to break down and release their juices.
  • Chili Flakes:
    • Use red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper for spiciness. Adjust the quantity based on your heat preference.
  • Parmesan Cheese:
    • Replace with Pecorino Romano, Asiago, or another hard, aged cheese for a similar salty and nutty flavor.
  • Fresh Basil Leaves:
    • Substitute with dried basil, oregano, or thyme if fresh basil is not available. Use about 1/3 of the amount specified for fresh herbs.
finished eggs in purgatory dish with extra basil as a garnish. Bread on the side for serving and dipping. Egg yolks visible with and dipping bread.

Variations

For an Italian shakshuka dish, there are many variations you can make.

Feta or Goat Cheese: Instead of Parmesan, crumble feta or goat cheese over the eggs for a tangy and creamy touch.

Pesto Drizzle: Drizzle homemade pesto over the eggs before serving for fresh herb flavor.

Shakshuka Twist: Include cumin, paprika, and bell peppers for a Middle Eastern-inspired version known as Shakshuka.

dipping bread in the egg yolks.finished eggs in purgatory dish with extra basil as a garnish. Bread on the side for serving and dipping. Egg yolks visible with and dipping bread.

How to Store and Reheat

Storage: Store leftover Eggs in Purgatory in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Consume within 2-3 days for the best quality.

Reheating: Gently reheat in a skillet or pan over low to medium heat. To prevent overcooking the eggs, cover the pan with a lid or foil. Alternatively, reheat in the microwave in short increments, checking and stirring between each to ensure even heating. Garnish with fresh herbs and cheese after reheating for optimal flavor.

Top tips

  • Use Fresh Eggs: Fresh eggs with firm whites and vibrant yolks provide the best texture and flavor.
  • Preheat the Pan: Ensure the skillet or pan is properly preheated before adding the olive oil and cooking. This helps in achieving a good sear on the onions and garlic.
  • Control the Heat: Adjust the heat during cooking to prevent burning. Simmer the sauce over low to medium heat to allow flavors to meld without scorching.
  • Create Uniform Wells: Make evenly spaced wells in the sauce for the eggs. This ensures even cooking and presentation.
  • Cover While Cooking: Covering the pan while the eggs cook helps to trap heat, ensuring the whites cook through while keeping the yolks runny.
  • Use High-Quality Tomatoes: If using canned tomatoes, choose high-quality crushed tomatoes or passata for a richer and more flavorful sauce.
  • Don’t Overcook the Eggs: Keep an eye on the eggs to ensure the whites are set, but the yolks remain runny. Overcooking can result in a less enjoyable texture.
finished eggs in purgatory dish with extra basil as a garnish. Bread on the side for serving and dipping. Egg yolks visible with and dipping bread.

FAQs

Can I make Eggs in Purgatory ahead of time?

While the sauce can be prepared in advance, it’s best to cook the eggs just before serving to maintain their desired texture. Reheated eggs may have a different consistency.

Why is it called eggs in purgatory?

“Eggs in Purgatory” is an Italian dish where eggs are poached in a spicy tomato sauce. The name suggests the idea of eggs cooking in a fiery and flavorful purgatory, reflecting the dish’s spicy nature. The runny yolks symbolize the transition between the heat of purgatory and the comfort of a fully cooked egg.

What’s the difference between eggs in purgatory and shakshuka?

“Eggs in Purgatory” and “Shakshuka” are similar dishes featuring eggs poached in a tomato-based sauce, but they differ in flavor profiles and origins. Eggs in Purgatory is an Italian dish with a spicier and simpler sauce, while Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern/North African dish with a more complex, savory-spiced sauce often including ingredients like cumin and paprika.

Looking for other recipes? Try these:

Serving Suggestions

Make sure to leave a ⭐️star rating on the recipe card and comment below if you make the recipe. I love to connect with you through my recipes.

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Best Italian Eggs in Purgatory Recipe

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5 from 3 reviews

Italian Eggs in Purgatory, or “Uova in Purgatorio,” is made with few basic ingredients and less than 30 minutes to make. This is my nonna’s recipe for this savory egg dish cooked in a hearty tomato sauce.

    Ingredients

    Units Scale
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 14.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes
    • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or sweet paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt, extra for eggs
    • 4 large eggs, good quality
    • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano cheese, more if desired
    • Fresh basil leaves
    • Crusty bread for serving

    Instructions

    1. Prepare the Sauce: Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute. Pour in the canned crushed tomatoes, chili flakes, and salt. Simmer the sauce for about 15-20 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. 
    2. Create Wells for the Eggs: Using a spoon, make small wells in the tomato sauce for each egg.
    3. Crack one egg into a small cup or bowl and then slide it into the well. Repeat with each cracked egg. Sprinkle a bit of salt on each egg.
    4. Simmer: Cover the skillet and allow the eggs to cook in the simmering tomato sauce on medium heat. Cook 5-8 minutes for well-cooked eggs and 4-5 minutes for soft-cooked eggs. Cook until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still a bit runny- my preference is right around 4-5 minutes with runny yolks.
    5. Cheese and Basil: Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese over the eggs while still in the skillet.
    6. Tear fresh basil leaves, scatter them over the top, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
    7. Serve the Eggs in Purgatory hot, directly from the skillet with crusty bread on the side for dipping and soaking up the delicious sauce.

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    About Elena

    My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

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    6 Comments

    1. im a teen learning to cook and this recipe was quick, easy, and delicious! my mom was impressed and my whole family loved it! it’s perfect for busy days and I love that it uses ingredients I always have in my kitchen!






      1. I’m so happy to hear that a young cook is exploring Italian recipes! There are many more to try! What about my one bowl apple cake next? YUM

    2. This was so delicious!! Easy and flavorful. This recipe will definitely be eaten at our house on the regular.❤️






    3. Long day. My kids are sick, I didn’t feel like cooking and the kitchen is almost bare. Grazie, Elena!! I pulled together this recipe tonight and it was so easy and such a comforting meal.