An Italian classic, Eggs in Purgatory is made with poached eggs in a hearty tomato sauce. Quick, easy, and healthy, this simple dish is perfect for breakfast, brunch, or dinner. Serve with naan or pita bread to soak up every last bit of sauce!
Today we’re taking our tastebuds on a trip to Italy for a Neapolitan classic! While it looks fancy and often makes its way on to expensive brunch menus, this savory egg dish is actually made with basic ingredients and comes together in under 30 minutes. We absolutely love it.
What is Eggs in Purgatory?
Eggs in Purgatory is, essentially, poached eggs cooked in a a spicy tomato sauce on the stovetop.
This savory egg dish originated in Italy, near Naples, known as uova in purgatorio in Italian and Ova’ ‘mpriatorio in the Neapolitan dialect. There are lots of ideas around why it got its name and why it was so popular. It’s said that it was the cheapest way to add protein to someone’s diet and was considered a great way to use up leftovers, when leftover pasta sauce was used in place of the fresh tomato sauce.
As for its name, that is apparently up for debate. A popular theory is that it was created to represent the Cult of the Souls of the Purgatory, a Catholic cult that was known for saving souls from the flames of the purgatory. Another theory, also related to Catholicism, is that the eggs represent souls and the fiery tomato sauce that surrounds them is the purgatory, depicting the cross between Heaven and Hell. Whoa. That’s way too heavy for me.
Either way, it’s an awesome classic dish, and in my humble opinion, reminiscent of delicious Mexican Huevos Rancheros.
What’s the Difference Between Eggs in Purgatory and Shakshuka?
Shakshuka and Eggs in Purgatory are very similar. The main differences being that Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern dish which includes additional ingredients (cumin, peppers, and sweet paprika) in the tomato sauce. Eggs in Purgatory is often referred to as the “Italian Shakshuka” because they are so alike.
Eggs in Purgatory Recipe
This egg recipe is made with simple ingredients that all add up to a dish with loads of warm, hearty flavor! Here’s what you’ll need:
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Eggs – Eggs are added to the sauce after it thickens, poached and cooked to your preferred doneness.
- Tomato sauce – The base of this egg dish. Use pure unseasoned tomato sauce, not spaghetti sauce. Or use our homemade marinara sauce and adjust the other seasonings.
- Onion and Garlic – For wonderful flavor, which adds a subtle sweetness and aromatics.
- Olive oil – Used for sauteeing the onion and garlic.
- Seasonings – A simple combination of dried oregano, cumin, paprika, cracked red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
- Naan or pita bread – We serve eggs in purgatory with our homemade Naan recipe or pita bread, which are traditional. They are the perfect way to soak up the yummy tomato sauce.
- Fresh parsley – For garnish that lends flavor and color.
- Crumbled feta – This is optional, but a highly recommended topping, which lends flavor and a nice salty component.
How to Make Eggs in Purgatory
This classic Italian dish comes together quickly and easily! Here’s a brief summary:
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details.)
- Saute and simmer. Begin by sauteeing the onion and garlic until soft and fragrant. Then add the tomato puree and seasonings, allowing to simmer until thickened.
- Add eggs. Crack eggs into wells in the sauce, cover and allow to cook until it reaches your desired doness.
- Serve. Serve with torn naan or pita and garnished with parsley and feta cheese.
Tips and Adjustments
Ready to add this savory egg dish to your menu? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Make sure the sauce thickens before adding the eggs. The sauce should be thick enough that you can easily create wells with your spoon, so they can hold the eggs. If they immediately fill back up, the sauce needs to thicken more.
- Make it spicy. Our version is on the mild side, with only a bit of red pepper flakes stirred in. If you love spice, feel free to add more to the sauce or before serving.
- Use homemade marinara. Whenever I make marinara sauce, I use any leftovers in place of the canned (unseasoned) tomato sauce. Italians are known for putting leftover pasta sauce in this dish so nothing goes to waste!
Wondering what to serve with Eggs in Purgatory? Bread! This dish is typically served with bread to scoop up the eggs and soak up every last bit of sauce. Personally, I serve this dish with torn naan or pita bread. However, you can also use any crusty bread or baguette. If you’re using crusty bread, I recommend toasting it and adding some olive oil before enjoying.
Eggs in purgatory is a dish best enjoyed fresh. If you want, you can make the tomato sauce in advance and simply reheat it before adding the eggs.
More Classic Egg Recipes:
Eggs in Purgatory
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup diced onion
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 15 ounces tomato sauce puree
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper , to taste
- 4 large eggs
- Naan , for serving
- crumbled feta cheese , for serving
- chopped fresh parsley , for garnish
- Heat olive oil in a 10-inch saute pan over medium. Add onion and cook, stirring until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Reduce heat to medium-low; add in the tomato sauce puree, oregano, cumin, paprika, cracked red pepper, and a couple grinds of salt and black pepper; simmer for 5 minutes until thickened, stirring every minute to prevent scorching.
- Use a large spoon to make small wells in the sauce and gently crack the eggs into each well. Cover, and let cook until the whites are set and yolk is still runny, about 5-7 minutes (depending on your desired doneness.)
- Serve each egg with torn naan or pita bread; spoon over some of the sauce and garnish with chopped fresh parsley and a sprinkle of feta cheese.