Soft-cooked eggs swimming in a zesty, robust tomato sauce, Eggs in Purgatory (also called “Italian shakshuka”) is a healthy one-pan meal that you’ll be happy to gobble for a lazy weekend brunch or outstanding, unexpected weeknight dinner.
The first time I had eggs in Purgatory was in a brunch restaurant in New York City.
The idea of having eggs baked in tomato sauce struck me as a bit strange, but since our server recommended it (and it came with reassuring Homemade Naan for dipping), I decided to give it a try.
The robust sauce mingles with the creamy egg yolks, making this healthy meal feel lush and indulgent.
Eggs in Purgatory is rustic and has an earnestness that speaks to me every time I enjoy it.
And since it takes just 30 minutes to throw together, we eat it just as often for dinner as we do for brunch.
5 Star Review
“Made it for my family for breakfast they loved it!”— Teresa —
What is Eggs in Purgatory?
Eggs in Purgatory goes by many names and boasts many adaptations (not unlike this Oven Pancake), with its closest relative being shakshuka.
- Shakshuka is a Middle Eastern and North African dish that, like eggs in Purgatory, features eggs poached in a thick, robust tomato sauce.
- Like eggs in Purgatory, shakshuka is traditionally served at breakfast but works well for any meal of the day.
- Both dishes are served right from the skillet, with the tomato and eggs smeared over or dipped with torn pieces of pita, toast, or baguette.
The main difference between shakshuka and eggs in Purgatory is the spices and herbs.
- Skakshuka features Middle Eastern spices, such as cumin and sweet paprika.
- Eggs in Purgatory does not include these spices and uses Italian herbs, such as oregano and basil. It is often referred to as “Italian shakshuka.”
I’ve seen countless versions of eggs in Purgatory on brunch menus everywhere from New York City to San Francisco, but it’s so easy and affordable to make at home (like Sweet Potato Hash), there’s really no need to eat them out at a swanky restaurant.
How to Make Eggs in Purgatory
This simple eggs in purgatory recipe uses good-quality store-bought pasta sauce for the tomato base, which is both delicious and a major timesaver.
You’ll also find plenty of garlic, fresh basil, Parmesan, and a special addition to make it super more filling: chickpeas.
Like this Curried Chickpea Hash with Broccoli and Spinach, it’s a nutritious, highly satisfying meatless main that’s budget-friendly too.
- Tomato Pasta Sauce. A serious shortcut. Because the tomato sauce is such a prominent part of this recipe, it’s important to choose a high-quality option (I like DeLallo or Rao’s).
- Chickpeas. While chickpeas aren’t 100% traditional for eggs in Purgatory, I now can’t imagine the recipe without them (they’re also my favorite add-on to this Italian Chopped Salad). They add a pleasant texture, work well with Italian flavors, and make it extra filling for a tiny price tag.
- Eggs. While I love a good Egg White Frittata, I also can’t say no to a perfectly poached egg with a beautiful runny yolk. So delish!
- Baby Spinach. I’m always looking for ways to add some green to every dish. I love the added nutrition and color a bit of spinach gives this dish. It’s packed with iron, vitamin K, folate, and calcium.
- Garlic and Onion. I’m always amazed how much a little sautéed fresh garlic and onion can jazz up a jar of store-bought tomato pasta sauce.
- Parmesan Cheese. Adds just the right about of salty, cheesy flavor and richness.
- Red Pepper Flakes. Is eggs in Purgatory spicy? It’s up to you! Feel free to adjust the amount to suit your personal taste preferences.
- Baguette. Make sure to have a few slices of your favorite crusty bread on hand to soak up every last drop of the tasty sauce. (This Rosemary Olive Oil Bread or No Knead Focaccia would be scrumptious!)
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Sauté the onions then stir in the remaining sauce ingredients.
- Make four indentations in the sauce and crack an egg into each.
- Sprinkle with cheese and then bake until the eggs are set and the sauce is bubbly. Garnish with basil and serve. ENJOY!
How to Serve Eggs in Purgatory
The best way to serve this simple dish is straight from the oven while it’s still bubbling and warm.
Enjoy eggs in Purgatory alongside a crusty baguette (or English Muffin Bread) and either dip the bread in the sauce or spread the eggs and sauce generously over it. Either way, you can’t go wrong!
- To Store. Refrigerate extra tomato and chickpea sauce for up to 3 days. Top with a fresh egg prior to serving.
- To Reheat. Warm the leftover sauce in a skillet on the stovetop until simmering. Add freshly cracked eggs and bake as directed.
- To Freeze. I don’t recommend freezing raw or poached eggs. However, the sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months for later use.
Meal Prep Tip
Make the sauce ahead and store it in your fridge or freezer. Then bake as directed using fresh eggs and parmesan when you’re ready to enjoy.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Skillet. This one has been my favorite for years (this is another excellent and budget-friendly option) when making eggs in purgatory
- Cutting Board. Always helpful when chopping a lot of ingredients.
- Sharp Knife. Among the most important tools to have in your kitchen arsenal.
Fair warning: If you’re not going to finish your serving of eggs in Purgatory, I have no shame in
asking politely for sneaking another bite from your plate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Eggs in Purgatory originated in the Naples region of Italy. Known as uova in purgatorio in Italy, has been around for generations. (If you love Italian food, be sure to check my full collection of Italian recipes!)
As it turns out, like so many ancient dishes that are spread over many cultures, why it’s called “eggs in Purgatory” is unknown. The most interesting explanation I found is that the name originates from the Catholic faith, with the baked eggs representing “souls” and the tomato sauce surrounding them representing “Purgatory,” the big idea being that the souls are suspended between heaven and hell.
Across cultures, variations of eggs in Purgatory exist. Shakshuka is similar, but features Middle Eastern spices and ingredients, such as cumin and peppers.
Eggs in Purgatory
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion diced (about 1 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 can reduced-sodium chickpeas (15 ounces), rinsed and drained
- 1 jar good-quality tomato pasta sauce (24 ounces)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese freshly grated
- fresh basil chopped
- Baguette slices for serving
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof, nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the chickpeas, tomato sauce, oregano, salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and let cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the spinach a few handfuls at a time, letting it wilt.
- With the back of a spoon, make 4 indentations in the sauce. Crack one egg inside of each, then sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the whole dish.
- Carefully transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with fresh basil. Serve hot with baguette slices.
- TO STORE: This dish is best enjoyed right away, but you could refrigerate extra tomato and chickpea sauce for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm the leftover sauce in a skillet on the stovetop until simmering. Add freshly cracked eggs and bake as directed.
- TO FREEZE: The sauce can also be frozen for up to 3 months for later use. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before warming.
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