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 an outstanding, unexpected weeknight dinner.
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Why You’ll Love This Italian Shakshuka Recipe
- Rustic Yet Indulgent. Eggs in purgatory is rustic and has an earnestness that speaks to me every time I enjoy it. The robust sauce mingles with the creamy egg yolks, making this healthy meal feel lush and indulgent.
- Easier Than It Seems (I Promise!). If cooking eggs fills you with trepidation because you can never get them just right, eggs in purgatory is a game-changer. Because you’re not cooking the eggs on the direct heat of the skillet, they’re much less likely to overcook. Instead, the sauce (and oven) gently heat them until they reach runny-yolk-perfection.
- Breakfast or Dinner: You Decide. Since eggs in purgatory takes just 30 minutes to throw together, we eat it just as often for dinner as we do for brunch. As with Spinach Quiche and French Omelettes, it’s become a breakfast-for-dinner staple in our house.
- Healthy and Budget-Friendly. Like this Chickpea Hash, Italian shakshuka is a nutritious, highly satisfying meatless main that’s budget-friendly too. 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.
5 Star Review
“Made it for my family for breakfast they loved it!”— Teresa —
What Is Eggs in Purgatory?
Like many breakfast dishes (an Oven Pancake comes to mind), eggs in purgatory goes by many names and boasts many adaptations, 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.”
How to Make Eggs in Purgatory
- Tomato Pasta Sauce. A serious shortcut.
- 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 add a boost of protein 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. Or just use black pepper for a milder version.
- Fresh Basil. Along with the Parm, basil really brings the Italian flavor to eggs in Purgatory.
- 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, or try pita bread or Homemade Naan.)
- Prepare. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Make the sauce.
- Add the Egg. Make four indentations in the sauce and crack an egg into each.
- Bake. Sprinkle with cheese and then bake until the eggs are set and the sauce is bubbly. Garnish with basil and serve. ENJOY!
- Switch Up the Beans. For an extra-creamy twist on eggs in purgatory with beans, swap the chickpeas for cannellini or Great Northern beans.
- Try Different Herbs. This savory egg dish also pairs nicely with fresh parsley, oregano, or even fresh cilantro.
- Veg Out. Give your eggs in Purgatory a boost of nutrients (and fiber!) by cooking green or red bell pepper, sliced mushrooms, or diced zucchini with the onions.
- 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.
What to Serve with Eggs in Purgatory
- Fresh Fruit. Keep it simple and serve what you have on hand or make Fruit Salad.
- Potatoes. Pair your savory breakfast bake with Hash Brown Casserole or Sweet Potato Hash Browns.
- Bread. Looking for some additional bread options? Crock Pot Bread would be fantastic here too!
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.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Start With a High-Quality Sauce. 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. 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).
- Crack the Eggs Into a Small Bowl. If you’re a pro-egg-cracker, you can skip this! But if you often find yourself fishing for little bits of egg shells in your mixing bowl or breaking yolks, it’s a good idea to crack the eggs into a small bowl one at a time just in case, then pour them into the indentations in the sauce. It’s far easier to retrieve egg shells from a small bowl than from hot tomato sauce.
- Serve It Fresh From the Oven. The best way to serve this simple dish is straight from the oven while it’s still bubbling and warm.
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°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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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.