Eggs in Purgatory Recipe

Eggs in Purgatory Recipe

The following recipe is from the October 21 edition of our weekly recipe newsletter. To receive this newsletter in your inbox, sign up here!

Eggs in Purgatory is a wonderful example of how dishes that are considered cucina povera don't have to taste particularly, well, poor. This recipe comes from The Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz, and is a popular quick and cheap meal throughout Southern Italy. I haven't priced it out, but I'm pretty sure that this dish can easily and heartily feed four people for well under $5.

I was skeptical of this combination at first, wondering just how satisfying chopped tomatoes and eggs could be, but after the first bite I was a happy convert. I like to keep my eggs on the runny side so that when they break open the yolk imparts its creaminess into the tomato sauce. A few spoonfuls of ricotta are a nice addition to this dish, and if you happen to have any greens laying around your crisper, they can be sautéed with the onions before you add the tomatoes. The name might sound a little menacing, but this dish is far from scary.

  • Yield:4 as a main course, or more as an antipasto


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, cut in half, then finely chopped or sliced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, or tomato purée (whatever is on hand)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • 4 to 6 large eggs
  • 4 to 6 slices toasted or fried crusty, dense bread (optional)
  • Grated cheese (optional)


  1. 1.

    Heat the oil in a 9- to 10-inch skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onion and red pepper flakes until the onion is lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes.

  2. 2.

    Add the tomato, oregano, and salt. Stir well and simmer, about 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced a little. Taste and correct the salt and red pepper flakes as necessary, to taste.

  3. 3.

    Break the eggs into the gently bubbling sauce. Cover the pan cover the pan until the eggs are done to taste, about 10 minutes for firm yolks.

  4. 4.

    To serve, use a wide spatula to lift the eggs and sauce that clings to them from the bottom of the pan. Place on a plate, with or without a slice of toasted or fried bread.

  5. 5.

    Serve with grated cheese, if desired.