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Italian Eggs in Purgatory

Italian Eggs in Purgatory is an easy Italian dish that uses basic pantry ingredients and takes less than 30 minutes.

Served with lots of crusty bread for dipping and dunking, this is a meal the whole family will love.

four poached eggs in tomato sauce in black pan viewed from above.

Why you’ll love this recipe

Tomatoes, in all forms, are a staple in my kitchen and quite likely, in yours. Italian recipes often use tomatoes.

Recipes like minestrone and ragu sauce for pasta use canned tomatoes, passata, paste or fresh tomatoes. What about the intense flavour of sun-dried tomatoes? Sun-dried tomatoes add a flavour hit to recipe like my zesty italian pasta salad and this tasty quick bread. Then there are some recipes where the main ingredient is tomatoes, like this one.

Eggs in purgatory is an excellent midweek meal when everyone is hungry and short of time. Serve it with crusty bread for dunking into all that delicious tomato sauce!

This recipe is a traditional southern Italian dish usually served as a meal. The eggs are said to be the “souls” in the spicy, red, bubbling sauce which represents purgatory.

You might also like to make my fantastic chicken sorrentino if you are looking for another dish to serve with this one.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.

Ingredients notes

chilli flakes; salt; eggs; tinned tomatoes; grated parmesan cheese; oil; fresh basil; garlic on wooden board viewed from above.

This recipe used some basic ingredients. You’ll need:-

  • canned whole tomatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • eggs
  • onion
  • garlic
  • chilli
  • salt
  • Parmesan
  • fresh basil

Ingredient substitutions

You may not have these exact ingredients but you still want to make Eggs in Purgatory. While it won’t be quite the same dish, the ingredients can be substituted for what you have in the kitchen and your tastes. Here’s a few options:-

  • fresh (peeled) tomatoes, passata, or canned crushed tomatoes for canned whole tomatoes
  • regular or light olive oil for extra virgin
  • spring onion, leeks or shallots for the onion
  • powdered, granular or bottled garlic for fresh garlic
  • pecorino, romano or another hard cheese for Parmesan
  • fresh parsley for basil

Variations

This recipe can be varied in so many ways so each time you make Eggs in Purgatory it’s a little different.

  • spicy or not so spicy – adjust the chilli flakes to your liking
  • add a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or other canned beans to the tomato sauce
  • drop in chunks of feta cheese after you add the eggs for a double cheese hit
  • when the onion is half done add a cup or so of chopped vegetables like zucchini or capsicum (sweet peppers) and sauté until softened
  • don’t like poached eggs? – prepare the sauce and serve with fried eggs or fried halloumi cheese
  • double the amount of sauce ingredients for lots of delicious tomato goodness

Instructions

Making this recipe is quite easy. Anyone can do it and have a nutritious, satisfying meal in less than 30 minutes.

Four images: image 1 - chopped onions in a black pan; image 2 - crushed tomatoes pouring into black pan; image 3 - crushed tomatoes in black pan; images 4 - four raw eggs in tomato sauce in black pan.
  1. Gently fry chopped onion in olive oil.
  2. Add crushed tomatoes, garlic and chilli flakes.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes until slightly reduced.
  4. Crack eggs into the sauce, cover with a lid until eggs are set to your liking.

FAQ’s

poached egg in tomato sauce and slice of toasted bread in grey bowl, black pan of eggs and tomato sauce partly out of the picture viewed from above.
How to store and reheat

Serve poached eggs immediately. However if you have leftovers, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day or two. Reheat gently in a skillet on the stove with the lid on or in the microwave oven for a few minutes until heated through. The eggs won’t be gooey anymore but it will still be yummy.

Can this recipe be made ahead?

Make the  tomato sauce a day or even three days ahead. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat then reheat in a skillet on the stove and continue the recipe from step 8.

How do I adjust the servings?

Just as in all my recipes you can adjust the quantities for serving more or less. All you have to do is click into the white box that has the serving size and increase or decrease to the quantities you want. As you adjust the number of servings, the ingredients will adjust automatically. This recipe is easy to make for one or many. I like to allow two eggs per person.

Serving suggestions

Poached eggs in tomato sauce in black pan, fingers holding toasted bread dipping into egg.

This rustic Italian recipe is best served with crusty Italian bread – toasted or untoasted. Variations of this dish are found in other cultures using different spices, vegetables and cured meat. Accompaniments for those variations are different breads like pita or tortilla. So I can’t see why you couldn’t serve your favourite bread to dip into the poached eggs and tomato sauce.

If you are looking for dessert and want to stick with the Italian theme you will absolutely love my delicious Cannoli Cake. Takes a bit of time but definitely worth it.

More midweek meal recipes

Frittata with ham and cheese
Egg White Frittata
Rice Stuffed Tomatoes
Spanish Asparagus with poached eggs from Spain on a Fork
Bacon and Egg Slice from Sweet Caramel Sunday
Bacon and Egg Galettes from It’s Not Complicated

Made this recipe?
Please let me know if you liked it by leaving a ★★★★★ star rating and a review below. And remember to subscribe to my newsletter – it’s free!

four poached eggs in tomato sauce in black pan viewed from above

Eggs in Purgatory Recipe

Eggs in Purgatory is an easy Italian dish that uses basic pantry ingredients and takes less than 30 minutes. This recipe allows two eggs per person – you can suit yourself how many you think you would like per person. Serve with lots of crusty bread for dipping and dunking, this is a meal the whole family will love.
5 from 21 votes
Print Pin Review
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes
Servings:2 people
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 14.5 oz (1 small can or 400g) canned whole tomatoes in tomato juice
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes or to your taste
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • basil leaves
  • crusty bread for serving

Instructions

  • Finely chop onion and garlic.
  • Heat oil in skillet and add the onion.
  • Gently fry the onion until translucent and cooked through.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.
  • Crush the tomatoes. Use a food processor or pour tomatoes into a bowl and crush with a potato masher or fork.
  • Add tomatoes, chilli flakes and salt to the skillet.
  • Gently simmer for 10 minutes until slightly reduced, stirring every now and then.
  • Take the skillet off the heat and make four little indents for the eggs.
  • Crack an egg into a small bowl and slip the egg into one on the indents. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
  • Return skillet to a medium heat and cover with a lid.
  • Cook for 6-8 minutes or until eggs are cooked to your liking.
  • Serve immediately sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil and toasted bread on the side for dunking and scooping.

Notes

Ingredient substitutions

  • fresh (peeled) tomatoes, passata, or canned crushed tomatoes for canned whole tomatoes
  • regular or light olive oil for extra virgin
  • spring onion, leeks or shallots for the onion
  • powdered, granular or bottled garlic for fresh garlic
  • pecorino, romano or another hard cheese for Parmesan
  • fresh parsley for basil

Variations

This recipe can be varied in so many ways so each time you make Eggs in Purgatory it’s a little different.
  • spicy or not so spicy – adjust the chilli flakes to your liking
  • add a can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or other canned beans to the tomato sauce
  • drop in chunks of feta cheese after you add the eggs for a double cheese hit
  • when the onion is half done add a cup or so of chopped vegetables like zucchini or capsicum (sweet peppers) and sauté until softened
  • don’t like poached eggs? – prepare the sauce and serve with fried eggs or fried halloumi cheese 
  • double the amount of sauce ingredients for lots of delicious tomato goodness

How to store and reheat

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day or two. Reheat gently in a skillet on the stove with the lid on or in the microwave oven for a few minutes until heated through. 

Can this recipe be made ahead?

Make the  tomato sauce a day or even three days ahead. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat then reheat in a skillet on the stove and continue the recipe from step 8.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 115kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 169mg | Sodium: 597mg | Potassium: 269mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 483IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 128mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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21 Comments

  1. Does this “Eggs in Purgatory” have an Italian/Sicilian language name?

    It looks very similar to the delicious North African (Maghrebi) dish, Shakshouka … which typically also includes red bell peppers and in recent decades is popular in Israel.

    1. Mike, this dish is known as uova in purgatorio in Italian. Yes, it is similar to shakshouka but it’s origins acutally lie in Naples. The main difference of course would be the spices used in shakshouka. I would imagine though, that African travellers could have brought the idea to Italy centuries ago. For my family, as many Italian families, this was a tasty, frugal dish using what we grew at home – tomatoes which we processed and preserved and eggs from the chickens.

    1. I ate this when growing up at grandmas but I’m thinking she used scrambled eggs with sauce.

  2. 5 stars
    This just sounds and looks amazing, especially since I am sitting here eating a pieces of toast. This would be perfect for brunches.

  3. I make something similar and just call it “eggs poached in tomato sauce.” The big difference is that I mix the whites into the tomato sauce which turns everything a wonderful pink-ish orange! Thanks for the reminder!