The Name Says Purgatory, But it Tastes Like Heaven


A couple of weeks back, I mentioned (much to my chagrin) that I had recently used a jar of store-bought tomato sauce.  In the interest of full disclosure, it was Wegman’s Food You Feel Good About Four Cheese Pasta Sauce, which isn’t too bad as far as these things go.

The point of that post was that I had a foolproof recipe for a super-quick marinara sauce.  There was one night, however, that I was going to be eating alone and I had absolutely no interest in putting any effort into cooking; making even the marinara recipe seem like a chore.  So rather than swing by the local fast food establishment, I grabbed a crusty roll on the way home, broke out the jar of sauce and whipped up what may be one of the tastiest simple meals that a trained chimp or lazy home cook can prepare in ten minutes or less.

Behold, in all it’s glory, Eggs in Purgatory.

How simple is it?  Well, even if you go to the trouble of making the sauce from scratch, you’re still talking about a meal ready in under 15 minutes.  And if you have some store-bought or pre-made sitting in the fridge, you’ll be eating in no time.

Let’s roll up our sleeves, shall we?

To call this a recipe is really a bit silly, but here are a couple of pointers I found that might make for an easier go of it.  First and foremost, use a sauce you like.  As it’s the main flavor ingredient in the dish, the taste is going to be right up front.  Personally, I like one that has a medium chunkiness, because you need a decent amount of liquid to form a poaching spot for the egg.  Secondly, use fresh eggs.  You’re going to be leaving the yolks on these bad boys on the short side of firm, so go with something that hasn’t been kicking around your fridge since Valentine’s Day.  The only other ingredients you need are some grated cheese (pecorino or parm), black pepper and salt — and go with coarse sea salt if you have it — you’ll be adding at the end so it will be worth it.

Either cook your sauce from scratch or bring pre-made sauce up to a simmer.  Unless you’re making a very large portion of this, go with a small pan…small enough so that the sauce is about an inch deep.  For a three-egg one person serving, I like using my 8″ sautee pan.  Once at a simmer, use a spoon to make small craters in the sauce — not all the way to the bottom of the pan, but just move any chunks to create a soft landing spot — rotating around the center point and making a place for each egg you’ll cook.  Crack the eggs and gently place them in each of the spots you made.  Make sure to reduce the simmer so that the boil is not going to break up the eggs.  Cover with a lid and check in a few moments.  When the whites have set, take it off the heat, hit it with some salt and pepper and top the whole thing with a good bit of grated cheese.

Getting it to the table requires that you be delicate, so try to get a nice base of sauce down on your plate or bowl and then top with the egg, making sure not to rupture the yolk.  As for eating it, I like to work my way through, breaking the yolk on the eggs one at a time so that the fatty richness of it mixes with the acidity of the tomato.  Get a nice piece of crusty Italian bread and use it like you would your toast if you were eating an over-easy egg, spooning the egg/tomato mixture on it and soaking up the excess sauce.

Tasty, visually appealing and ready in the time it takes to drive to the pizza parlor.

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  • BS April 10, 2009  

    wow these look tasty as all hell. def going on the to-cook list.

  • Maids April 10, 2009  


  • Daria April 11, 2009  

    An interesting idea for different looking/tasting egg meal!

  • Linda April 11, 2009  

    Oh yummy…I’d be placing these babies on a piece of warm buttered toast…

  • yash April 12, 2009  


  • carole (bishy57) April 12, 2009  

    sounds delicious must cook this soon!

  • Maids April 12, 2009  

    do yu flip the eggs over when you make this? They don’t look sunny side up…. please to explain

  • TVFF April 12, 2009  

    Again…just to reiterate, the beauty of this dish is the simplicity, so using good quality ingredients is paramount!

    Maids: No, don’t flip them. Putting the lid on top should effectively cook the top with the steam/built-up heat, and the fact that it’s sitting in the liquid poaches it fairly evenly.

    Also, flipping them will spoil the perfectly white eggs. I know presentation isn’t everything in a rustic dish like this, but the contrast is so nice, it would be a shame!

  • ajjelibean April 13, 2009  

    so it’s like an italian huevos rancheros.

  • Teresa April 13, 2009  

    Oh, these sound really good! Must try!!!!

  • gansie April 13, 2009  

    this looks magical.

  • Mrs. Joe Hoya April 14, 2009  

    We made this for dinner last night – it IS magical. It was so good Joe actually ran to get a loaf of bread from Taylor’s to mop up the sauce.

  • Savory Tv April 15, 2009  


  • Harmony April 17, 2009  

    Just made these for lunch myself, and served with some toast on the side to get up every last little bit left on the plate! Thanks for the idea, it would never occur to me to mix eggs and red sauce heh.

  • Walter April 30, 2009  

    You can also add hot peppers and some chopped up bell peppers to the sauce (green and yellow for visual contrast). Just make sure they cook long enough before you add the egg.

  • J February 24, 2010  

    AKA – Shakshouka (also shakshuka, shaqshuqa, chakchouka; Arabic: ???????; Hebrew: ???????) is a North African dish consisting of poached or fried eggs cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices (often including cumin, turmeric, and chillies), and usually served with white bread .[1]

    Originally enjoyed by rulers of the Ottoman Empire, this dish later amassed its greatest popularity among the North African countries. Shakshouka was then taken to Israel largely by Tunisian Jews after the Jewish exodus from Arab lands. This dish is now a staple of Yemeni, Israeli, Tunisian, Algerian, Somali and Moroccan cuisine.[2] It is similar to the Turkish dish Menemen, and the Latin American breakfast dish Huevos rancheros.

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