Eggs in purgatory is a traditional Roman dish that combines some of the best staple ingredients. Fresh eggs are poached in a garlicky stew of tomatoes and cannellini beans and topped with Pecorino Romano cheese, fresh basil, and a drizzle of Calabrian chili oil. Served with crusty bread, this is the ultimate brunch fare that can be enjoyed any time of day.
Eggs in purgatory is one of my favorite comfort foods.
There is something so satisfying about taking a bite of a slice of crusty bread that has been dipped into the runny yolk/spicy tomato mixture.
It's not only comforting to eat but easy to get on the table in a short amount of time, with minimal effort.
Which is why I often make this for dinner, despite it being breakfast or brunch food.
I also love that it is a one-pan meal requiring very little cleanup.
What is eggs in purgatory?
Eggs in purgatory is a Roman dish that loosely refers to eggs poached in a tomato sauce.
Some versions of this dish include greens, such as Swiss chard, or baby spinach.
Our version is a riff on the original because we have added cannellini beans to make this heartier.
While the sauce and flavor are robust, this is a low-calorie dish, and adding the beans helps to stretch the dish a bit further.
Since this is a Roman dish, we use Pecorino Romano cheese to top it off, but you could use Parmigiano Reggiano if that is what you prefer.
Eggs in purgatory is similar to the Middle Eastern dish, Shakshuka, which is made with eggs in a tomato-based sauce (or sometimes green sauce), and includes spices, such as cumin and paprika.
Shakshuka is usually topped with fresh cilantro, but for eggs in purgatory, we've used mint and basil.
You could certainly mix and match herbs such as parsley or omit them all together.
Where does eggs in purgatory get its name?
There is no true consensus on where the name came from, but many believe the dish to be a metaphor.
The eggs representing "souls" that have been trapped in purgatory, the realm between heaven and hell as defined by Catholics, which is represented by the tomato sauce.
If purgatory is as good as this dish, well, sign me up!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste with a tablespoon of olive oil and set aside.
- Heat a large pan to medium-low for 2 minutes. Coat the pan with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, then add the garlic and saute until golden (about 2-3 minutes).
- Next, add in the tomatoes and bring sauce to a simmer (let it cook for about 10 minutes to lose some water and thicken a bit).
- Add in the beans and continue simmering for a few more minutes until the beans are warmed through. Stir together, and taste test. Adjust salt to taste.
- Using a spoon, make a bit of a well in the sauce just large enough to hold an egg. Crack an egg into the well. Make 6 spots and repeat for all the eggs. Note: you can also crack each egg individually into a small bowl, then tip that small bowl into the well. Repeat with all 6 eggs. This makes the process a bit easier.
- Cover with a lid and let the eggs solidify (about 7 minutes if you like the yolk runny). The time will vary so make sure you watch the cooking the whole time.
- The eggs should look like pic 7 below. They will have taken shape but the yolk will still be runny.
- Turn off the heat and sprinkle with the Pecorino Romano and the herbs. Season each egg with a bit of salt and a drizzle of the Calabrian chili oil. Serve with crusty Italian bread to mop up all the sauce. Enjoy!
One of the things I love about eggs in purgatory is its versatility.
Our version uses cannellini beans, but you could easily use chickpeas instead if that is what you have on hand.
And if you don't want beans at all, you can definitely omit them.
As I mentioned before, greens can be added to this dish.
Swiss chard, baby spinach, kale, escarole, or dandelion greens would all work well.
I also love using fresh cherry tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes for eggs in purgatory.
You'll need about 3-4 pints to equal 1 standard 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes.
Cherry tomatoes add another dimension of texture, and I love the surge of flavor you get when the warm cherry tomato bursts in your mouth.
More great breakfast/brunch food
As I mentioned before, eggs in purgatory can really be eaten any time of the day.
But I do recognize this is a beloved breakfast/brunch food, and I encourage you to add it to your menu!
Here are some additional brunch recipes to check out:
- Semolina French toast with lemon and blueberries
- Pepper and egg sandwiches
- Scrambled eggs with spicy chorizo
- Peach Bellini with grapefruit rose vodka
- Aperol Spritz
- Cranberry mimosa
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- 6 large eggs
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 28 ounce can plum tomatoes crushed
- 3 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans drained
- 1 teaspoon Calabrian chili paste
- 3 tablespoons Pecorino Romano grated
- salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons basil chopped, optional
- 2 tablespoons mint or parsley chopped, optional
- Mix 1 teaspoon of Calabrian chili paste with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and set aside.
- In a 12 inch or larger pan saute the garlic in the remaining extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat until golden (about 2-3 minutes).
- Add in the tomatoes and bring sauce to a simmer (let it cook for about 10 minutes to lose some water). Add in the beans and cook for a few minutes until warm. Stir together, and taste test. Adjust salt to taste.
- Make a bit of a well with a spoon and crack an egg into the spot. Make 6 spots and repeat for all the eggs. Cover with a lid and let the egg solidify (about 7-10 minutes if you like the yolk runny).
- Turn off the heat and sprinkle with the Pecorino Romano and the herbs. Season each egg with a bit of salt and a drizzle of the Calabrian chili oil.
- Serve with crusty Italian bread to mop up all the sauce. Enjoy!
- Use the freshest preferably free-range eggs you can find.
- Calorie amounts are for 6 eggs in the sauce, but add more if you like. Calories do not include bread for dipping.
- Fresh cherry tomatoes or high-quality canned tomatoes both work well for this recipe.
- Fresh herbs are optional but are nice to have. Use your favorites.