Eggs in Purgatory

Failing to go shopping on Sunday left us with limited choices for supper. Sure, we had plenty of pasta and cheese on hand, but I had served pasta the night before. There were also a few dishes we had in the freezer, but defrosting would take too long. A search through the fridge yielded a fresh supply of eggs that eventually led me to prepare a long-time favorite: Uova in Purgatorio, or Eggs in Purgatory.

A classic Neapolitan dish of eggs cooked in a simple tomato sauce, its name stems from the contrast between the white of the egg and the red of the tomato which, at least to devout Catholics, recalls the souls in Purgatory wrapped in flames. Adding a few crushed red pepper flakes adds a little more heat to those flames.

There are many approaches to this dish, and perhaps the most traditional use a high flame to cook the eggs while being careful to leave the yolks runny. Rather than “frying” the eggs in the sauce, however, I opted to “poach” them, using a low flame and covering the pan. I feel this method preserves the freshness of the tomato, cooks the whites perfectly, and leaves the yolks delightfully runny.

Eggs in Purgatory

4 large eggs
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 14.5-ounce can imported crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or to taste
Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving (optional)

1. Crack the eggs, being careful not to break the yolks, add to a bowl, season with some salt and pepper, and set aside.
2. In a 12-inch skillet, simmer the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes over a medium-low flame and cook until the garlic just begins to take on some color and becomes aromatic.
3. Add the tomatoes, the oregano, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

The sauce

5. Carefully add the eggs to the sauce, reduce the flame to low and cover the pan.

Adding the eggs

6. Cook until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny, about 6 minutes.

The finished eggs

7. Transfer the eggs to two heated plates, spooning the sauce around the eggs.
Serve with crusty bread. If you wish, serve with grated cheese for sprinkling.

Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

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