This humble dish, dubbed eggs in purgatory because the sauce the eggs simmer in a cauldron of moltenness, is an Italian classic that draws on simple pantry staples. However, because it calls for so few ingredients, quality is essential. Grab the best quality tomatoes and eggs you can find—you’ll notice the difference not just in this recipe but every recipe.Renee Schettler Rossi

Two eggs in a tomato sauce, topped with a sprig of thyme in a cast iron skillet.

Eggs in Purgatory

5 / 2 votes
Eggs in purgatory, a classic Italian recipe, is simple to make. It’s just eggs simmered in tomato sauce and comes together from everyday and inexpensive ingredients, including tomatoes, garlic, eggs, and not much else but tastes far more complex. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight nosh.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories400 kcal
Prep Time35 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


  • 2 pounds ripe plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 8 basil leaves, fresh, torn in pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • 8 large eggs
  • 8 slices grilled or toasted bread


  • Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, shock them in cold water, then peel the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half, remove most of the seeds, and then cut them in large dice; set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a saute pan or saucepan that has a cover over medium heat with the garlic. Just before the garlic starts to take on any color, about 1 minute, add the tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer over low heat, and let cook for 10 minutes, until tomatoes become “saucy,” but are still a little chunky.
  • Break the eggs, one at the time, into a cup or dish and then gently slide them, one at the time and without breaking the yolks, on top of tomato sauce. Try to keep them separated.
  • Cover the pan and let cook gently for 3 to 4 minutes, until the eggs are done, but still soft. Immediately serve them on a large round plate with the tomato sauce. Serve the grilled or toasted bread on the side.


Scrambled Eggs In Purgatory

Instead of cooking the eggs whole, you may also scramble the eggs into the sauce.
A Tavola by Gianni Scappin and Vincenzo Lauria

Adapted From

A Tavola!

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 400 kcalCarbohydrates: 38 gProtein: 21 gFat: 19 gSaturated Fat: 5 gMonounsaturated Fat: 9 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 372 mgSodium: 445 mgFiber: 5 gSugar: 10 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Gianni Scappin | Vincenzo Lauria. Photo © 2009 Ben Fink. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is a very common dish in Israel, called shakshuka, and I’ve made and/or eaten it too many times to count. It is often served here in the mini cast-iron frying pan in which it was cooked. This is an excellent recipe for it, well worth the trouble of using fresh tomatoes rather than canned. It looks lovely, has a punchy, delicious, spicy, tomatoey taste and makes an excellent dish for brunch, lunch, or a light weeknight dinner. My only advice is that if fresh, ripe, good-quality tomatoes aren’t available, you may use canned crushed tomatoes (not tomato sauce or paste). If using canned tomatoes, you might add a drop or two of Tabasco Sauce to add zest to it. The fresh tomatoes, however, give this dish a real punch, take it out of the ordinary, and really make a difference.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

Hungry For More?

5 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. Sue Epstein-

    I added Anaheim, Piquillo and Poblano peppers to the jalapeños and bells in my garden this year just so I have the piquantes on hand for shakshuka.

  2. 5 stars
    Oh, baby…. This is good stuff! I decided to make this late one night after weeks of studying for exams. I added zucchini, onion, and diced peppers to the sauce to give it a little flare. And because they were just sitting in the fridge, taunting me. I kept the egg a little soft so I could mix the yoke. I did not use the bread or the cheese. The bread would have been outstanding. I made extra sauce so I can grab it out of the fridge in the morning and make a quick breakfast. This is my new favorite breakfast food!