My Eggs in Purgatory

eggs in purgatory, final 2

You have likely seen versions of this recipe scattered across the internet. It answers to the name shakshouka as well, an Israeli dish by way of Tunisia. But this is my own little version, which I’ve filtered to my liking and nudged in the direction of Italy.

This is a recipe of many virtues: It might look as if it were whisked from a restaurant kitchen, but it is truly easy to make, and truly quick. It’s manageable for cooks of all abilities. What’s more, it requires minimal contrivances: a knife, a cutting board, a spoon, a pan. That is all.

This is largely a pantry dish, so call upon it when you are low on time and supplies, but don’t want to sacrifice taste. (Never sacrifice taste.) Adjust the ingredient quantities/pan size depending on how many people you will be feeding, and by all means, feel free to experiment with your own additions: herbs, spices, and vegetables are all fair game. The recipe as presented is vegetarian, but I doubt anyone would complain at the addition of sausage or ground lamb, perhaps a meatball or two.

If you are throwing a fancy-pants brunch, but don’t have the inclination to spend gobs of time preparing, this is your dish. My recommendation would be to precede as usual through step 4. After that, arrange individual ramekins on a baking sheet. Distribute the tomato mixture between the ramekins, and then crack an egg into each.

Now everyone has their own little dish, très mignon. I think this looks nicer than spooning portions from a big pan. Of course, at family dinner, a large casserole or pan will make your life easier, and it will taste just as delicious.

A note on the tomato sauce: do not use Ragu, or some such brand. If you can’t find a super duper, completely natural-ingredient-ed sauce, then use good, canned tomatoes instead. Personally, I use Nonna’s Sweet Sauce, because it is fantastic in every way. (No one is paying me to say that, but for the record, I accept payment in the form of aged whiskey and gold bullion.)

Serve with warmed pita, or a crackling baguette.

Serves 2


  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small white onion
  • 7 oz (1/2 can) white beans or chickpeas
  • sea salt, black pepper
  • 16oz jar of very good quality tomato sauce
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper paste
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • 2 eggs, as fresh as possible


1. Heat the oven to 375F.

2. Mince the garlic cloves, and thinly slice the white onion. Meanwhile, set a saucepan on the range, and turn the heat to medium. Add the oil, and when it’s heated, add the garlic and the onion. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

minced garlic

3. Rinse and drain whatever beans you are using, and then toss them with salt and pepper. (Be a little generous with the salt, at least 1/8 a teaspoon of sea salt–or half as much table salt.) Then add the beans to the saucepan, and stir them into the garlic and the onion.

chickpeas with sea salt and pepper

4. Next, pour in the tomato sauce. Strip the thyme sprigs of their leaves right over the pan. Add the hot pepper paste and the grated Parmesan. Spoon the ricotta and pesto into the saucepan, and swirl both around a little with the tip of the spoon to distribute.

hot pepper paste

5. The tomato sauce should be very gently bubbling now. Make two, small hollows in the tomato sauce with your spoon; crack the eggs into these spaces. Top with a crack of black pepper, and a flurry of grated Parmesan.

eggs in purgatory, just before oven

6. Move the saucepan to the oven, and bake until the egg whites are set, about 12 minutes. (If you are using individual ramekins, start checking at the 8 minute mark.)

eggs in purgatory, out of the oven

eggs in purgatory, vertical 1


  1. Megan

    This looks heavenly! I’m trying this!

  2. meg

    Justnmade this! Perfect for a quick and delicious meal. Thanks!

    • CristinaSciarra

      I’m so glad, Meg! Come to think of it, this dish is kind of perfect for the crummy weather in NYC right now; thanks for a reminder to make it again

  3. Heidi

    I know this is probably the most horrific thing I can ask but has anyone tried this with whisked eggs? I really detest sunny side up, poached or any other kind of egg that I can see/taste the yolk and white separated. I especially don’t like runny yolks but would love to try this recipe with eggs so that I can add something new to my repertoire. Also I am certain that my daughter would adore this the way it is meant to be cooked. I am just curious if anyone has tried scrambling the egg before placing it in the well.

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