Eggs in Purgatorio

Eggs gently simmered in tomato sauce come out tender and creamy. Italians call this eggs in purgatorio because of the sauce’s hellishly red color. Eating this rustic dish with a spoon lets each bit of eggs and basil-rich, mildly hot sauce blend together in a divine mess. Hidden beneath the eggs, crusty toasted bread soft from soaking up sauce adds more savory pleasure. Great for brunch or a light meal, this dish’s bright red color makes it perfect for the holidays.

Each egg cooks corralled inside a ring of sweet red pepper. It keeps the egg neat and, becoming almost invisible in the red sauce, adds more flavor. If some egg white overflows, it will cook in the sauce, a result that looks less neat but is just as delicious.

The fresher the egg, the thicker the white and the more it clings around the yolk and nestles nicely inside the pepper ring. So look for the freshest eggs stamped with the most distant “use by” date. Pick a big pepper so you get large rings. The thin-walled kind called field peppers are best, turning nicely tender as the egg cooks.

A whole-wheat French bâtard is the ideal bread, making crusty slices that are just the right size. But using square sandwich bread is okay if you cannot get a long, European-style loaf.

The sauce cooks in less than 10 minutes, a good time to gather everyone at table. Add the pepper rings and eggs promptly so the sauce does not get too thick and dry before the eggs are done. Serve with a green salad, and then follow with coffee and biscotti for a festive meal.

Eggs in Purgatorio

  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 can (14 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, torn up, extra leaves for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs
  • 8 (1/2-inch) slices whole-grain French or Italian bread, toasted or 4 slices whole-grain sandwich bread, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp. grated or shredded Parmesan cheese

Cut four 1/2-inch rings from widest part of pepper. Cut away white rib, evening out inside of rings. Set pepper rings aside.

In deep medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in garlic. Add tomatoes, basil and 4 grinds pepper. When sauce simmers, cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add pepper rings to pan. Break an egg into custard cup or small, shallow bowl. Using spoon, scoop sauce out of center of a pepper ring. Holding bowl low over pepper ring, slide egg into it.

Working quickly, repeat, adding eggs to remaining pepper rings. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until eggs are set, 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place two bread slices each in four wide, shallow bowls. With wide spatula, transfer pepper-ringed egg on top of bread in each bowl. Spoon one-fourth of sauce remaining in pan around each egg. Sprinkle one-fourth cheese over each egg. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 247 calories, 14 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 21 g carbohydrate, 11 g protein, 3 g dietary fiber, 257 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

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The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity, so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

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