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Uova al Purgatorio

This is a dish that I learned when I was living and working in Rome. One rare evening, the dad in the family for which I was an au pair offered to make dinner. His wife, the countess and unwavering household monarch, was out and I discovered that he was actually more self-sufficient than I had previously thought.

Rilassati, he urged. I sat, talked to the kids, and he made eggs simmered in fresh tomato sauce for all of us. It was quickly cemented into my repertoire as a filling, fast one-pan dinner. He didn't call this recipe anything in particular. He shrugged his shoulders when I asked him what he called it. Non lo so, Camilla.

Recently, I saw a dish called Uova al Purgatorio - 'eggs in purgatory' - that was similar and it is too good a name to ignore. There is a Middle Eastern dish that's similar, but with more spices; and it's not too far off from huevos rancheros. I guess it's an easy dish that many cultures have invented.

I did some reading, about the Italian version, and no one seems to have a reason why this dish is named as it is. But it got me thinking about purgatory - Dante's version not the Catholic Sunday school version. I remember reading, and studying, Dante's poem that was written in the early 14th century.

I thought about the terrace for gluttons; I did have to look up which terrace that was. It's the sixth...where the gluttons look like skeletons - emaciated frames and cavernous eyes. Their punishment: the scent of apples and sound of rushing water surround them but they cannot eat or drink. And, if they do, they are left even more hungry and more thirsty and before.

I still don't know what that has to do with this dish, but I thought it was interesting. For us, I always toss in whatever greens I have and call it dinner.

  • 1 bunch greens, thinly sliced (I used kale from my High Ground Organics CSA)
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • fresh tomato sauce
  • eggs (1 or two per person)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • ground paprika

In a large skillet, soften the garlic in a splash of olive oil. Stir in the greens and cook till just wilted.

Pour in the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Crack the eggs into the sauce. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Simmer until the eggs are cooked to your desired doneness. We like our yolks a little runny still. Plate and enjoy!


  1. Camilla, what are the Middle Eastern versions called? I'd like to play with the spices. :)

    Wonderful post.
    The story-telling and context make it sing.
    Nicely done.


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