Eggs in Purgatory

published Jan 29, 2020
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Eggs in Purgatory

A Southern Italian dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce.

Serves3 to 4

Prep10 minutes

Cook35 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

All good things — The Good Place included — must come to an end. The series finale of the philosophical comedy is nigh, but what better way to bid goodbye to Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason than with a celebratory meal in their honor? Over the past four seasons, we’ve seen the quartet arrive at the heavenly Good Place following their deaths, only to learn that they were actually in the Bad Place. Recent episodes have witnessed their struggles through the afterlife as they attempt to inspire others in their quest for moral self-improvement. 

As I rewatched the show, a thought struck me — what if, this entire time, the quartet was never in the Good Place nor the Bad Place but instead trapped in a sort of Purgatory, an intermediate state of limbo in which souls are purified and readied for heaven by undergoing a series of temporary punishments? It’s plausible, right?  

With that in mind, I’ve developed a recipe for eggs in purgatory, a Southern Italian dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce. There’s no definitive answer as to whether its name is derived from the heat of the tomato sauce or if it’s because the cooked eggs resemble souls suspended in limbo, but I like the visual imagery of the latter. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

The dish — which is akin to shakshuka and works equally well for dinner as it does for brunch, especially when paired with crusty bread and perhaps a side salad — is highly adaptable. If you’re spice-averse, simply reduce the amount of red pepper flakes. Or if you’re looking for a meal that’s more akin to Eggs in the Depths of Fiery Hell, add more than the teaspoon called for. You can also easily substitute Parmesan cheese for the pecorino Romano, or if you want to amp up the sauce even more, throw in thinly sliced bacon, sausage, capers or olives. You can cook your eggs runny or firm and it ends up delicious no matter what. You might even call it heavenly. 

Eggs in Purgatory

A Southern Italian dish of eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes

Serves 3 to 4

Nutritional Info


  • 2 cloves


  • 1/2

    medium yellow onion

  • 1/4 cup

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 (28-ounce) can

    crushed tomatoes

  • 6

    large eggs

  • 1/2 ounce

    Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 1/4 cup

    loosely packed fresh basil leaves

  • Crusty bread, for serving (optional)


  1. Mince 2 garlic cloves and finely chop 1/2 medium yellow onion.

  2. Heat 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

  3. Add 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue cooking until the onion mixture turns golden-brown, about 1 minute more.

  4. Add 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. When the mixture begins to bubble and splatter, lower the heat as needed to maintain a simmer and continue cooking until the sauce is flavorful and no longer raw tasting, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, finely grate 1/2 ounce Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (about 2 tablespoons). Cut 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves into strips as thin as possible.

  5. Using a spoon, create a depression to the best of your ability in the tomato sauce. Crack 1 large egg into the depression, then spoon some of the tomato sauce over the egg to cover. Repeat with the remaining 5 eggs, spacing them evenly apart in the pan.

  6. Cover and cook on medium heat until the whites are just set, 6 to 8 minutes for runny yolks (cook longer for set yolks). Uncover and sprinkle with the cheese and basil. Divide between 3 to 4 bowls and serve with crusty bread.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The tomato sauce base can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Bring back to a simmer before to adding the eggs.