When you don’t know what to make for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, Eggs in Purgatory with Italian Sausage, a twist on the southern Italian classic is the perfect solution! Eggs are gently poached in a lively tomato sauce with Italian sausage and vegetables for an easy meal you’ll put on repeat!
Why This Recipe Is a Keeper:
Eggs in Purgatory with Italian Sausage is a dish you want in your recipe repertoire for a satisfying, comforting meal any time of day!
This version is inspired by one I enjoyed at a Boulder, Colorado restaurant not long ago. I had to recreate it because I savored every bite and almost licked the skillet it came in!
Eggs are nestled in a fiery tomato sauce with spicy Italian sausage, onions, peppers and fennel then gently poached. A good Parmesan cheese is a must along with some toasted crusty bread to dip in the eggs and soak up the spicy, flavorful sauce!
Best of all, this twist on the classic southern Italian recipe cooks up in one skillet!
Origin of Eggs in Purgatory:
This classic dish has numerous variations across cultures. In the Middle East, it is called Shakshuka. The Italian version of Eggs in Purgatory is said to have originated in Naples in southern Italy as poor people’s food. In the Catholic religion, purgatory is the place sinners go to be cleaned of their misdeeds before entering heaven. It’s unclear whether “purgatory” refers to the bubbling red tomato sauce used to poach the eggs or the fire of the chile paste or crushed red pepper flakes that the sauce is spiked with.
- Italian Sausage: To get the flavor party started, I used hot Italian sausage made with pork (Johnsonville) but chicken or turkey Italian sausage may also be used.
- Fennel: Fennel is native to the Mediterranean and one of Italy’s favorite vegetables. It’s a member of the carrot family but grows above ground. It has a mild anise or licorice flavor that is more pronounced if eaten raw but mellows and sweetens when cooked. Here’s more information on fennel from Food Network.
- Tomatoes: Here’s where you want to use the best tomatoes you can find because they’re such an integral part of the dish. I used imported Mutti canned cherry tomatoes that I chopped in the can with kitchen shears. Their baby Roma tomatoes are also a good choice. Also, feel free to use any summer tomatoes you canned or froze.
- Chile Paste: I am in love with Calabrian hot chile paste for the flavor but crushed red pepper flakes can also be used.
- Eggs: You can fit up to six eggs in the pan.
- Gather and prep all the ingredients. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Cook the Italian sausage in an ovensafe skillet until no longer pink. Transfer the sausage to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the skillet used to cook the sausage.
- Cook the fennel, onion and green pepper for 5-6 minutes or until softened then add the sausage back in, add the fresh garlic and heat it through.
- Add the tomatoes and hot chili paste or crushed red pepper flakes.
- Bring the purgatory sauce to a good simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes or until thickened and slightly reduced.
- Take the skillet off the heat.
- Stir in half the parsley and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Make four wells in the purgatory sauce combination.
- Break each egg into a small bowl before adding it to the skillet to ensure there are no shells or you wish to remove the chalaza.
- Place in the oven and bake until the whites are cooked, the yolks are still runny or the eggs are cooked the way you like.
- Sprinkle on the remaining parsley, grated Parmesan cheese and extra crushed red pepper flakes if desired.
- Serve with or on top of toasted crusty bread. Mwaaaaahhhhh! Eggs in Purgatory with Italian Sausage! A darn good replication of the dish I enjoyed in Boulder! Enjoy!
Chef Tips and Tricks:
- When cracking an egg, always crack the egg on a FLAT surface such as your countertop or cutting board, never on the edge of a bowl. Doing that will cause an indentation in the egg which can send a piece or pieces of the shell into the egg. Just give it a good, decisive tap that’s neither too hard or too gentle.
- Select the right type of pan:
- If using a nonstick skillet, make sure it can go in the oven and the handle is heatproof. Most nonstick skillets made after 2013 can be safely used in the oven at moderate temperatures. Heating a nonstick pan at too high a temperature will cause the nonstick coating to erode. Because the eggs are cooked here at only 300 degrees, you should be okay, but again, make sure it’s oven-safe.
- If using a cast iron or carbon steel skillet, it needs to be extremely well-seasoned because of the acid in tomatoes. Enameled cast iron is a good choice.
- Stainless steel pans are always a good option.
Frequently Asked Questions:
You can make the purgatory sauce 1-2 days ahead of time. Simply get the sauce to the point of adding the eggs, cool, transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until needed. When ready to serve, bring back to a simmer in an oven-safe skillet then proceed as directed.
If you even have them! This dish is not as good reheated because of the poached eggs but if you’re as averse to food waste as I am, I would suggest placing the leftovers in a small skillet on the stovetop, cover and reheat over low heat until heated through.
The sky is pretty much the limit here. You can keep it simple and traditional by just cooking the eggs in a marinara sauce or crushed tomatoes. You can make it meatless but add more protein with beans instead of the sausage. Got leftover pasta? Stir that in! Eggs in Purgatory is a super versatile dish.
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Eggs in Purgatory with Italian Sausage
- 2 links hot Italian sausage casings removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for toasting the bread if desired
- 1 small fennel bulb thinly sliced vertically
- ½ small onion finely chopped (approximately 1 cup)
- ½ small green bell pepper chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can (28-ounce) whole tomatoes preferably San Marzano (Roma, baby Roma or cherry), hand crushed or chopped with kitchen shears
- 1 tablespoon Calabrian hot chili paste or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley divided
- Salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 large eggs (or up to 6)
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Crusty Italian-style bread optional, brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted in a nonstick skillet
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Place the sausage in a heavy 12-inch ovenproof skillet. Heat to medium and cook, stirring to break it up as you go for 4-5 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and wipe out the pan.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in the skillet used to cook the sausage. Add the fennel, onion and green bell pepper and cook 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables are softened.
- Add the garlic and cook 10-15 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes with all the juice along with the hot chili paste or crushed red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Cook 10-12 minutes or until sauce is thickened and reduced. Take off the heat.
- Stir in half the parsley, taste for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Make four wells in the tomato/sausage/vegetable mixture. Break each egg into a small bowl before placing in the wells to ensure there are no shells or anything else you want to remove.
- Bake 8-12 minutes depending upon how you prefer your eggs.
- Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and the Parmesan cheese.
- Serve immediately with lightly toasted crusty bread.
These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.