Filson Food: Eggs in Purgatory

plate of eggs and red sauce with crusty bread

“One of my favorite things as a kid was listening to stories of how my parents and grandparents grew up in the old country. They shared how the abundance of food wasn’t always there; in fact it rarely was. With what is going on in the world today, it has inspired me to reflect on their stories and simple food. As a result, I’ve been motivated to think about how I can cook more with fewer ingredients. Consequently, I am trying to limit my trips to the grocery store and cook more affordably, yet still bring nutritious and delicious meals to the table, which has led me to revisit this classic Italian recipe.” — Rossano Russo

Rossano Russo smoking a cigar with a shotgun slung over his shoulder wearing hunting gear and an orange cap

Eggs in purgatory. It’s a simple and humble dish made with few ingredients yet still delicious. Despite the limited ingredients, it’s a cinch to make and easy on the wallet. If there’s any left-over sauce (you haven’t gobbled up with your bread), you can also use it for a pasta dish the next day.

The four main ingredients include crushed tomatoes, eggs, onions, and garlic. An extra would be adding fresh basil at the end if you have it on hand. If not, you can use some dry basil from your pantry. Or, something I do in the winter months is preserving basil in olive oil. This is done by chopping it up fresh the basil, putting a small amount into ice cube trays, and covering it with olive oil. Finally, put it into the freezer and leave it in there for future use.

hand holding a knife chopping onions with eggs in foreground and a jar of pickled veggies

Serves 2

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 35 min


2 cloves of garlic, 1⁄2 medium yellow onion, 1⁄4 cup olive oil, 1⁄2 tsp sea salt, black pepper to taste, 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, 4 large eggs, fresh, dried or preserved basil leaves and crusty bread for dipping.


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 saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and cook, occasionally stirring, until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, and black pepper to taste. 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. Continue cooking with the lid on until the sauce is flavorful, about 20 minutes. At this time, 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. Repeat with the remaining 3 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 divide between 2 bowls and serve with crusty bread.


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 adding the eggs.

Keep for future use: Store any left-over sauce for a pasta dish the next day.

DIY frozen preserved basil: Cut fresh basil into strips, the place is clean ice cube tray, add olive oil, place in the freezer. Store in the freezer until needed.

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