Breakfast/ Popular/ Quick and Easy

Eggs in Purgatory (Italian Shakshuka)

Eggs in Purgatory are a quick and spicy way to enjoy your eggs in the morning with Parmesan cheese and eggs poached in fiery tomato sauce. This Italian Shakshuka is the perfect answer to a cozy breakfast or brunch ready to eat in 30 minutes.

Eggs in Hell are a quick and spicy way to enjoy your eggs in the morning. With plenty of spices, Parmesan cheese and eggs simmered in tomato sauce.

Today we’re making eggs in purgatory or Italian Shakshuka. The name could refer to the fiery red tomato sauce bubbling away while the eggs poach, or the underlying spice of the sauce thanks to the cayenne and jalapenos.

These eggs make a wonderfully delicious and filling breakfast or brunch paired with some warm, crusty bread to dip in the sauce. The soft-cooked eggs in a robust tomato sauce are made with simple, pantry staples so it’s an easy meal to whip together in a hurry.

There are many, many versions and interpretations of this dish and I’ve been liberal with making some modifications to the base recipe of Eggs in Purgatory to add more spice and flavor and make it more worthy of its name. I’ve also included notes on what to omit if you want to stick with the classic. Let’s get cooking.

Eggs in Hell are a quick and spicy way to enjoy your eggs in the morning. With plenty of spices, Parmesan cheese and eggs simmered in tomato sauce.

The fact that I was able to come up with this unplanned post at the very last minute just goes to show how easy it is to put it together. Eggs, check. Tomato sauce, check. Parmesan cheese, check. Spices, check. Onions and garlic, check. Almost everything you would have already stocked in your pantry. And some leftover French bread from making my pumpkin cream cheese french toast earlier this week.

I modified the recipe for more flavor so I added a little jalapeno and some cumin. I also wanted it smoky so I added a little smoked paprika and I could really see it going well with something called eggs in purgatory. These are not your typical Italian ingredients so if you want a more classic version of the dish, leave out the jalapenos, cumin and smoked paprika and maybe substitute cayenne with red pepper flakes.

Eggs in Hell are a quick and spicy way to enjoy your eggs in the morning. With plenty of spices, Parmesan cheese and eggs simmered in tomato sauce.


I used a decent amount of cayenne to spice it up a little but not enough to make it super spicy. So add in more if you want it burning your mouth to the point of no return. Since the jalapenos have their seeds removed, they don’t lend much to the heat but again, if you want eggs in super hell, keep those seeds. It can be either more cayenne or pro seeds or both. Or if you’re hardcore, find that ghost pepper.

The Parmesan adds a nice touch to things. I really loved it and it binds all the ingredients together well. I only used 1/4 cup to lightly sprinkle the sauce.

You’ll notice the eggs will start to sink while it’s cooking. This is good. The more sauce that surrounds the eggs, the better it cooks. But keep the sauce at a gentle simmer while you poach or you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. I wanted my yolks runny so the timing in the directions is for precisely that. Simmer it a little longer for a fully-cooked yolk. Finally, there’s enough sauce to go around for maybe two more eggs, so if you’re expecting company, or just like eating eggs, you can cook up to eight in there. The more the merrier!

Eggs in Hell are a quick and spicy way to enjoy your eggs in the morning. With plenty of spices, Parmesan cheese and eggs simmered in tomato sauce.

And lastly, a word of warning: this is messy to cook. Basically, anything with a tomato base is gonna leave a mess. So if you have a backsplash, try to cook it on the back burner or use a splatter screen so your floor doesn’t end up looking like you started a redecorating job. And wear an apron! I suppose the other reason why it would be called eggs in purgatory would be the cleanup!

And that’s about it. Let me know how you like it and what modifications you made in the comments below. Enjoy!


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Several sunny side up eggs in marinara sauce topped with basil.

Eggs in Purgatory (Italian Shakshuka)

  • Author: The Cooking Jar
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 6 1x


Eggs in Purgatory are a quick and spicy way to enjoy your eggs in the morning with Parmesan cheese and eggs poached in fiery tomato sauce.


Units Scale
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 can (28 oz.) tomato sauce
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped


  1. In a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat, saute onions, garlic and jalapenos and cook until soft about 3-5 minutes.
  2. Pour in tomato sauce and add sugar, paprika, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a gentle simmer.
  3. Lower heat to medium and crack the eggs in one at a time and simmer until they are cooked the way you want them. For runny yolks, about 5-6 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese and basil.
  5. Dish and serve hot with crusty bread for dipping.
  6. Enjoy!


  • For the classic eggs in purgatory recipe, leave out the jalapenos, cumin and smoked paprika and maybe substitute cayenne with red pepper flakes. 
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins

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  • Reply
    October 6, 2021 at 12:56 PM

    I always keep pantry staples and have backyard chickens so this is a wonderful “I don’t know what to make for dinner” last minute recipe. It’s fantastic and I follow the seasoning exact and cook in a cast iron skillet and looks exactly like your pic! The only subs for me – 28oz can of San Marzano tomatoes for superior flavor- whole peeled is fine you can break them up in the skillet very easily. And, poblano pepper instead of jalapeño and a few shakes of red pepper flakes – as 2 jalapeños is too spicy for the kids. If you don’t have fresh basil or Parmesan handy it’s perfectly delish without. We all love this with naan bread, or rice or potatoes -You can’t go wrong! So good!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 8, 2021 at 9:54 AM

      Wow! It must be NICE having fresh eggs. I’m happy you got it to look like the pic! I’m going to try out the San Marzano tomatoes…just did some Googling and I’m intrigued. Do you use a certain brand, like Cento? Your other additions sound delish.

  • Reply
    March 8, 2021 at 10:25 AM

    I used chopped tomatoes as no ketchup. Amazing

  • Reply
    Elizabeth Kendall
    October 11, 2019 at 5:54 PM

    This recipe is easy and delicious, I always serve it with homemade cheesy garlic bread. Yum!!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      March 19, 2021 at 11:39 AM

      Garlic bread is a mouthwatering combo for dipping into this!

  • Reply
    May 22, 2018 at 11:36 AM

    I’m yet to try it but it looks fantastic, well explained and easy ingredients. The photos are stunning, almost certainly going to be tomorrow’s breakfast and lunch. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2017 at 11:29 PM

    Wow, wow, wow! This was incredibly delicious! I had misread the amount of tomato sauce (calls for 28 oz can; I had 8 oz can) so to add more liquid I put in a can of Enchilada sauce, and it worked! The Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top was the crowning touch. Thank you for this recipe.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 2, 2017 at 4:18 PM

      Nice fix! Isn’t MacGyvering food fun? 😉 Enchilada sauce has a tomato base so it wouldn’t have hurt. And I think the spices in enchilada sauce compliments the recipe well!

  • Reply
    September 25, 2016 at 12:30 AM

    Thats not a shakshuka recipe, a few big no no’s :

    1. No Onion!
    2. Real tomatoes – not a sauce! – this is a deal breaker.
    3. No cheese (although this one is a nice touch)
    4. Capsicum! not Jalapeno.
    5. No sugar!

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 2, 2016 at 3:27 PM

      Good tips for an authentic take, Ori! I think we can all agree that this is a hybrid/fusion recipe at this point 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim LaBarr
    September 12, 2016 at 12:42 PM

    I’ve made this twice now and it’s been delicious both times. I like to add a little sausage in there. Open a bottle of wine and I’ve got my day off breakfast. For 1 Person I do a half batch in a 6 inch. cast iron skillet and cover 2 extra large eggs.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      September 19, 2016 at 2:23 PM

      Yum to the sausage! Sounds like you have a good thing going there, Jim 🙂

  • Reply
    January 12, 2016 at 6:09 AM

    this is actually not really a chakchouka…..although it looks great.
    your blog is amazing

    if you need recipes from algeria, which are totally unknwon to the world and it’s a pitty let me know and i’ll share with you 🙂

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      January 16, 2016 at 10:18 PM

      Thanks so much! Does your shakshuka have turmeric and zaatar? I’d love to try Algerian food one day. I’m all sorts of adventurous when it comes to food and love trying new cuisines 🙂

  • Reply
    November 16, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    I love this recipe. This is the perfect comfort food for a chilly morning. I cut the portions smaller (my boys won’t eat this so 6 eggs for me is a lot) but I’m in love. I made myself some garlic toast points to dip in and I’m in heaven!
    If you need a more personal size, here’s what I did:

    1/4 white onion
    1/2 jalapeño seeded
    One clove of garlic.
    Prepared according to your instructions. I added two small tomatoes (diced) when the mixture softened and let simmer for a minute then pushed down. (I needed to get rid of them)
    Then I added
    8oz tomato sauce (small can)
    1 tsp cumin
    1/2 tsp cayenne (or more)
    1tsp smoked paprika
    3/4 tsp sugar
    I used 2 eggs

    I didn’t have any fresh basil so I sprinkled dried basil over the eggs and then covered each egg with a slice of provolone cheese (no parm. )
    I LOVED it and now I wish I had made more! Thank you for sharing this is now definitely a go to.

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      November 16, 2015 at 2:21 PM

      That’s really awesome of you to take the time to let the rest know how to scale it down. Excellent substitutions too! Thank you 🙂

  • Reply
    G. Thompson
    October 24, 2015 at 10:39 PM

    Since I feel that I may be seriously breaking tradition, I will stick with calling it “Eggs in Hell” and share my variation as such. I left out the basil, halved the sugar, and added pan seared jalapeño sausage. Excellent! I can’t wait to serve this to my family in Texas! ?

    • Reply
      The Cooking Jar
      October 29, 2015 at 6:52 PM

      Ooh, that sausage will really give it some heat and tons of added texture! Happy eating to you and your family in Texas! 🙂

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