Eggs cooked in tomato sauce appear in varying cultures around the world, from Middle Eastern to Italian and beyond. The Mexican version is known as huevos rancheros and this is also referred to as “eggs in purgatory.”
Variations of the word include Shakshouka, Shakshuka, and Chakchouka. The name loosely translates to “all mixed up” in Arabic. Perhaps the reference to “all mixed up” comes from the fact that tomato sauces are usually served for dinner, where eggs are usually served for breakfast. Traditionally, this is served as a breakfast dish, but could accommodate a brunch, lunch, vegetarian side dish or main course nicely. When your guests least expect it, serve them these eggs for dinner!
Most share the same tomato base, cooked down with lots of vegetables and spices. The vegetables vary between cultures (or what you have on hand), to often include chopped: onion or scallions, any variety of colored peppers, a spicy/hot pepper, garlic, fennel, etc.
HERE ARE THE BASIC SAMPLE INGREDIENTS – vary spices and vegetables according to your taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 to 2 Anaheim, jalapeño or habanero pepper peppers, seeded and finely diced, to taste
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 to 8 eggs
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Pita, baguette or other bread
Sauté vegetables in olive oil for 10 minutes, then add chopped garlic and a 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce and spices. Break up whole tomatoes into chunks with the spoon as you are stirring ingredients. Continue cooking, stirring and breaking up tomatoes over medium heat for 20 minutes to thicken; it should be juicy but semi-solid.
After the tomato mixture has cooked down to thicken, make indentations in the top of the tomato sauce with the back of a large spoon and crack an egg into each indentation (6 to 8 eggs). Top with Feta (Mediterranean or Middle Eastern) or other cheeses for other cultures.
Bake in a 375F oven for 15-20 minutes until the eggs are just barely cooked; there will be some carry-over cooking. Rest for 5 minutes to allow the eggs to firm up and the pan stop bubbling. Serve with pita for Middle Eastern; toasted baguette or other bread for different cultures or to suit your taste. Sprinkle chopped parsley or other green herb(s) on the top for a fresh, colorful finish.
To prepare an Italian inspired Shakshouka, use fennel with your mixture of vegetables and use Italian spices such as basil, oregano and rosemary. Italians might top this with parmesan cheese. This base recipe is adaptable to many cultures by varying the vegetable base, spices, cheeses or other toppings and serving accompaniments or breads.
Accompaniments for Shakshouka include “breakfast salad” of spinach or lettuce with orange or other citrus; salad of chick peas and herbs; or fennel salad.