Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home.
Today: An adaptable one-pot meal, straight from the heart of Tuscan kitchens, made with just a few kitchen staples.
This essential, easy, and cheap meal comes straight from the heart of Tuscan kitchens. It's not something you'll find in a restaurant or trattoria, but rather something that's made at home, perhaps on a weeknight when there's not much in the fridge and you just want something satisfying and quick.
All you need are a few kitchen staples for a simple tomato sauce; once it's bubbling hot, eggs are cracked into the sauce and left to poach until they're soft and runny -- and there you have the ideal one-pot meal. The most basic version of this recipe requires some form of tomato, be it fresh, canned, whole, chopped, or puréed; some aromatics such as garlic or herbs; and, of course, eggs. But it is a dish that is easily adaptable and takes well to a number of extra additions.
More: Looking for another easily adaptable Italian egg dish? Try frittata.
As you head south down the Italian peninsula towards Abruzzo and Campania, this dish gets a little kick of chile and is known as uova in purgatorio (eggs in purgatory) because of the added heat. Hop across to the island of Sardinia where a similar dish, pane frattau, is made by layering carta musica (a dry, cracker-like flatbread) with tomato sauce and grated Pecorino cheese, all topped with a poached egg. It's also remarkably similar to North African shakshuka.
There's beauty in the simplicity of this dish, but if you want to beef it up, try adding some pancetta, diced and cooked till golden, a few melted anchovy fillets, or even sausage (pork and fennel is ideal -- remove the skins and crumble the meat right into the sauce), added before the eggs. Mushrooms or cooked beans of any type (cannellini or borlotti in particular) add substance, while spinach and other greens are great for a splash of color. A little Parmesan or Pecorino grated over the top is not a bad idea; for those who like things hot, a little chile goes a long way.
Just be sure to keep it simple, leave your eggs runny, and serve it all with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the sauces.
1 can (14 ounces or 400 grams) chopped tomatoes or tomato purée, or 1 pound (500 grams) fresh tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, squashed
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
4 fresh eggs
A handful of fresh herbs
Photos by Emiko Davies