I come from a family of “food-hoarders.” You can’t blame them. For the generation that endured the Great Depression, food stockpiles were a necessity… and the generation after simply learned from their parents. But I’ve found that when food is hoarded, food is wasted. So, as to not fall into the same pattern, and to be sure nothing goes to waste, I’ve set a few rules for myself: 1.) do not buy something until it’s actually needed. 2) only buy what is needed and use it all up – no bits of this or that stuck away in the fridge to rot. Yes, I know that not everything can be used up in one go – a bag of flour, jars of spices, jam and honey – but for the most part I try to stick with these guidelines. Of course, rules always come with exceptions. Here are mine: there will always be eggs in the fridge, cans of tomatoes in the pantry, olive oil on the counter, and garlic in the bowl on the table, waiting to be thrown together in an effortless but delicious tomato sauce. I like to think of tomato sauce as something akin to a security blanket. It’s reassuring to know that even if the pantry is bare and I haven’t had the time to run to the market, I can create an exceptional tomato sauce. And even if I’ve used every last bit of pasta in the cupboard, I know I can put together a very good meal out of just tomato sauce and eggs.
I make tomato sauce at least twice a month and, though I always plan on freezing the leftovers (a safety net for the security blanket, you could say), it never quite happens because my family insists I make this instead. Eggs in tomato sauce, or Shakshouka, is something we might have on a busy weeknight when I can’t bear the thought of cooking anything more than poached eggs. But more often we have this for breakfast over a slab of toasted, leftover baguette. In fact, if someone happens to walk into the kitchen as I’m making the sauce, it’s automatically assumed and then expected that there will be Shakshouka on Saturday morning.
Every culture has their own variation of this classic dish, and really, it is so simple and so adaptable that it can hardly be called a recipe at all. As a child we would have it made with leftover red chili enchilada sauce. In Italy we made it with with fresh tomatoes and loads of basil. I’ve seen it called eggs in Purgatory or uova al Purgatorio, or œufs à la Provençale in France, but my favourite version is the spicy, smokey Middle Eastern dish called Shakshouka. I love to kick up the heat in this, adding ancho chili, red pepper and smoked paprika to my leftover tomato sauce. Below you’ll find the recipes for both a full batch of tomato sauce and for the Shakshouka. Keep in mind, the amount of tomato sauce you use will depend on how many eggs you’re cooking. Make a whole batch – you can always freeze the leftovers.
1 TBSP olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 28 oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp dry oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 carrot, peeled & sliced in half lengthwise (optional, to control the acidity of the sauce)
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, just until fragrant but not browned. Add the tomato paste and cook until fragrant. Pour in the whole tomatoes and break them up a little with the side of a spoon. Add the water, sugar, balsamic vinegar, basil, oregano, red pepper, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the carrot, if using. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the carrot and discard. Carefully purée the sauce using an emersion blender or a countertop blender. (If using a countertop blender, be sure to open the vent in the lid and cover with a kitchen towel because the hot mixture will expand violently when processed.) Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.
Shakshouka (Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce)
This recipe is all about personal taste. The spices can be increased or decreased to your liking. I like this hot-hot-hot!
2 – 4 cups tomato sauce
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
crushed red pepper, to taste, I use about a half a teaspoon
4 to 8 eggs, I plan on two per person
salt and pepper to taste
Chipotle Tabasco or other hot sauce
In a skillet that is large enough to fit the eggs in a single layer, pour in the sauce. You want about an inch of sauce in the skillet before you add the eggs. Stir in your spices and bring to a gentle simmer. When the sauce is simmering, create a well in the sauce with a spoon and crack an egg into it. Continue with the remaining eggs, working your way around the pan. Sprinkle each egg with a little salt, pepper and paprika and cook over low heat until the whites are nearly set. Once the whites are almost firm, cover the pan and cook 1-2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat and splash with a few drops of the hot sauce. Spoon the eggs over a piece of toast or serve as-is in a bowl.