Uova in Purgatorio


on November 16, 2012 | 4:28 pm | 2 Comments

Fried eggs.

Like the second part of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Trapped between heaven and hell.

Uova in Purgatorio, Ova ‘mpriatorio in Neapolitan, or Eggs in Purgatory, this could only be a Neapolitan dish.

Taking its inspiration from Il culto delle anime del Purgatorio, the cult of the Souls of Purgatory, this classic “secondo” comes directly from the pages of Cucina Povera Napoletana.

And it is symbolic of the Neapolitan preoccupation with purgatory and the ancient cult that worships anonymous human remains.

A tradition that endures in places like the 17th century Santa Maria delle Anima del Purgatorio ad Arco Church in Centro Storico and the Fontanelle Cemetery in Rione Sanità.

In the scenes of purgatory depicted in the shrines Neapolitans are fond of erecting around the city.

And in this culinary rendition of the tradition, where the eggs play the role of souls seeking purification, the sauce, that of the flames of purgatory.

The eggs bubble away in the sauce until the whites are completely cooked, or perhaps we should say, purified. And one can only guess that like the milk from the Virgin’s breast, the breaking of the yolks into the sauce symbolises the extinguishing of the flames.

Ouva in Purgatorio, a simple and economical dish that packs a lot of flavour and recalls a tradition that lives on in the hearts and the minds of the Neapolitan people.


1 – 14 oz Can Peeled Tomatoes (or use your leftover Ragù)
4 Eggs
1 Large or 2 Small Cloves Garlic, peeled and halved
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Uova in Purgatorio  Uova in Purgatorio
Uova in Purgatorio  Uova in Purgatorio


Heat a generous amount of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat
Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to a minute depending on the size
Remove the pan from the heat and add the tomatoes
Return the pan to the heat and add about 1/3 can of water
Break up the tomatoes with a fork
Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste
Cook on medium low heat until the sauce reduces by about half, about 15 minutes
Remove the garlic
With a fork, make four wells in the sauce for the eggs
Add the eggs one at a time, like you would for fried eggs
Turn the heat to high and cook the eggs until the whites are completely cooked, like you would for sunny side up eggs
Remove the eggs from the pan, top with a bit of sauce and serve

Uova in Purgatorio

Buon Appetito!


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A native Neapolitan, Giuseppe Topo is a hairstylist and one of the owners of Noi Salon, Naples only English-speaking salon. A passionate cook, when he's not styling hair Giuseppe can be found in the kitchen cooking up one of his favorite Neapolitan dishes, which he proudly features on his regular series for Napoli Unplugged, Cooking with Giuseppe.
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2 reviews

  1. Frank @Memorie di Angelina, November 25, 2012 5:38 pm - Uova in Purgatorio

    One of our favorite dishes! A real “cavallo di battaglia” in our house, especially for those days when I don’t feel like making anything elaborate or heavy.

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      Bonnie, November 27, 2012 11:30 am - Uova in Purgatorio

      So true Frank. It’s so quick and easy to make, that its a great go-to dish when you are short on time and/or inspiration.

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  2. barbara Giacometti, August 30, 2014 10:28 pm - Uova in Purgatorio

    So glad to find you. It’s hard to find a bit of food history these days. Saluti dal Mississippi. Lovely page. Next time I am in Naples, I will look you up. My father was a Cioffi from Vietri sul Mare. I teach regional Italian Cooking here.
    Barbara Giacometti
    Sunday at the Giacometti’s.

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