Comfort Food: Uova al Pomodoro
This is an essential, quick and ideal comfort meal that comes from the heart of Tuscan kitchens; something for a rainy day, or a Sunday night when you don’t want to leave the house and there’s not much in the fridge: uova al pomodoro, or eggs cooked in tomatoes. Adaptable in so many ways, even for the most basic version, all you need are pantry staples and a couple of fresh eggs that poach directly in the tomato sauce and you have yourself the perfect one-pot meal.
It’s long been one of my favourite comfort foods but I’m especially craving it now, for starters because Melbourne’s classically wet winter is a really good setting for comfort food and secondly, anything that’s quick to make, simple and nutritious is just the thing to keep this pregnant belly happy!
Like many comfort foods, there really isn’t a set recipe for this dish. In fact, I think every time I make it, it’s slightly different from the time before. You can literally use whatever you happen to have on hand. If you have fresh tomatoes, why not use those? Tinned tomatoes or puree works perfectly well too.
The Tuscan painter, Guido Peyron, describes his version of uova al pomodoro in his beautifully illustrated 1956 cookbook, Note sulla cucina e altre cose (“notes on cooking and other things”), which is nothing more than 2 cloves of garlic, three ripe tomatoes (skin and seeds removed), chopped, some salt and pepper and an egg or two.
It’s beauty is its simplicity but if you do want to add a little something to it, try some pancetta, a few anchovy fillets or sliced pork and fennel sausages for flavour. Cannellini or borlotti beans are also a wonderful addition for some extra protein. Silverbeet, kale or English spinach add good colour; mushrooms also work really well. Just remember to keep it simple, add just ONE extra thing, perhaps two at most, this is not a dish with which to clear out your fridge!
This is wonderful cooked in a traditional terracotta pot (for some reason everything just tastes better cooked this way), and as these pots are so pretty, you can serve it at the table directly in the pot, with slices of crusty country bread to mop up the sauce. This means minimal washing up to do afterwards, and all the more reason to love this dish!
Eggs Cooked in Tomato Sauce
Uova al Pomodoro
- 4 fresh eggs
- 1 tin of peeled tomatoes, 1/2 bottle of tomato puree or even 500 gr of fresh tomatoes, blanched to remove skin and chopped
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- a handful of fresh herbs such as flat leaf parsley, basil, majoram or oregano
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt, pepper and if you like a little kick, chilli, to taste
Squash the garlic cloves lightly with the side of a kitchen knife.
Heat some olive oil in a deep skillet over a low-medium heat, and let the oil infuse with the garlic gently for a minute or two. The garlic doesn’t need to brown, it’s slowly adding flavour. Remove it when just golden. If you are using any one of the additions described above, add it to the pan in the garlicky oil until golden (or softened, as the case may be).
Add the tomato and a bit of water (half a cup or so). Break the tomatoes up a bit with a wooden spoon and let them simmer for until reduced to a sauce. Add extra water if you need along the way – you want it to be “saucy” enough that the eggs will poach in it. Season with salt and pepper (and chilli if using).
When the tomatoes have broken down and there is still sufficient liquid in the pan, crack the eggs directly into the pan. Cover and turn the heat to the lowest setting and let sit for about 3-5 minutes, checking now and then. Ideally you want the whites to cook but the yolk to remain soft and creamy.
As soon as the eggs have reached this perfect point, top with a handful of your favourite chopped fresh herbs and serve immediately with crusty bread to dip straight into the eggs and mop up the sauce.