Thursday, 21 April 2011

Rosso, Bianco & Verde!

Uova a Spezzatino di Pomodoro con Asparagi Verde
Eggs Poached in a tangy Tomato Sauce with Green Asparagus

That's right- Red, White & Green... the colors of the old country...

This is a simple dish, based on an even more simple dish that my mother used to make when I was growing up. Keeping 9 children fed is not an enviable or easy task I would imagine- but one that my mother used to face each and every day. Not just a culinary challenge, or one of hard work... but also of course a huge economical one. Thank God I am never going to have to face THAT challenge!

On a "normal" day, an Italian meal will consist of 2 courses: typically a "primo piatto" of pasta or maybe a rice dish and a "secondo", which will typically be meat or fish. The antipasti are more something for a special occasion- as are desserts.  At the same time, the "meat and three" type meals that you may be more accustomed to are also rare- it's just a cultural thing.

Not being the wealthiest, although pasta was affordable every day, (oh... and obligatory being Italians after all!), we didn't have meat with every meal by any stretch of the imagination. Nope- it would often be something from the garden, which my father loved to keep, or on some occasions a simple dish of eggs poached in some extra tomato sauce from our pasta, that my mom would put aside for later...

My mom used to heat up the sauce in a frying pan and carefully crack the eggs into it one by one and let them poach. In the meantime, she would fry up some black olives in another pan- the flavor of them intensifies wonderfully when you do this. Added to the sauce and the eggs, which are very mild, the combination is really delicious.

For my slightly more sophisticated version, I like to add a few more ingredients... then again- I am not making this for 9 people every day as a part of a 2 or 3-course meal!

I start off by frying some sliced bell peppers, finely chopped garlic and onion in a little olive oil. Once these have begun to soften slightly, I add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes which I soak in a little warm water. The next ingredient is some tomato paste and the water that you soaked the dried tomatoes in. Season with oregano, bay leaf, basil, nutmeg, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.

Ready to give those good flavors a little turbo charge? Then add some sliced, pitted black olives and capers... this will give you a wonderfully tangy sauce to poach those eggs in... I like to add a good splash of Tabasco or to grind some dried chili flakes in my sauce too... but I suppose that all depends on how butch you are...

And basically- that is all there is to it!

You can poach the eggs right there in the pan, or transfer the sauce to a baking dish and finish them off in the oven. They will be done in 5 or 6 minutes.

Which gives you enough time to prepare the asparagus- and this is best kept ultra-simple. Pop it into a frying pan with a knob of butter and crank up the heat... season with salt, pepper and a tiny pinch pf sugar and keep it moving until it is shiny, glazed and a vibrant green. Add either a half cup of plain water OR orange juice... and by the time you have fetched the eggs out of the oven, it should have evaporated away, leaving the asparagus nicely cooked with still enough "bite" to be a nice contrast to the eggs and tomato sauce...

Serve with some ciabatta bread and a glass of red wine and pat yourself on the back. That's the way I always do this one! Although it is a very simple and inexpensive dish, this is a great example of "cucina povera"... poor peoples food "come good". I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking for me... it doesn't come that much better than this!


  1. Wow, this looks like a more elegant version of uova in purgatorio... fabulous!

  2. Thanks so much Frank! I really appreciate it as I think your website is really wonderful myself! Have already "liked" you on Facebook... would be fun to be in touch!

    Best regards from Frankfurt, Germany