Eggs Poached in a Savory Tomato Sauce
This evening's supper is a classic all over Italy and was certainly a classic at our home when I was growing up. Having 9 children to feed, that means 11 plates of food every meal time, my mother used to perform magic day to day to keep us all fed! Now she is old she knows how hard she worked at is and how lovingly, though bless her, she can't always remember all the the wonderful things she used to make... but I certainly can!
We always did live by modest means, obviously and we certainly did not have meat on our menu every day... how blessed we were in retrospect to have grown up benefitting from a healthy and diverse diet- even though we may not have appreciated it at the time! Needless to say, I would happily skip a meat dish in favor of this wonderful, light and savory goodness! My version is a little different to my moms- but all of the important ingredients are in there and I would never have been able to come up with this without her!
Basically, all that you need to make this dish is a flavorful tomato sauce to poach the eggs in. You can obviously use left-over pasta sauce, or use a store-bought, finished sauce and "jazz it up a little"... or make something like this one that I made:-)
I started off with the classic "sofritto" of carrot, celery and onion. And you don't need much! For 2 eggs I used half a carrot, half a stick of celery and a quarter of an onion. You can either chop them up very finely, or if you really want to get things done quickly, grate them and sautée them in a little olive oil with a little finely chopped (or grated!) garlic. After 2-3 minutes, add 3-4 tablespoons of tomato paste and stir this in too. Don't worry about it mixing smoothly- it may stick together in a clump, but the important thing is that it needs to get a little direct "dry" heat before adding some liquid to it, as it tends to taste fuller and milder that way.
So- next, add boiling water to the paste, little by little, until your sauce begins to develop. At this point, add some chopped parsley and basil, a pinch of oregano, salt, pepper, a little nutmeg and a pinch of chili flakes. Now, add the olives and cherry tomatoes, stir well and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes. Whilst that is happening, turn your oven on at the highest setting and warm your oven dish, so that it will be hot when you add the sauce and tomatoes and will not cool off the sauce and stop the cooking process.
Finally you are ready to put everything together! Spoon the hot, spicy sauce into your baking dish and then carefully crack the eggs directly into the hot sauce. They will start to set straight away and you can season them with a light sprinkle of salt and pepper, along with a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese, before popping them into the oven at around 350°F for 5-6 minutes or until the eggs set.
Serve with a sprinkle of a mix of finely chopped mint and parsley and a little ciabatta bread for dipping and enjoying... and then dip and enjoy! It tastes really delicious!