Tuscan Baked Eggs with Vegetables are a fabulous breakfast or brunch meal. But I first made them as breakfast-for-dinner. What a treat they were! Regardless of which meal you make them for, they should definitely be on your cooking “to-do” list.
What exactly are Tuscan Baked Eggs with Vegetables? You could call them an Italian version of shakshuka. Or perhaps eggs poached in tomato sauce with vegetables underneath. A healthy, one-dish meal, it is an easy way to avoid carbs if that is your desire. On the other hand, soaking up the sauce with a slice or two of a good baguette is a nice way to finish off your portion.
The inspiration for this dish came from my friend Abby. Here she is with her beau. And her eyes say it all – that twinkle let’s you know that she’s always up for adventure.
She and our mutual friend Nancy run marathons together – all over the world. They’ve done races across the U.S. and even in Greece. But if you know me, that’s not exactly where my talents lie. Much as I might like to join them – and much as I know I should exercise more – I really would rather talk about food.
So it won’t surprise you that when Abby and I chatted at Nancy’s annual holiday tea this past December, after we touched on a few other subjects, food came up. Abby told me about a recent dish she made, which she called Tuscan eggs. Without a recipe and using what she had on hand, Abby created a dish she and her beau really enjoyed. By the end of our conversation, I was furiously tapping ingredients and phrases into my phone, determined to make my own version of her not-really-a-recipe egg dish.
A few weeks later, I began my experiment. I kept the concept intact. Vegetables on the bottom, tomato sauce on top, eggs baked into an indentation in the sauce, and a bit of cheese to top it off.
Her version used only pickled vegetables, known as giardiniera for the bottom layer. I decided to mix fresh vegetables with the pickled ones and found the result utterly addictive. Although I should make my own giardiniera, I used store-bought this time. (When going the homemade route, Domenica Marchetti will be my guide. She writes easy-to-follow recipes and they always turn out well in my experience. Plus I actually made giardiniera with her in a class at a Les Dames D’Escoffier conference.) But this was supposed to be a post-New Year’s, easy recipe, so I left homemade for later.
For the next layer, I followed Abby’s lead using a good, store-bought marinara sauce. As the woman who enjoys poppy seed cake based on a mix, I’m hardly a snob about store-bought ingredients. My only caveat is that a timesaver has to make the final result taste good. In this case, store-bought worked just fine.
And finally, the eggs. After conquering poached eggs and eggs en cocotte, or shirred eggs, a while back, I was game to try this variation. As long as you create a deep enough indentation so they can sit securely in the sauce and crack them gently into that pocket, these eggs look as beautiful as they taste.
With a nice batch of vegetables and two eggs per person, this dish is hearty enough for dinner or a full breakfast and yet not heavy. I call that a win.
Tuscan Baked Eggs with Vegetables
This simple all-in-one dish is filling enough for dinner and great for either breakfast or brunch. With vegetables, tomato sauce, eggs and topped with cheese, it has both super flavor and style.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups hard vegetables (e.g. carrots, onions, celery, bell pepper, green beans), chopped into small pieces About 8 & 1/2 ounces
- 1/2 cup chopped portabella or white mushrooms About 2 ounces
- 2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped About 2 ounces
- 1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts, drained and pressed almost dry About 4 & 1/2 ounces
- 1/2 cup giardiniera, drained About 2 & 1/2 ounces
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup good quality marinara or similar tomato sauce
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan. Add the hard vegetables and cook them about 5 minutes under medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
Add the spinach and mushrooms and continue cooking for about 2-3 minutes, until the mushrooms begin to lose their water and the spinach begins to wilt. Add the chopped artichoke hearts and giardiniera.
Divide the vegetables between 2 casserole dishes or put them on the bottom of one 8-inch casserole with sides at least 2-inches.
If using 2 casserole dishes, divide the tomato sauce, pouring 1/2 cup over each dish. (If using a single dish, pour the entire cup over the vegetables.) With a spatula, lightly spread the sauce so it covers all the vegetables. Make 2 indentations in the sauce for the 2 eggs per person.
Gently crack the eggs with a knife and pour them into the indentations in the tomato sauce.
Place the casserole(s) onto a pan with sides to prevent any spillover from burning the bottom of your oven. Gently place the casserole(s) in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Add the cheese and salt and pepper, then put the casserole(s) back into the oven for another 5 minutes.
It does not matter what "hard" vegetables you use. I like variety in color as well as taste, and I tend to use as many different vegetables as I can find in my refrigerator.