Poached in nests of spicy tomato sauce, fresh vegetables, and savory pancetta, these easy baked eggs will make you want brunch for every meal [Low FODMAP, Gluten Free].
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Baked Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce
This past fall, Sam and I traveled out to Seattle for a friend’s wedding. With only a few days in the city to sight-see, I did some research on the top bars, restaurants, and foods to try as we wandered around. One thing that popped up on almost every article were the famous baked eggs at The Fat Hen. I was a little skeptical, but I’m a sucker for a good brunch. Paired with my first Aperol Spritz, the baked eggs “alla boscaiola” (a skillet with tomato sauce, pork sausage, mushrooms, and mozzarella) was a serious dream breakfast. We vowed on the spot to start baking more eggs at home.
These easy baked eggs are poached in their own nests of tomato sauce, summer squash, pan fried pancetta, and diced green pepper. Spiced with paprika, cumin, and red pepper flakes, the oven-safe skillets are topped with fresh basil and crumbled cotija cheese for a delicious combination of savory flavors. Perfect for brunch, lunch, or dinner, these individual egg bakes are a simple meal any time of day.
Family-Style vs. Individual Servings
You might be more familiar with baked eggs served family style – like in Middle Eastern shakshuka or Italian eggs in purgatory. In these large-batch recipes you bake or simmer everything together in a single large pan and then portion out the eggs and sauce appropriately. This is a really great option if you are cooking for a crowd, since an appropriately large skillet can hold up to eight or ten eggs if you space them well enough.
Having made baked eggs both ways, I can say I really love using the single-serve skillets for small brunches of two to four people. Mini 5-inch cast iron skillets are easy to store, and since you are mostly just using them as a baking dish, there really isn’t a need to go crazy seasoning them as you would a full-size cast iron pan. Individual ceramic serving dishes or ramekins would be just as good an alternative, if cast iron isn’t your preference.
The only point of caution with individual baked eggs is that the serving skillets are HOT. You’ll need to serve the cast iron on another plate and warn your guests lest they make the mistake of picking up the skillet right out of the oven. I’ve found laying a cotton clothe or dish towel in a regular dinner plate and setting the skillet on top is the perfect way to handle this. The clothe helps avoid scratches to your ceramics, while also preventing the skillet from sliding haphazardly on the plate.
I’ve also seen these hand-made crocheted handle covers for larger cast iron skillets, and I’m eager to make some tiny ones to use!
The Perfect Egg Yolk
First off, let’s be clear on one thing: Over-baking your eggs is not the worst thing.
While a fully set white and a runny, sunny yellow yolk is the stuff my brunch dreams are made of, life just doesn’t always turn out that way. Oven temperatures can differ; time can get away from us – it happens. If you end up overbaking your eggs, you will still have a delightful, yummy meal on your hands.
This being said, here are a few tips to give you an advantage:
- DON’T crack the egg directly into the tomato sauce. Crack each egg individually into a clean ramekin, making sure the yolk stays intact and removing any shell pieces. Make a nest in the tomato sauce and gently pour in the egg so that the yolk is perfectly perched in the nest.
- DON’T try to move or adjust the egg once its settled. Let it be.
- DON’T blindly trust cooking times. Every oven is different. Check your eggs in intervals, and poke at the whites (not the yolks) with a fork or toothpick to see if they’ve set. I often give the pan a little jiggle to see how things are coming along after the first 10 minutes, then after every 5 minutes thereof.
Easy Baked Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce
- 4 small 5-inch cast iron skillets or oven-safe ramekins
- 1 whole summer squash, sliced thin (about two cups)
- 1 cup diced pancetta (or thick cut bacon)
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (28 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried basil)
- Cotija cheese, to taste
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and arrange four small 5-inch individual cast iron skillets on a baking sheet (you may need two baking sheets depending on the size of your skillets).
- In a large non-stick skillet, sauté the pancetta (or bacon) until the fat is rendered. Be careful not to let it burn. Drain the cooked pancetta on a plate lined with paper towels, reserving enough pork fat in the pan to keep it greased (about 1 teaspoon).
- In the same skillet over medium high heat, sauté the summer squash in the pork fat until just tender (about 5 minutes). Transfer the squash to a bowl and set aside.
- Lower the heat to medium and add the diced green pepper. Sauté until softened (about 5 minutes). Sprinkle with the dried spices – cumin, red pepper flakes, paprika, salt, and pepper – and stir in the tomato paste to coat. Cook for another 5 minutes until fragrant, stirring frequently.
- Add the diced tomatoes to the pan bring to a simmer. Let the sauce reduce for about 15 minutes until thickened.
- As the sauce cooks, grease the individual cast iron skillets with non-stick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with the squash, layering the slices so that they overlap. Divide the pancetta among the skillets, sprinkling it over the squash.
- When the sauce is thickened and seasoned to your liking, divide it among all four skillets (each should hold 1 to 1 ½ cups of sauce). Use a spoon to make a little indentation in the center of each, making the skillets like little nests.
- Crack one of the eggs into a small ramekin or prep bowl, being careful not to break the yoke. Carefully pour the whole egg into one of the skillets, so that the egg yolk settles into the nest you made. Don’t worry if the egg white spreads out across the surface – it will cook just fine. Repeat this process with each egg and each skillet.
- Sprinkle the top of each skillet with the fresh basil. Bake for 15 minutes, and then check to see if the egg is cooked to your liking. The whites should be set, but the yellow still over easy. I like my eggs on the gooey side, but if you prefer them a little more cooked, bake for another 5 minutes as needed.
- Remove the baking trays from the oven and sprinkle them with the cotija cheese. Remember that they will be extremely hot. To serve, layer a kitchen towel or paper towels on serving plates large enough to accommodate the skillets. Place the individual egg bakes on each plate and serve.
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