I love eggs. I really do. We eat them for dinner at least once a week, and I have them for breakfast or lunch probably three times a week. I love them. They are a resourceful cook's go-to base, you know? Oh shoot, I have all these vegetables and cheese and am out of crackers and meat - let's make an omelette! Must use up that frozen pie crust and spinach - let's make quiche! Forgot to buy tortillas for enchiladas - sounds like a night for chilaquiles! Et cetera.
So imagine my glee when I found this recipe, which offered a whole new world of dinner possibilities: poaching eggs in sauce!? I had never thought to do that. Likely because I'd never before poached eggs period, let alone in sauce.
And then it got better and better, because I found delicious canned organic San Marzano tomatoes, which I didn't expect to find, and then I got to crush them with my hands, which made me feel v. fancy-meets-in-the-kitchen-trenches. This recipe is super easy, super quick, super cheap, and then - boom! - it ends up colorful, beautiful, and absolutely delicious.
The choice to use ricotta rather than the more traditional (and more decidedly Middle Eastern) crumbled feta in this recipe was more accidental than innovative. I was committed to keeping this inexpensive, and often that is best accomplished by using up what is in your refrigerator. I had ricotta. I love ricotta. It melted nicely and seeped into the eggs, making the dish, I suspect, a bit creamier than the versions on which it's based. And frankly, I think any cheese would work. What doesn't go with eggs, tomato sauce, and little spice, eh?
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 jalapeños, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional, for extra kick; alternatively throw in another jalapeño)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 eggs (or 5 if, say, you only have 5)
4 ounces ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)
Warm pitas, for serving
Heat oil and butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add jalapeños and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, fragrant, and starting to brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, red chili flakes, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands (this part is fun!). Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Season sauce with salt.
Have your eggs and ricotta ready to go. Gently crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Add tablespoon-sized dollops of the ricotta cheese around the eggs. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 3 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.
Note: Deb from Smitten Kitchen, in her comments section, suggests that, if you are serving only 1 or 2 people, making the sauce with less eggs for the first go and then reheating the sauce on the stove later and adding eggs is the best way to enjoy this dish as leftovers. If you only like your eggs soft-poached, then follow this advice. I, however, cooked the whole thing and microwaved the leftovers the next day. The eggs ended up hard, but I like hard-cooked eggs, especially when they have been marinating overnight in a spicy red sauce, and found it quite lovely.