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Why do some Italians put "Hard Boiled Eggs in Pasta Sauce" ?

Hi All !
The curiosity is killing me! While reminiscing with my Parents, we started a huge conversation about my Grandmother putting eggs in her Sunday Pasta Sauce. I have NEVER heard or seen anyone do this.
Historically, is there a reason why some Italians or Italian Americans put Hard Boiled Eggs in their Sauce? Is it Regional, Cultural or Economic? I searched the internet and could not find any answers. Most sites mentioned poaching eggs in sauce but, my Grandmother boiled eggs and then put them in the sauce as it was cooking.
Also, Someone mentioned having meatballs with raisins. I have the same questions for raisins, as well.
Thanks for Reading & Happy Chowing!
Maria :)

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  1. Regional, cultural or economic? My guess is YES. ;-)

    Lots of folks whose people hailed from around Naples who are now living in the US like Uova in Purgatorio or Eggs in Purgatory...but these are poached eggs. For folks on a farm who kept chickens, eggs were sometimes a more readily available protein source than meat.

    I'm guessing your Nonna was Sicilian...raisins in meatballs and hard boiled eggs in sauce (in lieu of, or along with, meatballs) are both Sicilian things.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pinehurst

      Hi Pine !

      I believe my Dad said they had pigeons, not sure about the chickens, I will have to ask him. Maybe it was her version of Uova in Purgatorio. Many people change recipes.

      I believe my Grandparents were from Naples and Sicily. I need to do my homework and make a genealogy tree!

      Thanks Pinehurst ❣

      1. re: MariaRN

        A geneology tree based on food would be VERY interesting too.

    2. My husband's aunt was from Naples, and she always put hard boiled eggs in her eggplant parm. She also had hard boiled eggs in her antipasta platter. That is all I know on the subject, but it does stick in my mind as particular to her, and therefore to Naples.

      2 Replies
      1. re: coll

        Hi Coll !

        My Mom always put hard boiled eggs in the antipasta platter as well. I never heard of eggs in eggplant parmigiana, until I was researching this topic.
        I believe my Grandparents were from Naples and Sicily, need to check. So, it may be a regional recipe.

        Thanks!! ❤

        1. re: MariaRN

          My husband's family was from Sicily on all sides. The only Neopolitan was the aunt, by marriage. People don't always realize how different the cuisines of different areas can be, obviously.

      2. I've seen a hardboiled egg in braciole before but never just sauce.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Njchicaa

          Hi Njchicaa !

          I actually have never heard of eggs in braciole. I believe my mom just used garlic, basil, grated parm & romano and other seasonings. I remember her pounding the meat thin, rolling, tying and cooking in sauce.

          Thanks!! ヅ

          1. re: MariaRN

            To me, the only logical place for hard boiled eggs in Italian cooking is braciole.

        2. I've seen a whole beaten egg tempered w/ hot sauce then poured into the sauce. Looked great.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chinon00

            Hi Chinon00 !

            I never heard of Uova in Purgatorio until I was researching eggs in sauce. Looks and sounds really good though!

            Thanks! ♥

            1. re: MariaRN

              Try it, it's one of the best quick dinners you ever will have. I call it "San Gennaro Sandwich" after the feast in NY, it is a true comfort food.

              But I never heard of it in a sauce meant for meatballs etc, so maybe that is what this is really all about. Not that this is hard boiled, it is more like poached.

          2. Maybe your grandma just needed to use up some hard boiled eggs ;)

            1 Reply
            1. re: sedimental

              I would say yes, it wouldn't surprise me, but she did it all the time.

            2. My husbands family is from Sicily and they put eggs in their gravy. We live in South Louisiana where there is a large population of Sicilians and eggs in gravy is very common. They put eggs in their gravy because when their families first came to this country, they did not have much money and meat was eaten only once or twice a week. They added poached or boiled eggs to their gravy for a less expensive form of protein. We continue this tradition because it is delicious and because we are remembering his grand parents, aunts, and uncles who spent long hours cooking their gravy. As of the meatballs with raisins - never!

              1 Reply
              1. re: zenacal

                Your answer is correct. This custom started due to economics and also to stretch the meal in case other family members showed up to eat the Sunday sauce. It was a great way to provide protein, other than meat. I still use eggs instead of meatballs when, I am in a pinch for a quick meal with bottled sauce.

              2. not an answer, but i remember eggs in the sauce being shown in the film THE BIG NIGHT

                1 Reply
                1. re: westsidegal

                  I love that film. Absolutely love it. Thanks for the post. Now I know what I'm going to do with my lazy evening.

                2. I lived downstairs from an Italian family (from the old Country) and they put eggs in lots of food. It was a cheap source of protein and children needed it to stay healthy. (that was their reasoning)


                  1. I've seen it in baked pasta dishes with a red sauce, usually along with diced smoked ham, ricotta and mozarella.

                    My family puts tuna fish in the pasta sauce too, for the same reason, cheap protein.

                    1. How are the eggs presented? Are they whole? Quartered? Sliced? Crumbled / sieved?

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          No, like a hardboiled egg, swimming along with pork, sausage, beef, rubs, chicken (sometime), meatballs, and other delights in the traditional Sunday sauce or gravy. My Calabrese nonna did all these, in some rotation, each week: the evolution of the Sunday southern Italian feast dish form one or 2 modest chunks of meat in sauce to an explosion in America of meat, poultry, dried, cured sausage, and, yes, eggs, are to me a celebration (or affirmation) of prosperity in a new land. From a culture that was always on the edge of hunger and depravation, luxuriating at the long family table with such abundance was a powerful ritual.

                          1. re: bob96

                            You said that very well, bob96. Thanks!

                        2. I used to have lunch--a very heavy lunch--at an Irish restaurant near Providence. One of their specialties was big slabs of lasagna with hard boiled eggs as part of the filling. Never really warmed up to that addition, but on a cold winter day that thick meat sauce, ricotta and mozzarella with pasta was wonderful.

                          1. It's not really that far fetched since egg is in the pasta itself. It's also in the binder in fillings, Plus the hard boiled egg whites have a noodle-y texture to them.

                            1. Maria, I learned putting eggs into my pasta from my very Sicilian Italian grandma. Mama would peel the eggs and put them in the big pot of " gravy" whole right at the end of the cooking process. Then we'd break the egg up as we were eating the pasta. I think part of the reason Italians do this is because Italian families are usually big, with a lot of mouths to feed. The eggs were a way to bulk up the meal. But the main reason I think Mama did it was because it is so delicious. The way the egg yolk makes the meat sauce all creamy is simply to die for. I still do it all the time!

                              1. Growing up in Chicago in the 1950's we Italian Catholics could not eat meat on Fridays. My mother would drop eggs into her spaghetti gravy, it is really a poached egg. We were of Calabrian descent. So good, egg whites break up some in the gravy and makes for a nutritious and economical meal. One of my childhood comfort food which my Irish husband requests often!