Light, fresh, and amazingly fast. Breakfast in Tuscany or Italian Poached Eggs, this recipe works on many levels – hot verses cold, creamy against a light acidic tomato bruschetta, plus the salty tang of prosciutto and earthy taste of olive combine to create a harmony of simplicity.
Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of The Day!
Breakfast is my favorite meal. I suppose it’s no wonder my first foray into the kitchen was in my own four-and-a-half-star bed and breakfast. It was never my intention to be the one doing the cooking, but when I found myself in a position of feeding people, every day, I drew on some of my favorite morning meals for around the world for variety and inspiration.
As the owner of the Dragonfly Inn in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, I developed a reputation for exceptional breakfast service. Classics like French Toast, a variety of muffin and scone recipes, and personal twists on egg dishes like this one fed guests over the course of my years as an innkeeper.
A Memory Of Italy
I love a savoury breakfast, packed with morning protein, it’s the best daylight burning fuel as far as I’m concerned. Breakfast In Tuscany, became a particular favorite in the late summer months when tomatoes were ripe on the vine and basil was plentiful in the kitchen garden. Guests would often walk in the early morning hours and catch me, gardening boots on, harvesting ingredients before service. ( Or posing with gigantic sunflowers.)
Italy is one of my favourite travel destinations. Great food, amazing people, rich history, and good wine. I’ve often felt I should have been born Italian. To my mind, Italy has but one flaw; breakfast. To most Italian natives breakfast is a hurried affair – double espresso, two cigarettes, an argument over football (AKA soccer), and perhaps a rushed Cornetto… between smokes.
In Italy it seems like every other meal in the day is slow and measured. Lunch is followed by a siesta. Even a ‘quick antipasto’ is enjoyed at a leisurely pace – but not breakfast. This dichotomy in a culture where food and pleasure are synonymous always struck me as odd. In a place positively riddled with amazing breakfast-y ingredients, it’s rare to find eggs, served with toasty bits of beautiful bread, cheese, and pork products.
But I love a big breakfast, any time of the day.
If I Were Italian
This my answer to that gap in food culture. In my dream villa in Tuscany (or Piedmont, or the Amalfi Coast, I’m not picky) this would be one of the breakfasts I would serve, thus Breakfast in Tuscany became a staple of service in my time at the Dragonfly Inn. A Mediterranean twist on a classic Benedict but instead of English muffins -olive focaccia, instead of ham – prosciutto, and rather than the heaviness of hollandaise – fresh bruschetta.
Italian poached eggs make for a stunning brunch, light lunch, or mid-summer dinner. I often pair it with fresh figs (in season), chunky bits of Parmesan, and a drizzle of honey, served family-style.
By all means, relax and enjoy — but do argue over something while wildly gesturing with your hands, an Italian-inspired breakfast would not be the same without strongly held opinions!
A guest favourite from my years of owning a 41/2 star bed & breakfast. Fresh, light and packed with big Italian flavour, it’s my answer to an American-style breakfast, with an Italian focus. Poached eggs, prosciutto and bruschetta on crisp ciabatta toast. Bon appetito.
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced
1 small shallot, diced fine
1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
handful fresh basil, chopped
handful of fresh italain parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
dash red wine vinager
salt & pepper to taste
1 loaf olive ciabatta
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 spices of prosciutto, sliced very thin
8 large very fresh eggs
2 tablespoons white vinegar
fresh parsley to finish
In a medium bowl combine tomatoes, shallot, garlic, fresh herbs, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Fold gently to combine then season to taste and reserve to allow flavours to combine. Refrigerate if needed. This step can be done a day, or even two, in advance.
Preheat oven to 400⁰F (205⁰C). Line baking sheet, with tinfoil. Slice bread into 8 medium-thick slices, brush one side liberally with olive oil then place, oiled side down, on baking sheet.
Meanwhile, bring approximately 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan.
Separate prosciutto if needed and hold at room temperature. Ready your plates to one side then crack eggs, one at a time into ramekins or cups. (I usually prepare four at once for this step, and prepare the next round while the first cook.) Then prepare an ice water bath in a separate bowl large enough to accommodate all 8 eggs and set to one side.
Once water comes to a boil place bread to toast in the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes.
Reduce the temperature under your water to medium-high. Use your whisk to create a spinning whirlpool in the pot then quickly, slide eggs, one at a time, into the swirling water. This will prevent them from settling to the bottom and helps to wrap the white around the yoke to form a neat little bundle. Cook until the desired doneness is achieved (3 – 5 minutes) Remove eggs, one at a time with a slotted spoon and transfer to an ice water bath. Repeat with remaining eggs. Clear water of loose egg bits with a slotted spoon and reserve water, hot.
Remove toasted ciabatta from oven, place oiled side up on plates. Cluster a slice of prosciutto on each to form a neat little nest for the egg. Quickly bathe eggs in warm water before serving and lightly dry, on a waiting piece of paper town before placing each on the toast, topping with tangy fresh bruschetta and a splash of herbs.
Finish with an extra drizzle of good quality olive oil if you like and serve immediately. Pro tip: Poached eggs can be done well in advance, drained and dried and held cold until needed. Simply bathe them in hot water briefly and serve. Or recruit and extra pair of hands to assist in the kitchen for the final plating.
Keywords: Italian Breakfast, Italian Poached Eggs, Italian Eggs, Italian Eggs Benedict
Cooking in her home kitchen just outside Ottawa, Canada; Cori Horton is a food photographer, recipe blogger and Food Business Consultant. A Cordon Bleu-trained Chef, Cori spent five years as the owner of Nova Scotia's Dragonfly Inn, ten years in catering, and has been sharing all things delicious - right here - since 2010.