If you watch the video snippet above, you’ll enjoy the scene from Moonstruck where Olivia Dukakasmakes Uova nel Cestino for herself and Cher.
The simple method of tearing a hole in some slices of Italian bread and frying up some eggs in the holes is classic — a peasant food, but also a very pleasant food.
The appearance of it in Moonstruck has also made it an Italian-American classic, if not totally of Italian origin.
But the history of this rustic dish seems relatively modern. There are various names for basically the same dish–Eggs in a Basket, Eggs in a Box, Egg in a Frame and so on.
These eggy delights have also appeared in many other films: Mary Jane’s Pa (1935, causing it sometimes to be called Guy Kibbee Eggs); Moon Over Miami, (1941, which named this dish either Betty Grable’s Eggs or Gashouse Eggs); and in the 2005 film V for Vendetta. Even the TV show Friends had a character making this dish.
In the little bit of research I’ve done, it seems that there is some version of these eggs–using the various names–not only in most parts of our country, but also in many European countries. I believe it was truly a peasant food that came to America with immigrants from all sorts of countries, which is why there are so many different names and variations in the method of cooking and ingredients.
For instance, if you watch the Moonstruck video clip carefully, you’ll see that there was also pickled pimentos added to the dish.
Here’s how I make mine:
- A single egg for each bread “nest” you are making
- 3/4 – 1″ thick slices of a crusty Italian Pane di Casa or Country Round bread (or Challah).
- Olive oil for brushing the bread
- Butter and Olive Oil for the fry pan (use a mix of the two for browning)
- One 2-1/2″ round cookie cutter (or use an upturned small jar)
- An Italian spice mix (either a commercial one or a mix of garlic powder, dried basil and dried oregano)
- First, brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil.
- Cut holes in the center of the each slice (you can also fry up the cutouts if you wish)
- Heat a large non-stick fry pan to medium low flame and drizzle light olive (or canola) oil in the pan with a pat or two of butter.
For “sunny side up” (You might want a lower flame for this):
- Place two slices of bread in the pan and fry one side to start.
- Flip the slices over and break one egg into each hole. This method toasts the first side and allows you to cook the egg “sunny side” style while the second side toasts. Sprinkle with Italian spices.
- Remove from the pan with a non-stick spatula when the egg is done on the top sidetop and serve.
For “over easy” eggs:
- Place the slices of bread in the pan and immediately break and egg into each hole. Sprinkle with Italian spices.
- Fry for 1 minute or so until you see the bottom of the egg getting whiter, then using a non-stick spatula, flip each slice over, being careful to get both egg and bread together onto the spatula.
- Fry for another minute or so and remove from pan for plating.
I served the Uova nel Cestino with a couple of country sausages and a side of home fries. We also had some home made tomato ketchup that went well with the bread and eggs, but to keep the Italian theme, ,a nice marinara would work really well. To finish our brunch we each had a refreshing small serving of Lisa’s homemade ricotta with fruit and honey.