Sea Scallops and Baby Potatoes in Purgatory

Any time of day, this flavorful dish is a crowd pleaser!

We love eggs in purgatory, the Italian version of shakshuka, a spicy tomato sauce in which eggs are simmered. It is a delicious breakfast, brunch, or supper dish, that is popular around the world. 

Let’s make a swap!

But for a different take on this dish, I thought it would be fun to substitute another protein for the eggs – New England sea scallops, one of our favorites. This is going to find its way again and again to my table, any time of day!

Choose the right scallop

The scallops I used are a local product that is packed “dry” which means they do not swim around in a preservative solution to prolong life. Chemical preservatives aside, this soaking process robs the scallops of their flavor and bloats them with extra water we pay handsomely for. Additionally, it is difficult to get any kind of sear on these water-logged babies. 

But if you are not near the northeast, you can also substitute any local scallop, or even firm fish cut into large cubes, or use large gulf shrimp which are widely available frozen.

Bulking it out

When I make Eggs in Purgatory, I usually toss in potatoes and olives. I used little baby potatoes here, but you can substitute any favorite potato that will hold its shape. Pitted calamata olives were my choice, but I could have used any of my favorites! This time around, I seasoned with thyme and oregano, and sprinkled with basil at the end.

We have heat from two sources here, the Serrano, and a bit of cayenne. Adjust to your own preference, or use a sweet pepper if you prefer. This is, after all, supposed to be purgatory and not hell!

Easy on the cheese

Cheese is delicious in this dish, but since my husband’s heart attack, and with dairy-challenged family, I’ve had to be stingy with any cheese. Goat cheese is lower in saturated fat than cow cheese, and it is easier for the lactose intolerant to digest. It’s also pretty tasty! So, I added just a bit to the pot, and it was perfect, but you can also omit it altogether.

Add some crusty bread or whole grain pita to sop up the sauce, and you’ll have all you need!

Sea Scallops and Baby Potatoes in Purgatory

  • 1 lb. sea scallops, dry
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 Serrano pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Splash of dry white wine
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. each thyme and oregano
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 10 to 12 oz. baby potatoes
  • ¼ cup chopped olives
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, optional
  • One small bunch basil

            Remove the muscle from the sea scallops and pat them dry. Sprinkle with salt and refrigerate until the sauce is ready.

            In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high and add the onion. Sauté until soft and just barely starting to brown on the edges. Add the pepper and garlic, and cook an additional minute or so, then add wine to deglaze the pan.

            Add the tomatoes, breaking them up, the thyme, oregano, and cayenne, as well as salt and pepper to your taste. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for a half hour, then add the potatoes and olives.

            Once the potatoes are just about cooked, nestle the scallops in the sauce and add the olives. Break up the goat cheese and scatter around along with the basil. Cover, and cook for five to 7 minutes or until the scallops are cooked.

            Garnish with a little more fresh basil and serve with some flavorful crusty bread!


There are always many possibilities. 

Seafood options – You can substitute any firm fish, cubed, for the scallops. You can also use shrimp, baby scallops, or a combination of several types of seafood.

Vegan option – Substitute cubed firm tofu for the scallops, omit the cheese. A really delicious option!

Last minute guests – That jar of Rao’s pasta sauce will work nicely here. This brand is quite tasty and has no chemicals or preservatives, just recognizable food, so it’s the one I recommend to keep on the shelf for those days when you don’t even have a half hour.

This tasty dish can accommodate other vegetables as well. This time, above, I added some lovely green beans and mushrooms and skipped the cheese.

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50 Comments Add yours

  1. Suzassippi says:

    Starting to look like I will need to pack a “portable refrigerator” for that Memphis food run! This sounds (and of course, looks) fabulous and perfect for the moment.

    1. Yes, I want a portable refrigerator, of any vintage!
      Thank you so much my friend!

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a title “in purgatory”. Lol Thanks, Dorothy! You made my day twice! Best wishes, Michael

    1. Thank you! It really is a funny name, but I certainly don’t take credit for the name! We love it spicy, but it can be adjusted according to whatever you like!

  3. gabychops says:

    I love this concoction minus scallops!


    1. Thank you! There are many possibilities here, so it can be enjoyed in so many ways!

  4. Jovina Coughlin says:

    Love this concept. Great combination of ingredients.

    1. Thank you so much Jovina! It’s a great comfort dish.

  5. The scallops looks so delicious!

    1. Thank you! They were delicious!

  6. C.A. Post says:

    You had me at “sea scallops.” 😉

    1. I know C.A.! We could just stop there, but I won’t!

  7. This is such a great combination of ingredients and flavors.
    I feel like dunking a crusty piece of bread right into the screen! 🙂

    1. Yes! I tried, but it didn’t quite work!

  8. Sherry M says:

    yum this sounds so tasty. love scallops.

    1. Thank you Sherry! One of our new favorites!

  9. What a great variation! Looks absolutely mouthwatering 😋

    1. Thanks Ribana! No leftovers with this one!

  10. Nancy says:

    Let me pull a seat up to the table for this one! Yum! Anything with scallops catches my attention. And this all looks delicious!

    1. Thanks Nancy! There’s a chair waiting!

  11. I can almost smell the aroma, and I’m with those who’d like to dunk a nice piece of crusty bread in that sauce. 🙂

    1. Thank you Judy! The bread is a required utensil in my book!

  12. Nancy Richy says:

    This looks delicious — and I love the name!!

    1. Thank you Nancy! I agree the name is quite funny!

  13. Gail says:

    Sea scallops would be my choice, too. Sounds like Heaven. 🌟✨💫

    1. They really were heavenly! 😇

  14. What a beautiful dish Dorothy, and I love the shortcut tip by using Rao’s pasta sauce!

    1. Thank you Jenna! Sometimes we have to take that short-cut so the extremely hungry can eat!

  15. Chef Mimi says:

    Yes!!! I love this idea. Seafood and tomatoes go so well together! And feta…

    1. Thank you Mimi, it’s all so good!

  16. Carole says:

    I look forward to trying this dish since all the ingredients are some of my favorite! My Sicilian grandmother often simmered eggs in a garlic, caper tomato sauce. Thanks for sharing this. 😃

    1. Oh, the capers sound like a wonderful addition!

  17. Chef Mimi says:

    I just figured out that on a specific wordpress comments page the comments are cut off, so I just now read about your Woodstock experience! Wow! I guess your mothers never found out?!!! I’ll have to try fresca with canned tuna and cashews!!!

    1. Oh no, Mom and Dad never found out!

  18. NativeNM says:

    This is so creative! I can imagine shrimp simmering in this sauce, yum!

    1. Thank you Jan, it’s great both ways, and with eggs too!

  19. Ally Bean says:

    I don’t know if I’d like this dish but I do know I love the name of it.

    1. It’s a funny name indeed, but it tastes Heavenly!

  20. terrie gura says:

    Love it! I’d probably splurge and go for sea scallops AND eggs, because I’m reckless that way. Haha!

  21. JOY journal says:

    I’ve never heard of “purgatory” cooking. Interesting!

    1. I think the heat/spice level in this dish is intended to be not quite as hot as, say, wings of hell!

  22. Love scallops, but very hard to get anythint but the soaked ones.

    1. It does make a difference. Other proteins are really good here though!

  23. Christy B says:

    The sea scallops sound great in this dish!

    1. I don’t know if I like it better with the eggs or the scallops!

  24. Every time you post seafood it makes me want to move there! This looks like the perfect meal and delicious!

    1. Thanks! I think we are lucky to live in New England where we can always find some beautiful fresh seafood.

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