Caponata is a delicious Sicilian eggplant salad with creamy caramelized eggplant, crisp celery and a savory sweet and sour flavor from the tomatoes and vinegar. Served as an antipasto with bread, or as a relish for fish and meat dishes, Caponata is an appetite inducing condiment that makes just about anything taste better.

Making the best eggplant Caponata isn't hard, but it does involve a few simple tricks. See how I do it.

Despite what some recipes may have you believe, Caponata is not a stew. It’s more like a salad or relish, with an agrodolce(lit. sour-sweet) taste, and a variety of textures and flavors that keeps your mouth waiting in eager anticipation for the next bite.

To help retain each ingredient’s individuality, I like to cook each one separately. The pine nuts get roasted in oil to bring out their rich earthy flavor. The eggplant gets fried until golden brown on the outside and creamy on the inside. The onions are slowly fried until sweet and caramelized, and then the celery, olives and capers are added towards the end, to preserve their unique textures and flavors.

Tomatoes are another component of Caponata that tastes best when caramelized to coax out their umami. The thing is, you can save yourself a bunch of time by starting with tomato paste. Since it’s already reduced, all you need to do is add it in and saute it a bit to make it sing with flavor. A bit of brown sugar and wine vinegar thrown into the pan at the end, brings the individual components together while allowing each item to retain their own unique taste and texture.

A simple Sicilian Caponata that comes togehter in under 30 minutes.

While the care involved in treating each ingredient separately may sound like a chore, my Caponata is made in a single pan, so it’s more about logistics than labor. To that end, I’ve developed my recipe to make the best use of time and oil, which is why you can put this together in under 30 minutes.

That being said, Caponata is one of those dishes that definitely tastes better the next day, which is why I recommend you let it rest overnight before serving it. It does keep for about a week though, so if you can resist the urge to eat it all in one go, it’s a great make-ahead dish for parties. Some other ideas include using it as a topping for grilled fish, serving it with poached eggs and toast for breakfast, or sliding it in between two crusty halves of bread with some arugula for a satisfying plant-based lunch.

Caponata is a mouth-watering Sicilian relish that's the perfect make-ahead canape for a party.

CaponataDespite what some recipes may have you believe, Caponata is not a stew. It’s more like a salad or relish, with an agrodolce(lit. sour-sweet) taste, and a variety of textures and flavors that keeps your mouth waiting in eager anticipation for the next bite. To help retain each ingredient’s individuality, I like to cook each … Continue reading “Caponata”

Summary

  • CourseAppetizer
  • CuisineItalian
  • Yield8 small servings
  • Cooking Time25 minutes
  • Preperation Time5 minutes
  • Total Time30 minutes

Ingredients

1/2 cup
olive oil
380 grams
eggplant (*see note, cut into 1-inch pieces)
40 grams
pine nuts (~1/4 cup)
140 grams
red onion (~1/2 onion, 1/2-inch dice)
120 grams
celery (~2 stalks, 1/4-inch dice)
70 grams
pitted green olives (~1/2 cup, sliced in half)
30 grams
capers in brine (~2 tablespoons, drained)
3 tablespoons
tomato paste
50 grams
raisins (~1/4 cup packed)
2 tablespoons
red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon
dark brown sugar
salt
ground black pepper
flat-leaf parsley (chopped for garnish)

Steps

  1. Add the olive oil to a pan and heat until hot, but not smoking.
  2. Oil roasting the pinenuts for the Caponata first is not only foolproof, it saves time.
    Add the pine nuts and fry until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the toasted pine nuts to a paper towel lined rack.
  3. Shallow frying the eggplant for the Caponata in olive oil ensures they're both flavorful and tender.
    Add the eggplant and fry, turning over several times until golden brown. Transfer the eggplant to the paper towel lined rack.
  4. Caramelizing the onions gives our Caponata a sweet burst of umami.
    Add the onions, and saute until they are tender and starting to brown.
  5. Adding the celery, olives, and capers to the Caponata towards the end, ensures they retain their individual taste and texture.

    Add the celery, olives, and capers and saute until the celery starts turning translucent, but still crunchy.

  6. Caramelizing the tomato paste brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes in this Caponata.
    Add the tomato paste and fry until shiny and fragrant.
  7. The best eggplant Caponata, with creamy eggplant, crisp celery, sweet raisins and briny olives, all in a sweet and sour tomato sauce.

    Finish the Caponata by adding the raisins, red wine vinegar and brown sugar. Return the eggplant and pine nuts to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to cook until the liquid has all evaporated.

  8. Let the Caponata cool and then refrigerate overnight. Serve the Caponata at room temperature, sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley and crusty bread.

Notes

For the eggplant, I prefer using small eggplants such as Italian, Graffiti, or Japanese because they tend to have less seeds than your average Globe eggplant. Look for them in upscale grocery stores or at a farmers market.