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I took a cooking class in Sicily this summer and this was one of the recipes that we made. It is my all time favorite dish using eggplant! Tomatoes were not used in our recipe, but red peppers, zucchini and squash were used in addition to golden raisins, olives, and toasted pine nuts. Massimo also recommended that it be served at room temperature, almost like a salad or relish to accompany the main dish. Either way its a favorite in our home and made at least once a week! Buon appetit!
I made a very similar recipe, 2 weeks ago with my 2 small CSA eggplant and good golly, it is great! Best thing I’ve done with eggplant ever!
I suggest cook celery first, simply boiling it in salted water and set apart. Then fry the eggplant, diced bigger than in the pictures. Put the fried eggplant on paper and set apart. In a skillet with not much oil, fry the onion. When the onion is tender, add eggplant, celery, olives, capers, tomato. Stir well and adjust salt. At the end, add one big spoon of sugar and add vinegar, according to your taste. Cook one minute, stirring. This is my mother’s caponata, directly from Sicily.
I am thinking of leaving the olives uncooked so they will retain their texture. I also may leave 1/2 of the diced tomatoes uncooked to retain a crisper taste and flavor. Have you tried to incorporate any uncooked ingredients?
Hi Marian, I haven’t tried including uncooked ingredients, but I don’t see a problem with some diced raw tomatoes or olives. If you make it that way, please let us know how it turns out for you!
Do I peel the eggplant first?
Hi Jenny, I don’t usually, but you might want to if your eggplant has an especially tough peel.
I was told to peel the eggplant in stripes – leaving some of the peel on so to keep the shape of the vegetable while cooking. We also cooked in sunflower oil!
Do you think it would be possible to can this, or would that damage the flavor? I would love to be able to make a huge batch when all the ingredients are in season this summer.
Yes, as long as everything (including the basil) is cooked, and you pressure can it. Water bath canning will be insufficient. ~Elise
Why did you tell “Anne” (she asked if Capanata can be canned. You told her only if she pressure cans it. That is not a definite proof, I have canned Capanata for 30 yrs. in a water bath, as long as you Boil them for 15 strong minutes, the jars are safe at the 15 minutes boil and can keep on a shelf for 1 yr. Lucy
It depends on your recipe and if there is enough vinegar in it. My recipe is not a canning recipe. I have no idea if there is enough acid in it to safely can it using a water bath. If you don’t have enough acid when you water bath can low acid foods, there is a risk of botulism, which can be fatal, so you don’t want to mess around with risking it.
Due to salt restrictions had to change this up a bit. Totally skipped the salting the eggplant step and simply diced it finely. (I do this on all my eggplant recipes as well.) No capers, but added black olives. Used as a relish topping for purple hull peas. Wonderful.
Guess this is a Southern recipe now.
I often make a similar dish, although I never knew it was called caponata. My main three ingredients are eggplant, white onions (lots and lots of it, and I always cook them first, then add to the dish at the very end), and fresh tomatoes. I love the idea of adding peppers and olives! Can’t wait to try again with all the extra spices and herbs!
My Sicilian grandmother also insists that the veggies be sauteed separately or, she claims, the flavor of the peppers will dominate the dish. Caponata is a great way to use the bounty of summer veggies that are in season right now!
So, do you cover the eggplant with water after you salt it? Or does the salt extract liquid from the eggplant and that’s why you drain it?
The salt extracts the liquid from the eggplant. You do not cover the eggplant with water after you salt it. ~Elise
I made this today as I happened to have all the ingredients at home (it is Sunday!) I substituted small black Provence olives, which I left with the stones in and added some more garlic, it was delicious and had a bit of a punch thanks to the chilli flakes. I had it with some homemade bread and saucisson sec as an evening snack!
I’m so glad you liked it Angela! (Waving to you in Provence!)
Why do I need a plate weighted down? Is there water in the bowl?
It’s to help squeeze out the moisture that the salt is releasing from the eggplant, and to help firm up the pieces of eggplant so they don’t completely turn to mush when cooking them. ~Elise
I made this dish today; Elise, thanks for turning me on to a great dish I’d never heard of!
I had quite a bit of eggplant from the farmers’ market this morning, so I was very happy to see a new idea for it.
I had all the necessary ingredients, well, almost all: I left out the pine nuts (too expensive for me to have around) and the capers (I’ve left gallons of capers out of recipes in the course of my life…).
I added three medium sweet peppers (yellow and orange), upped the garlic a bit, and added some anchovy paste (just a little).
The relish/sauce is delicious on crackers, and even better on bread. I’m sure we will have this often this summer.
Oh no re capers :) I love capers and ALWAYS have a backup jar. Anchovy paste – YES!
Again, we have all the ingredients in our home (but I may be a little low on the pine nuts). When we moved to NC almost four years ago it was hard to find eggplant and next to impossible to find fennel (my Italian hubby calls it “finoke” ~ maybe that is why no one at the store understood him). Do you have a preference on the type of eggplant you buy? Skinny or squat? xoxo michele
Hi Michele, the globe eggplants will work best as the flesh is more firm than the skinny ones and will better hold its shape. ~Elise
I once asked an older woman in Sicily what the real trick to beautiful capontata was. She informed me that to make caponata catanese (the style of catania) one must sauté each ingredient separately. Basically like this:
Boil chopped celery
saute julienned/chopped red peppers until VERY soft and skins can be easily removed
saute onions in a separate pan
in a large pot with plenty of oil start cooking the eggplant. when the eggplant is soft and cooked through add the strained celery, peppers, onions, tomatoes, capers, rasins, pine nuts. when this has all congealed together add the sugar and vinegar for that sweet and sour combo and cook for a few min longer.
Let it sit for at least an hour before serving. I usually make it this way and since it is so labor intensive (and oil intensive ;-), I’ll make a ton ton ton and then freeze batches in jars for an easy addition to dinner or a special appetizer for company!