Caponata, or Capunata in the Sicilian dialect, is a dish from southern Italy that is beloved for its classic agrodolce (“sweet and sour”) taste. It may be eaten warm as a vegetable side dish, cold as an antipasto, or at room temperature on thin slices of Italian bread as an appetizer. Caponata is typically a summer dish, made when eggplants and tomatoes are at their peak. However, you can make it year round as long as you use good quality produce.
Choose firm eggplants with few seeds and avoid the temptation to cut it into too small a dice as the diced eggplant will take on so much oil that they will become heavy and you won’t be able to fully appreciate their creamy texture and flavor. If you have the time, try to prepare this dish at least one day before you plan on serving it- caponata’s flavors improve when given time to meld overnight.
This recipe makes 6 servings.
- 2 lbs. eggplant cut into 2″ cubes
- ½ cup kosher or sea salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 ripe medium tomatoes; cored, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 ribs celery, thinly sliced crosswise
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
- 12 pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons basil chiffonade
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- coarse kosher salt, to taste
Prepare the eggplant:
Prepare the eggplant by placing the cubes into a colander, heavily salt and set over a large bowl or plate to remove the bitterness. Top with a plate weighted down with a large can, and allow to drain for 1 hour. The bitter liquid will pool in the bowl or plate. Discard the liquid and rinse the eggplant cubes, pat dry with paper towels.
Fry the eggplant:
In a large skillet over medium high, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add 1/3 of the eggplant, and cook until golden brown, 7–8 minutes. Transfer the eggplant, using a slotted spoon, to a bowl. Repeat in batches of 1/3, adding additional 2 tablespoons of oil, if necessary, until all the eggplant is cooked.
Prepare the sauce:
Reduce heat to medium low and add remaining oil, and onions, then cook until soft, 14–15 minutes. Add tomatoes and celery, then increase heat to medium. Cook until tomatoes release their juices, 5–6 minutes. Add vinegar, sugar, and tomato paste, then cook until thickened, 3–4 minutes.
Bring it all together:
Add cooked eggplant, raisins, pine nuts, capers and olives, then adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook until hot.
Transfer to a serving bowl and let cool slightly. Top with basil.
last updated August 17, 2023