Caponata is a traditional Sicilian dish that has been enjoyed for centuries.
This delicious and hearty vegetable stew is made with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, celery, capers, olives, and vinegar, all cooked together until they form a flavorful and aromatic dish.
These ingredients, already common in other typical Sicilian recipes – such as Pasta alla Norma and Eggplant Parmigiana – create a mix of aromas, colors and flavors that recall the suggestions of this beautiful island.
One of the keys to making a truly authentic caponata is to use fresh, high-quality ingredients.
The eggplant, in particular, should be firm and bright, with no signs of bruising or discoloration.
The tomatoes should be ripe and flavorful, and the onions should be sweet and fragrant.
Another important aspect of making an authentic caponata is the cooking method.
In the authentic caponata recipe, the eggplant is fried. But you can also make an excellent light caponata by sautéing the eggplants (more in the paragraph below).
Despite its simplicity, caponata is a versatile dish that can be served in many different ways. It can be eaten as a side dish or as a main course with crusty bread or pasta. Some people even enjoy it as a topping for pizza or as a dip for crackers or chips.
We will explore the history of caponata, its traditional ingredients and cooking methods, and provide a step-by-step guide to making an authentic caponata that will impress your family and friends.
So let’s get started and discover the delicious world of caponata!
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How to Make Caponata
- Prep Time: 1 H
- Cook Tim: 40 Min
- Servings: 6
- 3 large eggplants
- 1 large white onion
- 2 celery stalks
- 100 g (3/4 cup) of salted capers
- 200 g (1 cup) of green pitted olives
- 50 g (3 tablespoons) of pine nuts
- 150 ml (2/3 cup) of tomato passata
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 60 ml (1/4 cup) of white wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- vegetable oil for frying (such as peanut or canola oil)
- 1 tablespoon of coarse salt
- fine salt and ground black pepper
Prepare all the Ingredients
Step 1) – First, get all the ingredients ready. Cut the eggplants into small cubes and place them in a colander.
Sprinkle them with the coarse salt and let them drain for at least 30 minutes.
In this way the eggplants lose their water, which gives them a slightly bitter taste.
Step 2) – Then clean and slice the onion. Set aside.
Finally, dice the celery and place in a saucepan of boiling water (with 1/2 teaspoon of fine salt) and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Step 3) – Now desalt the capers. Wash them in cold water to remove the salt, dry and set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan for 1 or 2 minute.
Step 4) – Meanwhile, make the sweet and sour sauce. Mix the vinegar and sugar in a bowl and set aside.
Now it’s time to fry the eggplants. First rinse them with plenty of cold water. Then dry them with a kitchen towel.
Step 5) – Heat the oil in a frying pan with a high side, add a few eggplants at a time and fry for a few minutes.
When golden brown, drain with a skimmer and place on a tray lined with absorbent paper to remove excess oil, then set aside.
Make the Caponata Recipe
Step 6) – Now that all the ingredients are ready, start cooking the authentic caponata recipe.
Pour the extra virgin olive oil into a large saucepan. Heat it and add the onion. Sauté until the onion is soft and golden, then add the celery and capers. Stir and cook over medium heat for a few minutes.
Step 7) – Now add the olives and pine nuts. Finally add the tomato passata.
Step 8) – Stir, cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.
After this time, add a pinch of salt (if necessary, just taste it!) and then the sweet and sour sauce.
Increase the heat to medium, stir and cook until the vinegar scent has evaporated (about 2 or 3 minutes).
Step 9) – Turn off the heat and add the fried eggplants.
Mix well. Your authentic caponata recipe is ready!
Place the caponata in an baking pan and leave to cool at room temperature (or in the refrigerator).
The peculiarity of caponata is that it must be served COLD.
Even better if you make it the day before and eat it the next day!
How to Store Caponata
You can store Caponata in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Before storing, let the caponata cool to room temperature.
Then transfer the caponata to an airtight container. Glass or plastic containers with airtight lids are fine.
Caponata will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Can I Freeze Caponata?
Yes, if you want to store it for a longer period of time, you can freeze it for up to 1 month. Frozen caponata can be thawed overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
Caponata is traditionally eaten at room temperature. There is no need to reheat it.
However, if you want a warm caponata, you can always reheat it in a microwave or in a saucepan.
Authentic Caponata Recipe: Why Salt Eggplant Before Cooking?
Eggplant is known to absorb a lot of oil when fried or cooked, making them heavy and greasy. To prevent this, you can salt eggplant pieces before cooking. Salting removes excess moisture from the eggplant flesh, causing it to collapse and release some of its water content.
This reduces the amount of oil the eggplant absorbs during cooking, making it lighter and less greasy. In addition, the salt can also improve the flavor and texture of the eggplant by removing any bitterness.
To salt eggplant, chop it and sprinkle a little salt over it. Let the salted eggplant sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the salt to draw out excess moisture. Rinse the eggplant slices thoroughly under running water to remove any excess salt, then pat dry with a paper towel or clean cloth before cooking.
How to Serve Caponata
Caponata is a traditional Italian dish made with eggplant, onions, celery, capers and tomatoes. It is a delicious and versatile dish that can be served in many different ways.
A popular way to serve caponata is as an appetizer or side dish. In Italy, it’s usually served cold or at room temperature, making it a great option for a summer party or picnic. To serve it this way, simply place the caponata in a bowl or on a platter. You can even garnish it with fresh herbs like parsley or basil.
Another way to serve caponata is as a main dish. You can mix it with pasta, serve it with grilled chicken or fish, or even use it as a topping for bruschetta.
Overall, caponata is a delicious and versatile dish that can be served in many different ways. Whether you serve it as an appetizer or a main course, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.
Each town in Sicily has its own unique variation of the caponata recipe. Here are some of the most popular Caponata variations from different cities in Sicily.
PALERMO: The traditional Caponata of Palermo includes eggplant, celery, onions, capers, olives and tomato passata. It’s often served as a side dish or on bread.
CATANIA: Caponata from Catania includes the same ingredients as the Palermo version, but with the addition of yellow and red peppers.
TRAPANI: In Trapani, potatoes and peppers are added to the caponata. This version is usually served as a main course with bread.
AGRIGENTO: Caponata from Agrigento includes eggplant, yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, onion, celery, white or black olives, capers, vinegar, oil, salt and sugar. It’s often served as a side dish or topped with bruschetta.
MESSINA: Caponata from Messina is made with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. It’s typically served as a side dish or as a topping for pasta.
Each variation of Caponata has its own unique flavor and texture, but they all share the same basic ingredients. If you’re visiting Sicily, be sure to try the Caponata from different towns to experience the delicious variations!
Light Eggplant Caponata Recipe (NO FRYING)
You can make a light version of the caponata recipe, without frying the eggplant.
Sauté the onion and celery together in a frying pan. Add the chopped eggplant. Add oil if necessary (eggplant tends to absorb a lot of oil).
Season with salt and pepper to taste, stir and cook covered on a low heat for about 15-20 minutes.
Add the capers, olives and tomato passata. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar.
Finally, add the pine nuts and sweet and sour sauce. Turn up the heat and cook for a few minutes until the vinegar scent has evaporated. Turn off the flame and your light eggplant caponata is ready!
Caponata: History and Origins
In Sicily, the origin of the caponata recipe can be traced back to the word “capone”, which means “lampuga” in the Sicilian dialect.
It’s a fish with lean and precious meat, once served at aristocratic tables and seasoned with sweet and sour sauce.
Poor people who did not have this fish, or could not afford it, found that eggplant was an excellent substitute. Thus giving life to the recipe for caponata.
The first mention of caponata dates back to 1709, when the Etymologicum Siculum of S. Vinci defined it as “acetarium et variis rebus minuteum conficis” (a salad and various small cooked things).
In 1853, the historian Vincenzo Mortillaro from Palermo, in the Sicoliano-Italian Dictionary, described it as an “appetizing delicacy” made with “fish, petronciane (eggplants) or artichokes and other condiments, it’s usually eaten cold, or between one dish and another, or after the first hot dishes”.
Today there are at least 36 different types of caponata in Sicily, with different ingredients depending on the area: in Catania, for example, it’s made with red and yellow peppers, in Palermo with eggplant, olives, celery and tomatoes, and in Agrigento with peppers and black olives instead of green ones.
This is the authentic recipe of the Sicilian caponata of Palermo.
Best Eggplant Caponata (Web Story)