Sep 3, 2010

Caponata recipe

Italy is one great vegetable patch from the Alps down to the Sicilian volcanoes. Anything that can be cultivated easily turns into delightful side dishes of one sort or another, many of which also double as main course in a light meal, or a pasta condiment. The sunny climate, close proximity to Mediterranean coastlines, hard water and mineral-rich volcanic soil, all contribute in giving Italian vegetables an intense, unique flavor.

The savory dish most people probably associate with Sicily than any other is caponata, an eggplant delight of purported Spanish origin that has spread throughout the Peninsula. But much of the caponata eaten outside of its volcanic island home is a shadow of what it should be–a piquant delicacy ideal for perking up a lethargic appetite on a hot summer day.

4 kg (8.8 lbs) eggplants
200 g (1 cup) Kalamata or Gaeta olives, pitted
100 g (1/2 cup) salted capers, rinsed
2 kg (4.4 lb) celery
3 large onions, finely sliced
4 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped
100 ml (3 fl oz) wine vinegar
2 tbsp. sugar
Fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp. pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil

Begin by stripping the stringy fibers from the celery stalks, and blanch them in lightly salted water for 5 minutes. Drain them, cut them into small chunks, sauté them in a little oil, and set them aside.

Wash the eggplants, dice them, put the pieces in a large colander, sprinkle them liberally with salt, and let them sit for 30 minutes to draw out their bitter juices. Once the eggplants have been "purged," rinse away the salt and pat the pieces dry.

Sauté the onions in olive oil; once they become translucent, add the capers, pine nuts, olives, and tomatoes. Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the tomatoes are done, about 15 minutes, and then remove the pot from the stove.

While the tomatoes are cooking, heat some olive oil in a large skillet, and fry the diced eggplant. Do this in several batches to keep the oil from cooling down.

When the last batch is done, return the tomato pot to the fire and stir in the fried eggplant, together with the previously sautéed celery. Cook for several minutes over a low flame, stirring gently, then pour in the vinegar and the sugar. When the vinegar has almost completely evaporated remove the pot from the fire and let it cool.

Serve your caponata at room temperature, garnished with fresh basil. There will be a lot, but don't worry, because it keeps for several days in the fridge, and it is common Sicilian knowledge that tastes better after a few days. Makes a perfect sandwich filler too...
Image credits: joana hard, miss_yasmina


  1. Your recipe looks delicious. I am looking forward to trying it but I am a little confused with the olives. Recipe states green but the picture looks like black or kalamati olives?

  2. That fits the season so well! Healthy yet so good! I would love this with some vino. Bread of course:)

  3. I once opened a book by Mario Batali, and I put it back on the shelf when I read that he put cocoa powder in the caponata recipe.

    from then on, I thought the guy was a fake. BUT, a couple of days ago, someone on another culinary blog, told me that in a certain area of Sciliy they DO use cocoa powder!

    crazy, sin't it?

  4. I love the way you describe this dish "a piquant delicacy ideal for perking up a lethargic appetite on a hot summer day." - beautiful! I will put this on my to do list!!!

  5. mmm...i have never been big on eggplant...mostly because we did not fix it well...but this might just be the trick...

  6. I love love love caponata and am looking forward to trying yours - the recipe I use currently has different ratios and no sugar. I have noticed that people can get very intense about their opinions of whether caponata should contain sugar and/or vinegar.

  7. I have had Componata since I was a little girl-my Mom served it often.......but from a can.

    I since have located a recipe which I use-it even has cocoa in it and it's delicious-but it certainly looks mushier than it looks in your photos.

    My friends who swear that they 'hate' eggplant can never get enough Camponata.

    No one should worry about making 'too much' it ALWAYS gets gobbled up immediately!

    And you know what? Camponata is comfort food, too.

  8. I think I make something similar by accident sometimes. I like to just saute up eggplant, tomatoes, and onions and serve it over pasta.

    This recipe adds some extra flavor.

  9. This is another of your delicious sounding dishes I need to try, do you have an easy print version button on your blog somewhere?

  10. Anonymous~ The olives can be green, Kalamata, Gaeta... whatever as long as they participate! ;)
    CChuck~ Definitely LOTS of pane & vino!
    Tuscan Foodie~ I had heard about the cocoa powder... as much as I adore the cacao bean, I just didn't feel like including it in this!
    Kristie~ Let me know the result when you eventually do, OK?
    Brian~ As Roseann mentions below, even eggplant-haters love this...
    Valerie CLE~ There's a sugar/vinegar-less version, but I think it's not from Sicily. I love the sweet & sour edge.
    Roseann~ Definitely comfort food! Mine's mushy too, but it doesn't photograph well, so I èpicked these "prettier" portraits...
    Megan~ I use my caponata leftovers for pasta, to top pizza, and to stuff panini!
    Lindy~ I used to have one... what happened? Will fix it now.


  11. Lindy– the Print option is back and more visible. All you do is click on the post title and you'll see it at the end of the recipe. This button is only visible at the end of individual posts, not the Home landing page!
    (still figuring how to exclude comments from the printer page...)


  12. Your caponata looks wonderful. I can't wait to try it. Caponata is one of my husbands favorites. He's going to love this one. Thanks

  13. Amazing recipe. I'm going to have to try this if I can find some good eggplant at the farmers market tomorrow morning.

    I find it interesting that some have mentioned cocoa. I would be inclined to try your version of the recipe first. But it made me think of a recipe, about which I once heard from a friend, for a version of melanzane alle parmigiana (I think he claimed it was Neapolitan): he claimed it incorporated a layer of bittersweet chocolate(!). I recall him saying it was something he had learned from someone at Peter Kump's school. Anyway, just throwing that out there as a curiosity...

  14. Theresa~ Excellent! Let me know how it turns out, OK? And if your hubby liked it ;)

    Daniel~ Thank you for your visit! I may be no chef, but as 1/4 Neapolitan, and I can *assure* you there is no bittersweet chocolate in the authentic Melanzane alla Parmigiana. I posted my recipe for Melanzane alla Parmigiana a few weeks ago, so you can check for yourself, and perhaps make that too, if it sounds inviting!

    Maybe Peter Kump confused his eggplant recipes! ;)

    Buon Appetito!

  15. Ciao!! I love your blog. I followed & I put your button on my blog. I love this post. This looks really good!!

  16. Just discovered you through Michelle Fabio's blog and thought you might be interested in our September Grantourismo Travel/Food Blogging Competition as this month as our theme is food - we're asking people to create a blog post (on their site) on a quintessential dish of a place (which can include a recipe).
    We've got loads of great prizes, including a stay in a holiday rental anywhere in the world, plus an Olympus camera, Context & Viator tours (including cooking courses & food & wine tours!), use of an Our Explorer guide AFAR magazine subscription. More details here:

  17. Wow your photos are stunning. You created a truly delicious looking caponata.

  18. Sweet Life~ Thank you, so glad to meet you!!

    Lara~ Wow, thank you Lara, I will definitely particiapte!! Thank you for visiting, leaving your kind comment and introducing me to Granturismo!

    Linda~ Thank you, but neither photo is mine, I borrowed both, and the talented authors are credited at the bottom of the page. ;)

  19. Thanks Laura for sorting out the print button. however it is six pages for this post and I am too green to justify printing that much, so will revert to plan B and use paper and a pen :(

  20. thank you for this eleonora, looks scrumptious --

    sadly - even tho it was a good italian brand - i've only ever had the canned version of caponata...

  21. Lindy~ If I could only remove the comments from the print page template... Sorry!
    Amanda~ Oh well then, you MUST make this using my recipe!! ;)

  22. Ciao!!Glad you love the blog hop. You're very welcome!
    This Weekend Blog Hop is my first one. I'm sort of new at blogging. I had it for about a year but I haven't been blogging daily, so my blog wasn't active for awhile, I had to make changes to it & everything. So it's up & running, so I decided to do a blog hop for fun. You are very welcome!! Thank you for your kind words,stopping by & for following. Sure I'll sign up for the newsletter,where do I sign up for it? I hope you enjoy your Sunday.

  23. Ciao Alexandra,
    good luck on all your blogging, it was a life-changing experience for me! To sign up for my e-Newsletter, go to my blog sidebar and fill out the form under the heading: SIGN UP FOR MY FREE NEWSLETTER.

  24. Hi Eleanora, I have all the ingredients for caponata, except I have finocchio instead of celery-don't ask- going to experiment tomorrow afternoon. I've put your badge on my blog to promote your recipes. Super-can't cook-Ali.

  25. Hi Eleanora, I have all the ingredients for caponata, except I have finocchio instead of celery-don't ask- going to experiment tomorrow afternoon. I've put your badge on my blog to promote your recipes. Super-can't cook-Ali.

  26. Superali~ Thank you for putting up my badge, I am honored! As far as finocchio... it's better left out. It would be too much of an anise flavor, too particular. Just omit the celery altogether. It won’t alter the overall recipe, you’ll just be minus the celery flavor. Worse comes to celery salt? ;)

  27. I am depressed. My 66th birthday looms on the horizon. For the past two birthdays, I was in Rome, staying at the Hotel Napoleon where I have become a loyal fan. Both years, I ate at the Resaurante D'Orso 80 ( I think I have the name right ) which was recommended by a sales clerk at the Harley shop in Rome. Alas, since massive budget cuts 18 months ago eliminated my nursing job of 21 years, I am no longer traveling and must spend this birthday at home, something I haven't done in almost 20 years. Perhaps I will fix your caponata recipe and toast myself with a Bellini cocktail beforehand.

  28. LindyLouMac--

    How about trying this:

    Open a new 'Word Processing' document

    "Highlight" as much of the blog post as you want to print.....

    "Copy" that to your Clipboard

    "Paste" into that new document........

    I'm using 'Mac Speak' cuz that's what I work on .....perhaps someone can translate into PC lingo.....

  29. RNSANE~ I am so sorry, I had no idea you had to go through that. 21 years? I'm crushed by the news.
    Yes, this upcoming birthday deserves optimism, good food, wine and friends. Cook up some Caponata, invest in a few good bottles and loaves of good bread, invite your closest friends and ask them to each cook something. If I had the means, I'd come sweep you up with my private jet and have you blow out the candles at the top of the Palatine hill... dreaming is gratis, thank God.

    Roseann~ Thank you for your suggestion... anyone know how to hack Html coding to eliminate comments from the Print Page?


  30. Roseann - that is exactly what I have now done, thankyou for the suggestion. I am so slow in working these technical things out :(

  31. Lindy & Roseann~ I love that you're having this conversation in my kitchen, while I cook us up some aperitivo. That's why I started blogging in the first place!

    Ciao amiche
    E. xx

  32. Made the caponata, with celery (managed to stick to a menu for the first time in my life). It was delicious and Gastro-gnome said it was the best think I've cooked him in 10 years. Quote " The veg were actually cooked Ali, not like the teeth-breaking branches you usually serve me".

  33. Ali~ My heart is bursting with pride! Brava!! I'm so happy it was a success, an mostly that you reported back. When I started food-blogging it was my primary desire, to discuss the final outcome with the users!!
    OK, you've mastered Caponata. Now we need to upgrade you to... (suspence music) FRYING!

    Click on the blue word and let me know.

  34. Great alongside eggs-over-easy! Salute!

  35. Rosaria~ Yes! Oh how I wish we could be eating this together. One day... :)

  36. Love caponata. In fact, I had the BEST caponata at a small trattoria in Rome. It had a little sweetness which was nice. Great photos :)

  37. Robin @ MM~
    I hope none of my Sicilian friends are reading this now, but the absolute best caponata is eaten in Rome at a small wine bar in Monti called Al Vino Al Vino...


  38. Just finished making the caponata recipe this afternoon. Couldn't wait for it to cool down to have a taste. Absolutely delicious. Can't wait to see what it tastes like tomorrow!
    Thanks for posting.