Sicilian Caponata – Aubergine Stew

Sicilian Caponata (Caponata Siciliana di melanzane) is a traditional aubergine dish perfect to share as a side or appetizer.

I grew up in Sicily with my mum’s incredible caponata, so that’s the one I’m sharing with you today.

She’s originally from Palermo and sticks to the original recipe, but makes it lighter by roasting the aubergine instead of frying.

This classic Italian recipe is naturally dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan, making a fantastic allergy-friendly option to serve at dinner parties and get-togethers.

Aubergine Caponata in a skillet with bread on the side.

WHAT IS CAPONATA?

The classic Sicilian Caponata recipe is a vegetable stew (similar to a relish) made with simple veggies simmered in a distinctive sweet & sour sauce.

Every family in Sicily follow its own recipe, but this traditional Sicilian aubergine dish should always include:

  • aubergine
  • celery
  • fresh tomatoes
  • green or black olives
  • capers
  • pine nuts

Some popular additions include tomato sauce or paste, bell pepper, sultanas or chopped almonds.

Eggplants, tomatoes, celery, pine nuts, olive, basil, onion, garlic, capers on a wood board

The main ingredients of the caponata di melanzane, aubergine and celery, are cooked separately to preserve their texture and flavour.

Then, they are mixed together with the rest of the ingredients at the very end of the recipe.

How To Make Caponata

It may sound a bit laborious, but this aubergine dish comes together in less than 1 hour and requires very little cooking skills.

Start by blanching the celery.

Throw the chopped celery in a pot of boiling water and take it out after a minute or two.

I like celery on the crisper side, so I’d leave mine not more than one minute.

After a quick bath in ice-cold water, I’ll let it dry over a sieve covered with a kitchen cloth.

This process keeps the celery crunchy and retains its vibrant green colour.

boiled celery and then drained on a colander

The next step is frying or roasting the aubergine.

The traditional recipe calls for deep-fried aubergine cubes, but I’ve swapped it in favour of healthier oven-roasted crispy aubergine.

You can use extra-virgin olive oil or oil and roasted it for about 30 minutes – it came out perfectly crispy on the outside and beautifully soft within.

Note: To make the traditional caponata, simply deep-fry the aubergine cubes for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through.

Once ready, transfer them onto a plate covered with kitchen paper, to absorb the oil in excess, and proceed with the recipe.

Caponata aubergine stew topped with olives, capers and pinenuts.

Get the rest of the ingredients ready.

In a large pan saute onion, garlic and tomatoes, until soft and caramelized.

There’s an ongoing debate on whether to use tomato passata/paste or just simply chopped fresh tomatoes.

I personally opt for fresh tomatoes, and I add a teaspoon of tomato concentrate for a nice burst of umami.

Sicilian caponata in a large pan served with bread.

Fold in the remaining vegetables.

Add in the roasted aubergine, celery, green or black olives ( I used Kalamata olives), capers and toasted pine nuts. 

Now, it’s time to give your dish its unique sweet & sour taste. 

Add in sugar and vinegar and simmer for a few minutes, until all the ingredients and flavours combine to perfection.

Just before serving, top it off with loads of fresh basil and oregano.

If you manage to wait, let it rest for a few hours or overnight. Caponata siciliana is one of those dishes that tastes a ton better the next day.

This epic aubergine caponata has an irresistible crunchy and soft texture, with a delicate sweet and sour taste that will make your tastebuds rejoice.  

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata served as bruschetta and in a pan

SERVING TIPS

You can serve this veggie-loaded Sicilian dish with warm toasted bread, for a great rustic appetizer to share.

If you want to make a meal out of it, just pair it with your favourite protein!

Try it with classic grilled fish or chicken cutlets, or with a steak salad.

I often make an all-vegetarian meal and serve it with a classic potato frittata, and a large all-veggie quinoa salad.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

Please let me know how you liked it! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thepetitecook! Looking at your pictures always makes me smile *and super hungry*!

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Traditional Sicilian Caponata (Caponata Siciliana di melanzane) is a traditional aubergine dish perfect to share as a side or appetizer.

Prep Time30 mins

Cook Time50 mins

Total Time1 hr 50 mins

Course: Side

Cuisine: Italian

Serving: 4

Calories: 254kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large celery stalks diced
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 200 gr cherry tomatoes halved (or 4 large ripe tomatoes , roughly chopped)
  • 1-2 tbsp salted capers rinsed, soaked and drained
  • handful green or black olives stones removed (I used Kalamata olives)
  • 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tsp double concentrate tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp apple vinegar
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  • handful fresh oregano leaves
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 180C and arrange a baking tray into the middle shelf.

  • Cut the aubergine evenly into medium-sized chunks, sprinkle with coarse salt and leave to rest in a colander for at least 30 min, then quickly wash under running water and pat dry on a kitchen cloth.

  • Place the aubergine chunks in a large bowl and coat with corn or olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and arrange on a baking tray. Roast in the oven until crispy and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

  • Place the diced celery in a pot of boiling water with a little salt and blanch for 1-2 minutes. Drain and transfer to a sieve covered with a kitchen cloth.

  • Heat a large pan with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in chopped onion, garlic and halved tomatoes. Cook over low-heat until the onion is nicely caramelized and tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes.

  • Throw in capers, olives, toasted pine nuts, and roasted aubergine. Add in the tomato paste and one tablespoon of water, if you feel it’s getting too dry.

  • Sprinkle with sugar and drizzle with vinegar. Simmer until the vinegar has evaporated, then cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes over low-heat, until all ingredients are cooked through.

  • Top your caponata with teared basil leaves and oregano, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with toasted rustic bread.

Notes

Note: to follow the traditional recipe, deep-fry the aubergine cubes for 4-5 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through.
Once ready, transfer them into a plate covered with kitchen paper, to absorb the oil in excess, and proceed with the recipe.
Storage tips:
Store caponata in an airtight container, it keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 254kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 57mg | Potassium: 738mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 339IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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