Rich and almost creamy and packed with amazing flavour, this Sicilian caponata is a vegetarian feast either as a main dish or side dish, or even as a starter too.
Why you’ll love this Mediterranean recipe
- Sicilian caponata is a one-pan meal, all in one place and less washing up.
- Versatility – serve caponata as a starter, side or main dish.
- Your aubergine/eggplant caponata will be ready in about 30 minutes, that’s real food and fast too!
- This is a great vegetarian dish perfect for those following the Mediterranean diet too.
What is Sicilian caponata?
This is a classic dish from the Italian island of Sicily. The name caponata comes from the Italian ‘companatico’ meaning ‘eaten with bread’ and that’s how it is normally eaten.
Up until the 1700s Sicilian caponata (caponata alla Siciliana) was a main dish and would simply be served with bread. Nowadays caponata can be served as a side or a starter too.
Originally caponata was a dish made by the fisherman’s wives and of course, had fish in it. In fact in the Palermo region of Sicily where I once worked many years ago this caponata is often still made with fish.
However, way back in time the poor could not afford the fish content so aubergines/eggplant was substituted instead and Sicilian Caponata became a vegetarian dish.
There are many versions of this classic Mediterranean vegetable stew from all over the island.
Sicily is famous for its interesting flavour combinations when it comes to food and caponata is no different. There is a delightfully sweet yet savoury taste to this stewed vegetable dish. What the Sicilians call agrodolce, the mix of sweet and sour.
What is the difference between ratatouille and caponata?
These two Mediterranean vegetable dishes may sound very similar. Ratatouille hails from the south of France and tends to include courgettes/zucchini and more herbs. Caponata is very much Sicilian with the capers and the sweet/sour element.
Sicilian caponata is an aubergine/eggplant stew/cooked salad dish so obviously, the aubergine is the star of the show here.
Other veggies include onion, celery, red peppers, tomatoes and capers.
The capers give a salty savouriness to the caponata.
Pine nuts give texture and sweetness.
You will also need olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar for sweetness. You can use honey if you like here or omit the sweetener completely if you prefer. But the whole agrodolce is the mix of sweet and sour. The capers and vinegar giving that sourness and the pine nuts and touch of sugar/honey the sweetness.
As I’ve already said this Sicilian caponata is a one pan meal. You just have to do things step by step here but all in the one pan.
Firstly dry toast the pine nuts for barely a minute till they turn golden and release that gorgeous nutty aroma. Do not leave the cooker for a minute here as they can easily catch and burn. This is no time to answer your phone or nip to the loo!
Tip out the pin nuts onto a dish and set aside while you add oil to the pan and fry the aubergine/eggplant for 5 minutes then set them aside on another plate while you saute the onion, celery and red pepper in the pan.
Now toss in the aubergine/eggplant and add the tomatoes and capers and some seasoning and saute for 15 minutes till all the veggies are lovely and tender.
Add your balsamic vinegar, the sugar (or honey) and stir through. Finish with the pine nuts and some torn basil leaves on top and your caponat is done.
Cut all your vegetables into pieces the same sizeso they cook at a similar time. I cut mine to 1cm pieces.
I peeled my tomatoes by dunking them in boiling water for 30 seconds then removing the skins. You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.
You can serve Sicilian caponata either hot or cold which makes it a truly versatile dish. Serve this as an appetizer possibly on crostini .
This delicious eggplant stew makes a great main course just served with crusty bread to dip in there and wipe up all that amazing juice and flavour. You can add a dollop of mozzarella cheese (or Burata) as I have here to add some wonderful creaminess to the dish.
Serve as a side dish to anything from roast chicken to pork chops. Caponata is great with BBQ too.
You can also serve this vegetable dish with pasta. I like to have it with everything from tortolini to spaghetti, whatever I happen to have in the house.
How much does this recipe make?
I got 4 servings from my caponata recipe. This was serving it with some burata on the side and crusty bread.
You can make this caponata ahead of time up to 48 hours and just store in the fridge. Then serve it either hot or cold.
This will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days in a covered container. You can freeze Sicilian caponata for up to 6 months.
Looking for more deliciously simple aubergine/eggplant dishes to try? Then check these out before you go or head over to my Vegetarian Section for a whole host of great recipes.
Finally, if you do try this recipe don’t forget to leave a comment/star rating below as I just love to hear from readers. Want more Larder Love? Then follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and sign up for my newsletter too of course.
- 50 g pine nuts
- 100 ml olive oil
- 1 aubergine eggplant chopped 1cm
- 1 onion chopped 1 cm
- 4 sticks celery chopped 1 cm
- 1 red pepper chopped 1cm
- 200 g tomatoes about 4 tomatoes peeled and chopped
- 30 g capers
- 50 ml balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar or honey
- 4 tbsp basil basil leaves torn
- salt and pepper to taste
- toast the pine nuts in dry pan for about 1 minute till golden and fragrant then tip out onto plate and set aside
- Add half the oil to the pan and fry the aubergine for 5 minutes then tip out and set aside
- Add remaining oil to pan and fry the celery onion and red pepper for 5 minutes,
- Add the aubergine, tomatoes and capers and saute for 15 minutes
- Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and stir through then add pine nuts. Season to taste and sprinkle with the torn basil leaves