Bowl shown with Caponata and crackersIf you're not familiar with Caponata, think of a Sicilian version of chutney; or maybe ratatouille -- made into a condiment.

Here in Oregon I find that the eggplant is available just about the same time the tomatoes are losing their summer glow, that's the time to act.

The flexibility of this recipe is awesome. Its cornerstone is eggplant but you'll add olives, celery, capers and other fresh vegetables that complement each other and add to its complexity. It's savory, sweet and sour all at once. This dish is best eaten the next day, when the flavors have developed. It keeps for several weeks as long as it's refrigerated. A little goes a long way and it's safe to say that it's not for the faint palate. Serve it on crostini, or put a spoonful on fish. Lively and bursting with flavor, this one is delish!

There's a fair amount of prep to this recipe, so put on some good music, sharpen your knife and enjoy cooking.

Total Time: Approx 3.5 hours
Yield: Approx 40 servings as a condiment
Level: Average

Image of some fresh ingredients for CaponataIngredients:
2 eggplants
2 tbsp coarse salt (to prep the eggplant)
2 large red onions
5 stalks of celery
1/4 lb black Greek olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 lb Sicilian green olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup olive oil
5-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup pignoli nuts
2-4 tbsp capers
1 1/2 tbsp wine vinegar
1 roasted red or orange pepper (fresh or canned)
1 cup fresh tomatoes chopped
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and peel the eggplant, cut into one inch cubes.  Put in a bowl and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place a bowl or plate on top and add weight with some cans. This will help squeeze out the juices of the eggplant, which can be bitter. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Image showing how to weight the eggplant to extract the dark juices of the eggplant before preparing CaponataSlicing the eggplant for CaponataCubed eggplant for Caponata

Slice the onions very thin and soak them in ice water for 30 minutes to take the bite out of them.
Cut celery lengthwise and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.
Pit and rough chop the olives.
Roast the pepper (or use 3/4 cup prepared, roasted peppers) and chop into bite-sized pieces.
Chop the tomatoes. If the seeds are bothersome run them through a food mill and strain.

SImmering the vegetables -- before adding the eggplant for CaponataDrain the onions and pat dry. Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes. Add celery, tomatoes, tomato paste, capers, pignoli nuts and the red peppers. Cover the skillet and let it stand while you prepare the eggplant.

Cooking the eggplant before adding them to the rest of the vegetables for CaponataWash the eggplant to remove the salt, pat dry. Heat the remaining oil in another skillet and saute the eggplant until it's cooked. If you don't have another large skillet, use what you have and saute them in stages. They should be done in approx 15 minutes.

The final step. Adding the eggplant to the rest of the vegetables for CaponataDrain the eggplant and add to the first skillet. Simmer on a low heat for 10 minutes. Add garlic, wine vinegar and sugar and continue to simmer until the liquid evaporates. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix well. 

At this point the flavors are somewhat immature. The tomatoes and paste can be somewhat acidic, remember that the salt will remedy that. Remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer to a serving bowl or jars. Best eaten at room temperature.


  1. Sounds yummy! Will have to try this

  2. I love eggplant and haven't had caponata in years -- looking forward to trying your recipe!