Caponata is a wonderful dish made primarily with eggplant and other vegetables then combined with various vinegars and sugar to produce an “agrodolce” or a “sweet and sour” taste.
Caponata is mostly identified as a Sicilian dish though beyond that it’s origins are unknown. If you search for a “classic” caponata recipe you’ll find many and they’re all different, often very much so. You’ll find recipes that grill the all the vegetables then mix them together with other ingredients; you’ll find recipes that stew everything together. You will also find recipes that use tomatoes and others that don’t. Some recipes use only red wine vinegar or only balsamic vinegar; some recipes use both. Many versions include raisins, pignioli nuts, olives and capers. Other versions peel the eggplant while others don’t. However it’s made, caponata can be served as an appetizer, as a side or even as a main dish; and it can be served cold, room temperature or even warm. So what it really comes down to is that everyone who makes and serves caponata has his or her own way of doing so. In other words it’s an incredibly versatile dish, in every way.
I’ve been making caponata for years and my version evolved from several recipes I have found, from sampling many variations made by others and by experimenting with and refining my own preferred ingredients and method for preparation. This has led to a version that suits my tastes, to that of my family, and to what I believe conforms to and can reasonably be called Caponata. At least as much as any other “classic” version can be. My method involves stewing the vegetables in red wine vinegar and at the end of the cooking cycle adding chopped olives, capers and balsamic vinegar. This results in a sweet and “tangy“ preparation. Also keep in mind that caponata is best made at least a day before you intend to serve it to allow all the flavors to blend and mellow.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy caponata is served on bruschetta, toasted Italian bread. A special treat would be to use homemade Italian bread a recipe for which can be found here on Così Italiano at, HOMEMADE ITALIAN BREAD – PANE CASERECCIO. This is a great as as a snack or as part of an antipasto. Simply slice the bread into thick slices, toast, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and then top with a couple of spoonful’s of caponata. Another idea is to use ciabatta rolls cut in half and toasted. Fast, simple and delicious.
As I mentioned above, the caponata is best made at least a day before serving, and it will remain fresh in a tightly sealed container for several days.
- 1 Large eggplant, peeled or unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 Large yellow onion, chopped into ½ inch dice
- 1 Red pepper, chopped into ½ inch dice
- 1 Green pepper, chopped into ½ inch dice
- 2 Stalks celery, white lobes and leaves removed, chopped
- 4 Cloves garlic, finely chopped, or more to taste
- 2 cups Crushed tomatoes
- 14.5 ounce Can regular or petite-diced tomatoes with juice
- 2 tbsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 can Black or green olives, or use some of both, coarsely chopped
- 2 ounces Capers, non-pereil
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ½ cup Red wine vinegar
- ½ cup Balsamic vinegar
- In a deep saucepot, add the olive oil and peppers and celery and sauté over medium heat for 2 minutes.
- Add the onions and garlic and continue to sauté for 3 more minutes.
- Add the eggplant and red wine vinegar and stir all the vegetables together, cover and let cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant just begins to soften. You’ll see this when all the eggplant has changed color.
- Add the diced tomatoes with juice, crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, sugar and salt and mix everything together. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce the heat to simmer. Be sure to stir frequently and as the caponata stews, taste to adjust seasoning.
- Continue to simmer and stir for about an hour until the eggplant is cooked through and most the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and add the chopped olives, capers and balsamic vinegar to taste and mix well.
- Allow the caponata to cool to room temperature then store in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container until ready to serve. Note that this freezes well.
- Crusty Italian bread sliced thick or ciabatta rolls cut in half
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Toast the bread slices and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.
- Top with a couple of spoonful’s of caponata or your favorite topping
Image: Eggplant and tomato caponata is used under license from Adobe Stock: © fahrwasser