Easy Eggplant Caponata (Authentic Recipe From Sicily)

June 30, 2023
When my family boarded our return home flight from Italy last summer, my husband looked at me and said “if they serve us eggplant on this flight, I am going to be sick.” We had just spent the past 14 days in my familial homeland of Sicily, living on my zio’s (uncle’s) beautiful orange orchard in Palagonia, just outside of Catania. Eggplant was in season, and it was abundant. We ate fried eggplant, eggplant salad, eggplant on pasta, eggplant on bread, and more eggplant. Sicilians typically eat a sweet breakfast, so luckily there was no eggplant for breakfast. My husband is not an eggplant fan, but he endured out of respect for my Sicilian family. He was looking forward to an eggplant-free return trip. But sadly, the main course in our first meal was eggplant and couscous! I enjoyed a double serving of eggplant on that flight.

Caponata is a savory, sweet, and sour Sicilian salad-like dish. It is often served as an appetizer or “antipasto,” before a main course. Caponata (pronounced “kah-poh-nah-tah”) features eggplant and also includes onions, tomatoes, celery, olives, and capers. It is best served the next day at room temperature, and is most delicious on a hearty slice of crusty Italian bread. Sometimes caponata is compared to ratatouille, but to me ratatouille is more stew like. While the the two dishes contain many of the same ingredients, caponata is less hearty and more light and tangy due to the combination of vinegar, olive brine, and capers.

I have been missing Sicily. We had plans to travel there again this summer. Even though my husband does not like eggplant, he has gone out of his way to make this tasty eggplant dish for me. Enjoying a homemade bowl of caponata made from a place of love brings my beautiful little island of Sicily into my Vermont home.
Eggplant Caponata on a green plate

Easy Eggplant Caponata (Authentic Recipe From Sicily)

Recipe Type: Appetizers Salads
utensils YIELDS serves 6
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  • 1 (or 1 1/4 lbs) large eggplant, cut into cubes
  • sprinkle Kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 celery stalk, chopped
  • to taste black pepper
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • 2 tsp sweetener, your choice (sugar or syurp)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp, or to taste crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint
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1. Place the cubed eggplant in a bowl with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Set it aside in a colander for 30 minutes to “sweat it out.” This process reduces the moisture and bitterness of the eggplant.

2. While waiting for the eggplant, prepare the other vegetables and ingredients, cutting the onions, celery, and peppers.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Fry the eggplant until lightly browned, then add the onions, celery, and bell pepper. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, tossing regularly until softened.

4. Add the tomatoes, capers, olives, sweetener, bay leaf and crushed pepper flakes. Pour in the vinegar. Stir to combine. Simmer on medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Finish with fresh basil, parsley, and mint.

5. For best flavor, let the caponata sit at room temperature for one hour. Serve with a crusty loaf of Italian bread, with a drizzle of olive oil.

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Photo: Angie Follensbee-Hall

Angie Follensbee-Hall
Angie is an artist, creativity mentor, and yoga teacher. She was born on the captivating island of Sicily at the base of Mt. Etna, and grew up running around in the quiet mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. Angie loves world cultures and has traveled across the US, Europe, and India. Her free-spirited childhood on two continents, cultural inspirations, and love of the natural world are primary influences in her art-making and creative living. Angie's studies include a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree in Education and Creative Practice from Goddard College. She is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher at the 500 hour level, teaching for over 14 years, a Reiki Master Teacher, a Certified Traditional Herbalist, an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Practitioner, and an Attunement Energy practitioner. She has led over 5,000 hours of professional classes and workshops. Learn more about Angie and her offerings at her website: angiefollensbeehall.com


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