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Real-deal Sicilian Caponata

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  • Author: Joe
  • Yield: 4-8 appetizer portions 1x


Caponata, ubiquitous in Sicily, is a delightful appetizer enjoyed especially during the summer when the main ingredients are fresh from the market or your garden.  The natural sweet and sour combination of tastes can be created with ingredients such as tomatoes, olives and capers. In this case, it’s important to get tomatoes you can taste ahead or a brand you know to be sweet. You can also use fresh tomatoes (blanch, peel and de-seed first).

Other suggested ingredients are golden raisins and pine nuts (both sweet) and red onions for some added zing. Cleaned and chopped red bell peppers are used in the version from Catania. 


  • 2 medium Italian eggplant (about 2 lbs total)
  • 6 celery stalks, trimmed, cleaned and cut into 1-inch segments (use the more tender stalks near the center of the bunch)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small
  • 10 or so green Sicilian olives, pitted and torn into pieces
  • 2 tbsps capers packed in brine or oil, drained
  • Half a 28-oz can of peeled Italian tomatoes, or 6-8 fresh plum tomatoes crushed by hand (see note 1 below)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sugar and vinegar only as needed
  • Slivered almonds, blistered cherry tomatoes (roasted or pan fried), and unsweetened baking cocoa for finishing touches


  1. Heat oven to 425℉. Trim off the ends of the eggplant then cut into 1-inch cubes. 
  2. Toss eggplant in a bowl with olive oil and salt to well coat.
  3. Roast on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper for about 45 minutes, tossing once, until golden brown but not burnt.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a small pot of water to boil. Blanch the celery for 1 minute, drain and set aside.
  5. Place a medium sauce pan over medium heat and add 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil. Add the diced onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté until soft and lightly browned, about 5 mins.
  6. Add the tomatoes, and sauté until soft and cooked through. Add the capers, olives and blanched celery and cook until the celery is soft and has lost its bright green color.
  7. Add the roasted eggplant and stir into the sauce. The point here is to rehydrate the eggplant with the tomato flavor so if needed, add a little water loosen up the sauce. Slowed cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  8. Add this point, taste the caponata and add salt as desired. Also, taste for the sweet and sour tastes. They should be subtle, but if needed add a little sugar or vinegar to balance the flavors.
  9. Allow the caponata to cool and refrigerate it overnight. The next day, bring it to room temperature.
  10. Plate the caponata on a shared dish for a group. Top with slivered almonds, a blistered cherry tomato per person, and a dusting of cocoa.


(1) if using fresh plum tomatoes, you must cut the bottoms, blanch, remove the skins, slice and remove most of the seeds.