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Published March 9, 2023. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This incredible caponata recipe is a Sicilian specialty of roasted onions, eggplant, olives, and tomatoes, for the perfect accompaniment to any dish. You will be blown away by the intense flavors in this dish.
Caponata is a classic Sicilian recipe commonly served as a side dish, salad, or relish. It consists of eggplant, onions, tomatoes, olives, capers, vinegar, sugar, and sometimes anchovies, basil, or pine nuts. I prefer to serve it as an appetizer on crostini, but it can be served as an accompaniment to Branzino or Halibut.
My grandma made caponata, except she called gabanadina. She would make it and then can it and serve it later. It is traditionally served at room temperature but can also be served hot or cold. My aunts and uncles still make this Sicilian specialty. This recipe will defer depending on who is making it.
- Eggplant – Use younger, smaller fresh eggplant.
- Tomatoes – I used a combination of canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and cherry tomatoes. You can, however, use all fresh tomatoes. Other sumptuous tomatoes would be canned crushed or fresh Roma tomatoes.
- Celery – Fresh sliced celery adds a lot of flavors to the caponata.
- Onions – You can use a red, white, yellow, or sweet onion. You will also need a few cloves of garlic.
- Olives – Green olives such as Castelvetrano work well. However, any black or green olive will work.
- Capers – These will add some nice brine-like flavors to the recipe.
- Vinegar – White wine vinegar is classically used. You can also use plain distilled vinegar.
- Sugar – Regular granulated sugar helps balance the sour, acidic flavors.
- Oil – You will need a high smoke-point oil like avocado and olive oil.
How to Make Caponata
Add some oil to a large rondeau pan or sauté pan over high heat until it begins to smoke.
Place in the eggplant and quickly sauté for 1 to 2 minutes or until browned but firm. While traditionally, olive oil would be used, it’s best to use a high smoking point oil so that it browns quickly and does not overcook.
Remove the eggplant and add olive oil to the pan and turn the heat down to medium heat.
Add in the onions and celery and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly caramelized.
Stir in the garlic and cook just until it’s fragrant, which takes about 30 to 45 seconds.
Add in the olives, capers, vinegar, and sugar and stir to combine.
Deglaze with the vinegar, add sugar, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Place in the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook until the mixture begins to thicken up. You may need to turn the heat from low to medium.
Finish by adding sliced fresh cherry tomatoes, seared eggplant, basil, salt, and pepper.
Serve, can, or place in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: You can make this up to 1 day ahead of time. I prefer to serve it on the same day so the eggplant does not break down too much.
How to Store: Cover the caponata and keep it in the refrigerator for 5 days. You can also can the caponata under 10 pounds of pressure for 30 minutes. This will not freeze well.
How to Serve: You can serve it cold, room temperature, or hot. If you want to serve it hot, add the desired amount to a small saucepan and heat over low heat until hot.
Chef Notes + Tips
- You can eat the skin on eggplant if it’s smaller. The bigger older eggplant tender to have tough skin.
- Feel free to add 3 roughly chopped anchovies or 2 tablespoons of pine nuts to the caponata.
- Herbs that work well in this are basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley.
- Other high smoke-point oils are vegetable, canola, or grapeseed.
- Can this caponata for 30 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.
More Italian Recipes
Sicilian Caponata Recipe
- 3 tablespoons avocado oil
- 1 medium size skin-on eggplant, cut into 1” pieces
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 peeled julienne white onion
- 2 thinly sliced ribs of celery
- 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves
- 1 cup sliced green olives
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 2/3 cup white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- Add the avocado oil to a large rondeau pan or sauté pan over high heat until it smokes.
- Place in the eggplant and quickly sauté for 1 to 2 minutes or until browned but firm. While traditionally olive oil would be used, it’s best to use a high smoking point oil so that it browns quickly and does not overcook.
- Remove the eggplant and set them aside on paper towels to drain. Add the olive oil to the pan and turn the heat o medium heat.
- Add in the onions, celery, and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly caramelized.
- Stir in the garlic and cook just until it’s fragrant, which takes about 30 to 45 seconds.
- Add in the olives, capers, vinegar, and sugar and stir to combine.
- Deglaze with the vinegar, add sugar, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
- Place in the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook until the mixture thickens. You may need to turn the heat to low medium.
- Finish by adding sliced fresh cherry tomatoes, seared eggplant, basil, salt, and pepper.
- Serve, can, or place in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.