Last week I shared my recipe for grilled aubergines, which brought back memories of my summers in Sicily. Well, this is another dish which I ate almost every single day that I was out in Sicily. It’s something I often crave and it certainly makes me feel nostalgic. As we can’t jump on a plane anywhere at the moment, let’s bring a bit more of Sicily into our homes with my Caponata recipe.
Now, there will be plenty of debates as to how a traditional Caponata is made. Different parts of the island make it differently, so this Caponata is based on where I’m from in Sicily on the East coast (Catania way). No doubt every village and every family has their own way of making Caponata, but I hope you enjoy my way of making this. Honestly, when I make it and dive in, this Caponata sends me straight back to the beautiful island and just brings me so much joy!
Now there are a few stages to making this Caponata, so I would recommend making a big batch like I’ve provided below. This will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days (if you can make it last that long) and so I recommend making the effort and doing this big portion. It’s a great one to enjoy as part of a BBQ, an Antipasti board or just on its own for lunch. You will need to prepare the aubergines a little ahead of time to allow them to extract all the moisture, so get those in their salt bath in the morning and then you can even prepare the other elements so you can then just throw it all together.
The full method for this Caponata is below, but here is a quick recap of the main prep elements you will need to do:
Aubergines – diced and salt bath – minimum 1 hour before cooking
Celery – boil for 5 minutes, drain set aside
Pine Nuts – toast 5-7 minutes, set aside
Capers – drained and rinsed thoroughly
If at the moment, you can’t get hold of certain ingredients then you can switch these up:
You can remove the peppers completely if you’re not a fan. I believe my part of the island is where peppers are added but not everywhere includes them – and you can use whatever colour one you like.
If you only have black olives that’s also ok!
I have made this using apple cider vinegar before so that’s a great swap out.
Use a white onion if that’s all you’ve got.
If you don’t have tinned chopped tomatoes, you can use mature salad tomatoes – simply slice them and cut out the seeds before dicing them up. You will need to use around 4-6 tomatoes and you might need to add some water to the pan to create a sauce base.
I served mine with my own homemade sourdough bread which is perfect for mopping up all the wonderful juices! So go ahead and give this Caponata a try and take yourself to Sicily with every mouthful!
Prep time: 15 minutes + 1 hour salt bath Cook time: 1 hour Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes + 1 hour salt bath
Ingredients 1kg Aubergines (roughly 4 aubergines), diced 4 Celery sticks, rinsed & thinly chopped 100g Pine nuts 2 Medium Red onions, halved & thinly sliced 1 Red pepper, deseeded & diced 1 Yellow pepper, deseeded & diced 2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped 400g Tinned chopped tomatoes 1 Tbsp Tomato paste 100g Green olives, pitted 4 Tbsp Capers, drained & rinsed 1/3 Cup White wine vinegar 2 Tbsp Sugar Olive oil Extra virgin olive oil Vegetable oil Salt Pepper
Place your diced aubergines into a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave for at least 1 hour to extract the moisture. Meanwhile prepare the rest of your vegetables.
Boil your celery for 5 minutes, drain and set aside. Place your pine nuts in a dry frying pan and gently toast on a medium heat for around 5-7 minutes moving them around frequently so they don’t burn. Remove and set aside.
When your aubergines are ready, dry them thoroughly using kitchen roll – this will also remove the salt. Place a medium-sized frying pan on high heat and add around an inch of vegetable oil. To check if the oil is ready, place the bottom of a wooden spoon into the oil, if you see small fast-moving bubbles, your oil is ready. Reduce the heat to medium-high and fry the aubergine in batches – around 3-4 minutes a side until golden. If they start to burn, reduce the heat, if they’re taking too long to go golden, increase the heat. Remove and set aside in a bowl lined with kitchen roll.
In a separate large frying pan, or casserole dish, add 2 Tbsp Olive oil and heat on medium. Add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the peppers and allow to cook on a medium-low heat for around 10-15 minutes until the peppers soften and the onions caramelise.
Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute before adding the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Stir to combine and ensure the paste has dissolved. Simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes.
Carefully add the boiled celery, fried aubergine, capers, olives and toasted pine nuts to the sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper before leaving it for a further 5 minutes.
Increase the heat the high and add in the vinegar and sugar. Stir to ensure the sugar is incorporated and dissolves and leave to boil for 3-5 minutes until the vinegar has evaporated. Reduce the heat to a simmer, adjust the seasoning if needed otherwise you’re good to go! I love to drizzle a final couple Tbsp of Extra virgin olive oil at the end so I get a lovely oily juice to dip my bread in!
Caponata is best served cold if you can bare to wait for it to cool! Get yourself some crusty bread and dig right in!