Vegetable dishes from my Nonna and her recipe book have to be my favorite recipes.
Today, I’ll share one of the first meatless dishes I ate with my Nonna Santa each week, it’s called Sicilian aubergine caponata.
Sicilian Aubergine Caponata
Truly a hearty dish, loaded with eggplant, celery, garlic, and tomatoes, and more.
I’ll share the recipe, or you can jump to the recipe if you prefer but you might miss out on some important points.
The eggplant is cooked down, or ‘fried’, I say it is sauteed in a pan, and other veggies are added in.
It’s not a long process, nor is it a watched pot.
What results is a delicious ‘stew-like’ vegetable mixture that can be used in so many ways.
This is a fabulous recipe to create when you have too much celery, and an eggplant you bought and didn’t use!
A recipe built on all fresh ingredients that boom with depth in flavor once combined is the best way to describe my Sicilian aubergine caponata!
But to be sure it is what it is, try making it then tell me! XO
Why do I call this recipe Sicilian aubergine caponata?
Just in case you didn’t know, aubergine is an eggplant.
In this recipe, you will find generous portions of aubergine, which is the first and most important ingredient.
My Nonna Santa was from Sicily and when she came to the USA her family’s recipe traveled with her.
Our family prepares this meal weekly and uses Sicilian aubergine caponata in so many ways.
- in sandwiches with meat,
- as a meatless sandwich option,
- as sides,
- in stews with seafood, such as my Italian cod caponata.
- atop hard crusty bread as an appetizer
- atop pasta
- wrapped in lettuce leaves
- as an entree as a stew
Clearly you see how versatile a dish this Sicilian aubergine caponata can be and therefore if you love eggplant, you’ll want to consider this recipe.
Authentic Italian Vegetable Dish
Honestly, aubergine caponata is a very hearty dish consisting of eggplant, celery, tomato, capers, garlic, and more.
Sicilian aubergine caponata is prepared in a pan on the stove.
I have used an Instant pot but have hardly been impressed at the resulting aubergine caponata.
Too much moisture creates a less than superior dish and will disappoint.
Therefore, pull out your favorite larger frying pan (with a lid) and grab a bottle of olive oil.
Things That Matter When Prepping the recipe
I’ve said it before and I’ll share this thought again, always peel the ribbing on the celery, using a potato peeler.
Why? Strings on the celery are a bad thing.
My mom was once at a lady’s lunch when the host herself, ate a piece of celery and had to be rushed to the hospital as the string from the celery ribbing lodged in her throat.
When I spent time in cooking training with a professional chef, we always peeled the celery as a precaution to rid all the ribbing.
Plus, on the upside, without strings on small pieces, it was much easier to just cut and not have to go back and pull celery ribbing off of small pieces.
Once you’ve got the celery peeled, chop it into nice smaller pieces, as the smaller, you cut the celery the faster it cooks.
What I’ve not written in the recipe, I’ll say here.
Once you peel and cube your eggplant (aubergine), soak it in a salt bath for about 15 minutes to take a bit of the bitterness out of these veggies.
Then drain it.
What this means, is about 2-3 tablespoons of iodized salt, into about 5 cups of water, and place the cubed eggplant (skinned, peeled, cubed) into this bath.
Then drain! Game changer.
And for those that just jumped to the recipe instead of reading, their caponata won’t be nearly as delish as yours!
I might not be an old Italian but I do believe in reading everything, so that’s a bonus piece of info for each of you, my readers, not Jump to recipe people! XO
Talking tomatoes and Sicilian aubergine caponata
You can use any tomatoes you like when it comes to the 2 medium tomatoes, but they should be raw.
Personally, if I can find Roma tomatoes, I purchase those, otherwise, I just find tomatoes with a vine on them, as they always taste the freshest.
Next, you can use paste by the tablespoon, which you will perfect this recipe, but if you want a bit more ‘bitter’ add in an additional tablespoon. Just FYI, I love the bitter, so I toss it in!
Tomato passata is something I used and learned more about when I spent my summer in Italy and I already knew what it was from seeing it in my Nonna’s kitchen all the time!
So, tomato passata is basically an uncooked tomato puree that contains no skin or seeds, because it’s sieved.
Substitute strained tomatoes if passata is not available.
Raisins. Figs. Capers & Sicilian Aubergine Caponata
Raisins are added to my Nonna’s recipe, which brings in a sweet element, and a little ‘chew’.
However, I’ve added chunks of fig (naturally cut into smaller pieces) and I’ve loved the grittier, chewy taste and they also seem to curb the tart and add a little sweetness.
Now, in this version of my Nonna’s caponata, I will say that I’ve used toasted almonds, but often I use toasted pignoli nuts, which is just as delicious if not better!
In the end, it’s all about what I have on hand in my pantry and fridge.
You can even drizzle this whole mixture once cooked with golden raisins and balsamic drizzle for a grand presentation.
My Sicilian Aubergine Caponata Recipe
- 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 2 large celery stalks, diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 2 T. tomato paste
- 1 c. tomato passata*
- 3 T. red wine vinegar
- 2 T. capers
- ¼ c. green olives, pitted and sliced
- ¼ c. raisins
- toasted sliced Almonds
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onion and celery, and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.
- Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft and translucent, approximately 4-5
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, along with the garlic and eggplant.
- Cook, stirring occasionally until the eggplant begins to cook down, around 6-7 minutes
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, passata, vinegar, capers, green olives, and raisins.
- Stir to combine and cover the skillet with a lid.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
- Remove lid and stir in two tablespoons each of the fresh parsley and the toasted almonds into the caponata.
- Taste and adjust seasonings, as desired.
- Transfer to individual serving plates and garnish with remaining parsley and almonds.
*: Substitute strained tomatoes if passata is not available.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 317Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 62mgSodium: 380mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 5gSugar: 11gProtein: 29g