How to cook the perfect Sicilian caponata

Sicilian caponata

Sicilian eggplant caponata – Image by massimoweb via wikipedia

Caponata is a famous Sicilian dish: it’s not typical of a specific time of the year, but it’s very often cooked during the Christmas holidays. The queen of the dish is the fried eggplant, seasoned with sweet and sour sauce along with other fried vegetables. There is a basic recipe and many variants, with slightly different names, such as the caponatina, cooked with similar ingredients, but following a different preparation, which makes it look more like a parmigiana.

The caponata is one of the symbols of Sicilian cuisine: almost every town in Sicily has its own version of the dish, and many more are the variants created all over the world. The one we present today is a basic caponata. Once you know how to cook it you’ll be free to add your special touch, just like every Sicilian usually does.


Eggplant 1 kg
Celery stalks 600 g
2 Large onions
Pitted olives in brine 200 g
3 Handfuls of desalted capers Capers
Pine nuts 60 g
Tomatoes 500 g
Sugar 50 g
Vinegar 1/2 cup
Basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Salt to taste


  1. Wash, peel and and cut in dices the eggplants and sprinkle with coarse salt in order to lose the bitter aftertaste. Then let them rest for at least an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the stalks of celery into strips and boil them in a pot with salted water, then drain, dry with kitchen paper and fry in olive oil over low heat.
  3. In another pan, fry sliced onions in olive oil, add the capers pine nuts and pitted olives making it all sauté for another 10 minutes.
  4. Chop and add the tomatoes, then let it cook for about 20 minutes on high heat. In the meantime fry the eggplants in olive oil.
  5. When the eggplants are well browned, add the celery stalks, the mixture with the tomatoes and mix well on low heat. Then move the ingredients in a pan with sugar and add 1/2 cup of vinegar, cooking on a medium heat until the smell of vinegar will be blurred.
  6. At this point your caponata is ready: leave to cool and serve with chopped basil leaves.

Once you’ve learned how to prepare caponata you’ll find out it is a perfect side to a variety of dishes. Take a look for example at this wonderful veal dish with caponata created by chef Gordon Ramsey, and stay tuned for more traditional Sicilian recipes.

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