Aubergine caponata


First published in 2017
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Aubergine caponata is a traditional dish from the beautiful island of Sicily. The origin of the term caponata is not entirely clear. It could derive from the term caupone (which means tavern), or, more likely, from the Sicilian name of the fish mahi mahi: capone. I am more inclined towards this option, as capone is often served with the same Caponata sauce (sans aubergine).

Whatever the origin of the name, Caponata is a very popular dish and it is famous all over Italy. It could be described as a cooked salad made up of fried aubergine and other ingredients. It is a sweet and sour dish and many of the ingredients used in it (like pine nuts and raisins) clearly show the influence of the Arab and Middle Eastern world that permeates Sicilian culture, architecture, dialect and food.

There are many variations of this dish and, like the majority of traditional recipes in Italy, every town and every family has its own version. In the area of Trapani, in the Western part of Sicily, the addition of toasted almonds is a must. This specific recipe is inspired by my cousin’s grandmother, who used to make the best Caponata ever.

Caponata can be eaten as a side dish or as an appetiser. It is usually eaten in spring and summer and it is best served at room temperature, or even cold, with warm bread.




Aubergine caponata

  • 3 aubergines
  • 1 1/2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1 1/2 large onions, chopped
  • 80g of tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp of capers, rinsed
  • 10 green olives, pitted and halved
  • 1 tbsp of pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp of raisins
  • 1/2 tbsp of sugar
  • 80ml of red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp of almonds, toasted and crushed
  • vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
To make the caponata, cut the aubergines into 3cm cubes and transfer to a bowl of cold salty water for half an hour. Meanwhile, heat a deep-fryer or deep pan of oil to 190°C
When ready, drain the aubergine pieces and pat dry with kitchen paper. Deep-fry in the hot vegetable oil until golden and cooked through, then place on a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain the excess oil
Blanch the chopped celery in salted boiling water, then set aside and reserve the water
Place the onion in a saucepan and cover with half a glass of water. Cook until the water evaporates, then add the extra virgin olive oil and sauté the onions in it for a minute or two. Add the tomato paste, capers, olives, pine nuts, raisins, and the blanched celery with a little of its reserved cooking water. Cook the sauce for 5 minutes
Add the fried aubergine cubes and mix gently. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar, add it to the caponata and cook for 2 minutes on a medium-high flame, then take off the heat and let it cool down
Caponata is best served at room temperature. Sprinkle with the crushed toasted almonds and serve with warm bread
First published in 2017
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