Caponata alla Siciliana Recipe

Caponata alla Siciliana

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Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
235 Calories
15g Fat
24g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 235
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 20%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 709mg 31%
Total Carbohydrate 24g 9%
Dietary Fiber 7g 24%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 11mg 57%
Calcium 68mg 5%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 541mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The dish that more people associate with Sicily than any other is probably caponata, an eggplant-based delight that has now spread throughout Italy and beyond. Unfortunately, much of the caponata one encounters outside of Sicily is a shadow of what it should be. When it's done right, it's a zesty summer dish that's ideal for perking up a sluggish appetite on a hot day.

Though it's traditionally a summer dish, it's so well-loved that it's now made year round, in an infinite variety of forms. Some versions are purely vegetarian, whereas some Palermo versions can also contain fish, as you will see in the variations below.


  • 1 1/4 pounds celery

  • Olive oil, as needed

  • 2/3 pound fresh tomatoes

  • 2 1/4 pounds eggplants, diced

  • 2/3 pound onions, peeled and finely sliced

  • 6 ounces salted capers, rinsed well

  • 5 tablespoons pine nuts

  • 1/2 pound green olives, packed in brine, drained and pitted

  • 1/3 cup vinegar (wine vinegar or cider vinegar)

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • 1 cup tomato sauce, optional

  • Fresh basil leaves, optional, for garnish

  • Kosher salt, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Begin by stripping filaments away from celery stalks, then blanch them in lightly salted water for 5 minutes. Drain, cut into bite-size pieces, saute in some oil, and set aside.

  3. Cut a small "X" shape in the bottom of each tomato, then drop into boiling water for about 30 seconds to blanch and make the peels easy to remove. Peel and chop.

  4. Sauté onions in olive oil; once they have turned translucent, about 5 minutes, add capers, pine nuts, olives, and tomatoes. Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon, until tomatoes are done, about 15 minutes, and remove from heat.

  5. While tomato mixture is cooking, heat a skillet with some oil and fry the diced eggplant, in several batches. When last batch is done, return tomatoes to heat and stir in cooked eggplant, together with cooked celery.

  6. Add tomato sauce, if using. Cook for several minutes over low heat, stirring gently, then stir in vinegar and sugar. When vinegar has almost completely evaporated, remove the pot from heat and let it cool.

  7. Serve caponata at room temperature, with a garnish of fresh basil, if using.

Some Variations:
Palermo-Style Caponata with Fish (Capunata Palermitana chi Purpiceddi)
The ingredients listed above, plus:

  • 1 pound baby octopus (or squid), cleaned

  • 1 cup flour

  • 2 artichokes, sliced into eighths and blanched

The method follows that given above, with the following variations: Flour the celery sticks, artichokes, olives and capers, and fry them. If the octopus is very small fry it whole, otherwise chop it before frying it. Drain all the fried ingredients well on absorbent paper, add them to the tomato mixture, and finish cooking as above.​
The Baroness of Carni's Caponata (Capunata Barunissa di Carni)
The noble lady must have been given to flights of fancy. To serve 8 you'll need:
All the ingredients of the preceding two versions except the octopus, and:

  • 3/4 pound swordfish fillets, thinly sliced, floured and fried.

  • 1/2 pound diced lobster tail, barely blanched

  • 1/2 pound of asparagus tips (wild asparagus will be best), steamed

  • 1/4 pound shrimp, boiled until just done and shelled

  • 2 ounces bottarga (tuna roe, available from a delicatessen), grated or crumbled

  • Minced parsley

Prepare the caponata following the procedure outlined above; gently combining the swordfish filets, asparagus tips, and diced lobster tail with everything else and lay the caponata out in an elegant serving dish. Garnish it with the shrimp, bottarga, and minced parsley, and serve, with a dry white wine.

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