Savory, sweet, tender, but with a perfect bite of crunch, Easy Eggplant Caponata will have you dipping, topping, and diving into this veggie delight. This classic Sicilian dish is sure to become a new favorite for Meatless Monday, an elegant appetizer, or just because.
Eggplant is such a meaty vegetable and beautiful canvas for flavor. Whether it’s a main dish like Sheet Pan Tortellini alla Norma, or this dish ideal for topping crostini, it’s a versatile vegetable that packs a ton of flavor.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Versatility – Think outside of just topping of charred slices of bread. This dish can be used in multiple different ways. It can be everything from a side dish to the perfect topping for your baked salmon.
- Easy Process – The most labor-intensive portion of this eggplant recipe is cutting all of the vegetables. The rest is just a little sauteing and simmering.
- Meal Prep – Some dishes just get better the longer they hang out in the refrigerator. This is one of them. Make this on a Sunday and you will find yourself using it all week long. If it lasts that long!
With spring in the air, the farmers’ markets are awash in the colors of the season. Easy Eggplant Caponata is a celebration of beautiful and fresh produce. You can easily find all of the ingredients at your local grocery store making this not just easy to make, but also easy to shop for.
- Eggplant – Pick a medium sized eggplant that has shiny skin, no cracks, and feels heavy.
- Olive Oil
- Red Onion – Sweetens as it cooks and adds a savory note.
- Celery – Fresh, bright, and savory, it also adds texture.
- Tomato Paste – Adds a layer of sweetness and compliments the freshly grated tomatoes.
- Green Olives – Adds a salty, briny pop.
- Capers – Just like the olives, adds a pop of salt to balance the sweeter vegetables.
- Crushed Tomatoes – You can used canned crushed tomatoes or freshly grated tomato for this caponata recipe.
- Vinegar – Adds tang and wake up all of the flavors. Red wine vinegar works well for this.
- Golden Raisins – Adds both natural sweetness and also a little chew.
- Pine Nuts – Gives buttery crunch to every bite.
How to Make Easy Eggplant Caponata
Put on the Italian music and pop open a bottle of chianti. This traditional Sicilian dish comes together effortlessly with just a few simple steps.
Time needed: 45 minutes
Savory, tangy, sweet, and briny, this classic Italian eggplant dish hits all of the flavor notes. The best part, it only gets better the next day!
- Mise en Place
Chop all of your vegetables into fairly equal sizes. Add your eggplant to a bowl and salt it.
- Heat it Up
Heat a large skillet with a lid over medium heat and add your olive oil. Allow the olive oil to heat through. This will fry the eggplant as opposed to allowing it to soak up all of the oil.
- Pan Fry
Add the eggplant to the hot oil. Allow it to cook for about ten minutes until it is lightly golden. Remove it from the pan.
Add the celery and red onion into the pan. Let them cook for 6-8 minutes until the onion is translucent and the celery is becoming tender. Add the olives, capers, and tomato paste and continue to stir. The tomato paste will go from red to a reddish brown. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the vinegar, a basil sprig, and the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine. Cover the pan and allow the vegetables to simmer for ten minutes.
Add the eggplant back into the pan along with the raisins and pine nuts. Carefully stir to combine. Allow it to cook for an additional five minutes, letting the flavors marry.
- Finishing Touch
Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool. Stir in fresh basil before serving.
Like your caponata a little more sweet? Add a drizzle of honey or pinch of brown sugar when you add your crushed tomatoes. Want it a little spicy? Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
How to Serve Caponata
Sicilian caponata is both a side dish and also an appetizer. It can be used and served in multiple different ways. Here are a few ideas.
- Bruschetta/Crostini Topping
- Part of a Cheeseboard or Charcuterie Board
- Serve with Polenta
- Topping for Salmon or Chicken
- Pizza Topping
- Serve with Focaccia
- Tossed with Pasta
How to Store Easy Eggplant Caponata
Caponata can be served warm or at room temperature and is the ultimate make ahead dish. To store it in the refrigerator, allow it to cool completely and then transfer it to an airtight container like a mason jar. When you’re ready to serve it allow it to sit out for a few minutes and come to room temperature.
This can also be frozen. Let it cool completely and then transfer it to freezer safe containers. It can be frozen for up to three months. When you’re ready to serve it let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator. You can gently reheat it on the stovetop if desired.
Top Tip for Easy Eggplant Caponata
Eggplant is completely the star of this dish. When it comes to picking the perfect eggplant, there are certain things you should look for. Here are a few tips.
- Always look for an eggplant that has shiny skin. If its dull, it means it’s an older eggplant and has been hanging out in the store for awhile.
- If it feels heavy for its size, this is another great sign.
- Give it a little squeeze. Unlike other fruits and vegetables you want your eggplant to be firm to the touch. It should have just a little give.
- The color of the stem matters. Where you want the skin to be dark and shiny, look for a stem that is green. This means it was freshly picked. Also make sure there is no mold or discoloration around the stem.
Easy Eggplant Caponata
- 1 Cutting Board
- 1 large skillet with lid
- 1 medium eggplant, cubed
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 2 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup green olives, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp capers
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes or freshly grated tomato
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- fresh black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- basil sprig plus extra for serving
- Add the diced eggplant to a bowl with salt. Toss to combine.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. Allow it to heat through.
- Add the eggplant. Let it pan fry for 10 minutes or until it is lightly golden. Remove from the pan.
- Add the onions and celery. Let it cook for 5-8 minutes until the onion is translucent and the celery is becoming tender.
- Add the olives, capers, and tomato paste and keep stirring.
- Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
- Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and sprig of basil and stir. Cover with a lid and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the eggplant back into the pan along with the raisins and pine nuts. Carefully stir to combine.
- Let the caponata cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir in fresh basil before serving.