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bowl filled with caponata, eggplant and bell pepper relish

Caponata (Sicilian Sweet and Sour Eggplant Relish)

  • Author: Panning The Globe
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 mins
  • Yield: 8-10 appetizer servings 1x


This Sicilian caponata is a flavor-packed vegetable dish which is traditionally served as part of an Italian antipasto (appetizer course). It's a fantastic make-ahead dish with eggplant and other vegetables stewed in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. Serve this as an appetizer scooped onto bruschetta or as a side dish or topping for grilled fish or chicken.


Units Scale
  • 2 pounds of eggplant (4 small Italian eggplants or 2 medium globe eggplants) washed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (skin on)
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup good quality olive oil, divided
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4-5 tender inner stalks of celery, roughly chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 red bell peppers seeds and ribs removed, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
  • 4 ounces pitted green olives, coarsely chopped (about a cup chopped)
  • 1/3 cup yellow raisins
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels, add the eggplant cubes in a single layer and sprinkle evenly with 2 tablespoons salt. Cover with another layer of paper towels and then place another baking sheet on top and add a weight, such as heavy skillet. Let that all stand for 30 minutes to an hour. Rinse the eggplant in a mesh colander to remove the salt. Line the baking sheet with a fresh layer of paper towels and add the rinsed eggplant in a single layer. Pat it dry with another layer of paper towels or with a clean dish towel.
  2. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large heavy skillet (cast iron works well) over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add half the eggplant in a single layer. Leave it undisturbed for two minutes until it gets browned on the bottom, then turn and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 5 minutes, until eggplant is browned in spots and starting to soften. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined mesh colander. Add another 1/4 cup of the olive oil to the skillet and cook the rest of the eggplant in the same manner.
  3. Add another 1/4 cup olive oil to the skillet, add the onions, garlic and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until the onions are softened. Add the bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are softened. Add the tomato paste, olives, raisins, capers and 3 tablespoons water. Cook, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes. Return the eggplant to the skillet.
  4. Whisk the sugar and vinegar together in a small bowl and pour into the skillet. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer the mixture for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt, to taste.
  5. Caponata will keep for a week covered in the fridge and is best served at room temp after a day of letting the flavors meld.
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • eggplant salting time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 50 mins
  • Category: Appetizer
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Sicilian eggplant appetizer recipe