Sicilian Eggplant Caponata

published Aug 29, 2022
Caponata Recipe

Caponata is akin to a sweet and sour ratatouille prepared with eggplant, tomatoes, and finished off with briny olives and crunchy pine nuts.


Makes5 to 6 cups

Prep30 minutes

Cook50 minutes

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A photo of Caponata (chopped fried eggplant and other vegetables, seasoned with olive oil, tomato sauce, celery, olives, and capers) on a round plate with basil and sliced toast in the background.
Credit: Laura Rege

Eggplant is the star of caponata, a stewed eggplant and tomato dish that hails from Sicily. Being such a classic dish, the internet is full of varieties and spins, but this recipe highlights how simple it can be to create a perfect caponata with a family recipe that comes straight from my grandma’s recipe book. It has a few minor adaptations and a lot more details (because if you know grandma recipes, you know they like to measure in spoonfuls and dashes); I did the test kitchen work to give you exact amounts.

Cooking the eggplant just right is the key to the correct texture and flavor in the dish. Eggplant acts like a sponge and soaks up and carries flavors through each bite. To get it just right, it’s so important to cook the eggplant twice (just like eggplant Parmesan or in my eggplant casserole recipe). Start by cooking the pieces until golden and tender and then slowly cook them until creamy and ultra-tender in the skillet. Traditionally, my grandma fried the eggplant pieces, but over time my mother — who is always finding ways to make recipes easier — switched it up and roasted them in the oven, which is hands-off and pretty much gives the same end result.

What Is Caponata?

Caponata is like a sweet and sour ratatouille prepared with eggplant, tomatoes, and the addition of delicious olives and pine nuts. 

While both are stewed eggplant and tomato dishes, they have different origins and ingredients. Ratatouille is from France, and caponata is from Sicily. Depending on the cook, each recipe has variations, but in general caponata is stewed eggplant and tomato with pine nuts, olives, and a sweet and sour sauce. Ratatouille has zucchini and/or summer squash and bell peppers added in, and it skips the nuts and olives.

Should I Salt the Eggplant? 

In my grandma’s recipe she wrote that the Italian secret was to soak the eggplant in salted water, which helps remove bitter notes from the eggplant. However, most eggplant purchased in the grocery store these days isn’t as bitter anymore, so this step can be skipped. If you purchase farmers market eggplant or grow your own, you might want to salt the eggplant. Just make sure to drain and dry well before serving. 

Credit: Laura Rege

How to Serve Caponata

Caponata tastes fantastic straight out of the skillet, but it actually gets even better overnight, so we recommend making this recipe ahead. Enjoy it warm, room temperature, or chilled, sprinkled with fresh basil (or any leafy green herb you have on hand) and served with crackers, Italian bread, or pita. Spoon it over grilled baked chicken breasts, fish, or steak. Or toss it into pasta for a quick sauce.

Caponata Recipe

Caponata is akin to a sweet and sour ratatouille prepared with eggplant, tomatoes, and finished off with briny olives and crunchy pine nuts.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes

Makes 5 to 6 cups

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


  • 2

    medium globe eggplants (about 1 3/4 pound totals)

  • 6 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 1 medium stalk


  • 1 (about 14-ounce) can

    whole peeled tomatoes, or 1/2 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes

  • 1/4 cup

    red wine vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    pine nuts (about 1 ounce)

  • 3 tablespoons

    drained capers

  • 1 (6-ounce) can

    pitted whole black olives

  • 2 small sprigs

    fresh basil


  1. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 425°F. Meanwhile, dice 2 medium eggplant into roughly 3/4 to 1-inch pieces (about 9 cups). Transfer to 2 large rimmed baking sheets.

  2. Drizzle each baking sheet with 2 tablespoons olive oil, season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and toss to coat. Arrange into a single layer. Roast, tossing halfway through, until the eggplant is tender and golden-brown, about 25 minutes total. Meanwhile, peel and dice 1 medium yellow onion (about 2 cups). Thinly slice 1 medium celery stalk crosswise (about 1/2 cup).

  3. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and light golden-brown, about 4 minutes.

  4. Add the celery, 1 (about 14-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes and their juices, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Bring to a simmer, using a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and stirring to dissolve the sugar. If the eggplant is finished roasting, proceed to the next step. Otherwise, remove the skillet from the heat until eggplant is ready, then bring the tomato mixture back to a simmer over medium-high before proceeding.

  5. Add the eggplant, 1/4 cup pine nuts, and 3 tablespoons drained capers to the tomato mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding a tablespoon of water or two if the mixture is too thick or sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the flavors meld, the mixture is saucy, and the eggplant is super tender and creamy, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, drain 1 (6-ounce) can pitted whole black olives and if desired, coarsely chop.

  6. Add the olives to the eggplant mixture and stir to combine. Serve warm or chilled. Pick and tear the leaves from 2 small fresh basil sprigs into bite-sized pieces and scatter over the caponata before serving.

Recipe Notes

Black olive substitute: Kalamata or any type of olive can be substituted for black olives for a slightly different flavor profile, just make sure the olives are pitted. Sliced olives are okay too.

Basil substitute: Any leafy green herb can be substituted for basil.

Make ahead: The caponata can be made ahead, cooled, and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and serve warm, chliled, or at room temperature.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month.