One-Pot Eggplant Caponata Pasta

published Jul 20, 2020
Mediterranean Monday
One-Pot Eggplant Caponata Pasta

All the tangy, sweet, and savory elements of the classic Sicilian eggplant dish of tomatoes, olives, capers, and more come together in this flavor-packed one-pot pasta.

Serves4 to 6

Prep10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook22 minutes to 25 minutes

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Eggplant Caponata Pasta is served in a dutch oven and sits on a textured linen next to a plate of basil and bowl of pine nuts.
Credit: Kristin Teig; Food Styling: Catrine Kelty

This silky, flavor-packed one-pot pasta is inspired by eggplant caponata, a classic Sicilian dish that falls somewhere in the middle of salad, relish, dip, and condiment. The mix of tender eggplant, sweet tomatoes, golden raisins, briny capers and olives, and a touch of zippy vinegar will have all your senses working: It’s sweet and tangy, savory and spicy, and the very best way to celebrate in-season eggplant.

Vegetables: The First Key Building Block in the Mediterranean Diet

In this series’ inaugural post, I explained that the Mediterranean diet isn’t a diet in the traditional sense — rather than telling you what not to eat, it focuses on filling your plate with extra-wholesome ingredients. Each month, I’ll be sharing a feel-good recipe that puts one of these ingredients front and center, both to show you why the Mediterranean diet praises it and help you bring more of it to your table.

This month, we’re focusing on vegetables. It’s easy to celebrate vegetables this time of year, when it seems like practically everything is in season. While the Mediterranean diet isn’t a vegetarian diet (more on that in coming months), it is one that heartily embraces vegetables and believes you can never have too many. Fresh vegetables are loaded with vitamins and minerals like potassium, folate, vitamin A and C, and magnesium, and they’re a great source of fiber. The best rule of thumb is to eat and enjoy them in abundance — you can’t go wrong no matter what type you choose. When fresh vegetables aren’t available, opt for frozen. Since they’re flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, frozen veggies have all the same nutritional benefits as fresh do (as long as you select ones without added sauces or seasonings).

Credit: Kristin Teig; Food Styling: Catrine Kelty

A Colorful, Feel-Good Pasta That Celebrates Summer

Eggplant has the ability to soak up whatever flavors are thrown at it, making it one of the best vegetables to keep close by this time of year. Caponata, which is a bit like Sicily’s answer to French ratatouille, is a great example of this. Although it varies from recipe to recipe, caponata is often made by sautéing and simmering cubes of eggplant with garlic, tomato, olives, capers, raisins, vinegar, fresh herbs, and pine nuts. It can be eaten warm or cold, as part of an antipasto spread, on its own for a light lunch, or with lots of good bread for a fuss-free summer dinner. It’s both sweet and sour — something Sicilians refer to as agrodolce — but also oh-so savory and moreish.

Here, caponata meets rigatoni in a playful twist. In true Mediterranean diet form, it’s the vegetables that really get the spotlight — they mix and mingle while the whole pot simmers, resulting in a dish with such complex flavors that you’ll be shocked you only dirtied one pot to make it. The olives and capers emit their briny bite, the raisins and tomatoes impart sweetness, and the eggplant absorbs it all. This is the kind of dinner to enjoy on a Saturday night with your favorite bottle of wine, but it’s so easy you can pull it off midweek, too. I have a feeling you’ll be doing both regularly now through September.

Welcome to Mediterranean MondaySheela Prakash‘s new monthly column of Mediterranean recipes. Here, Sheela will teach you all about the Mediterranean diet’s feel-good way of cooking and eating, and share vibrant, easygoing recipes. Cook with us using #mediterraneanmonday, and for even more great recipes, pre-order a copy of Sheela’s upcoming cookbook Mediterranean Every Day.

One-Pot Eggplant Caponata Pasta

All the tangy, sweet, and savory elements of the classic Sicilian eggplant dish of tomatoes, olives, capers, and more come together in this flavor-packed one-pot pasta.

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Cook time 22 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium globe eggplant (about 1 pound)

  • 1

    small yellow onion

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1/2 cup

    Castelvetrano olives

  • 3

    medium plum tomatoes, or 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

  • 4 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    tomato paste

  • 4 1/2 cups

    water, divided

  • 1/2 cup

    golden raisins

  • 2 tablespoons

    capers

  • 12 ounces

    dried rigatoni pasta

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 2 teaspoons

    sherry or balsamic vinegar

  • Chopped fresh basil leaves and toasted pine nuts, for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cut 1 medium eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes (about 7 cups) and place in a large bowl. Dice 1 small yellow onion and mince 2 cloves garlic. Pit and halve 1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives. Dice 3 medium plum tomatoes, if using.

  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large (at least 12-inch) straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant, season with 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots but not completely tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate or bowl.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion and sauté until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  4. Pour 1/2 cup of the water into the skillet and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining 4 cups water, eggplant, plum tomatoes or 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices, olives, 1/4 cup golden raisins, 2 tablespoons capers, 12 ounces dried rigatoni pasta, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over high heat.

  5. Continue to boil, stirring frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking and lightly pressing down on it as needed to keep it submerged, until the pasta is al dente and almost all the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes.

  6. Remove from the heat. Stir in 2 teaspoons sherry or balsamic vinegar. Taste and season with more salt as needed. Serve garnished with chopped fresh basil leaves and toasted pine nuts, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.