The Caponata Agrigentina is one of the most famous Sicilian Caponata recipes. The most distinguishing trait of the Caponata Agrigentina is the adding of Italian sweet peppers, called Peperoni Arramascati in Sicilian dialect. This appetizer is a must to try in Sicily and often paired with bread slices, grilled meats, and fish like Mahi Mahi, Tuna, or Swordfish.
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CAPONATA INTO THE SICILIAN CUISINE
The Caponata is a classic and controversial Sicilian recipe. Speaking about Caponata with more than a Sicilian can get confusing: every person will give you a different recipe swearing that’s the original one: this is because Sicily boasts 37 official variations of Caponata and much more personal family recipes!
Caponata is usually served as appetizer or side dish, paired with toasted bread, or seafood, or grilled meats.
To read the complete history of the Sicilian Caponata, and the recipes of the main variations, click here!
Along with the Catanese, the Messinese, and the Palermitan, the Agrigentina is one of the most famous Sicilian Caponatas. The main difference between the Caponata Catanese and the other Sicilian variations is the adding of Italian Sweet peppers, called in Sicilian Peperoni Arramascati. Cubanelle Peppers are a decent replacing as well. Some families also add raisin.
TIPS AND SERVING
RESTING – The resting is a critical and essential step. Just cooked, the Caponata taste is not what you expect. It needs at least 8 hours (best if 24 hours) in the fridge to bring out the original flavor. I strongly suggest you do not serve the Caponata before the right resting; you might be disappointed!
EGGPLANTS – The best eggplants to prepare the Caponata are the purple-black little or baby eggplants skin on: you want not to peel them to save all the different flavors of the eggplants. The salt purging is strongly recommended.
FRYING OIL – Traditionally, the eggplants are fried in olive oil. I’m aware that outside Italy this step can be quite expensive, the taste is incomparable. In case you don’t want to use extra virgin olive oil, replace with sesame oil.
PAIRING – Following the legend, the Caponata has been originally paired with the Capone fish (Mahi Mahi). Nowadays Caponata is served as an appetizer along with bread or, less common, as a side dish of grilled meats and seafood.
CAPONATA AGRIGENTINA RECIPE
- 5 Lb (700 g) Little or baby eggplants
- 3 Italian Sweet Peppers (alternatively, Cubanelle Peppers)
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 celery stick
- 3/4 cups (170g) tomato puree (best if San Marzano)
- 1 tbsp capers in sea salt (alternatively, in vinegar)
- 12 Castelvetrano olives, pitted
- 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts (alternatively, chopped roasted almonds)
- 6 basil leaves
- 5 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 cups (500 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- to taste table salt
- 1 tbsp raisin (optional)
- PURGING EGGPLANTS AND CAPERS
First of all, soak the capers 2 hours at least in a bowl filled with water to discard the salt, replacing the water a couple of times. If you decide to use capers in vinegar, just avoid this last step.
After that, dice the eggplants into cubes about 1.5 inches per side, then pour the pieces into a colander seasoning them with 2 tbsp of coarse salt. Now place the strainer into a bowl or directly into the sink and let the salt purge the dark liquid of the eggplants for at least 1 hour up to 3 hours.
- ONIONS SOFFRITTO
Peel and reduce a half red onion into slices about ½ inches thick, then sauté them over medium heat along with 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 pinch of salt until tender and translucent. At this point, add the tomatoes puree and cook 15 minutes more. Finally, turn off the heat and put the saucepan aside.
- ITALIAN SWEET PEPPERS (PEPERONI ARRAMASCATI)
Now, rinse the Italian Sweet Peppers peppers, then discard the stems and the seeds, then reduce the vegetables into pieces as big as the eggplants, and add it into the Soffritto. Cook until the vegetables are done, but still in shape. If needed, add a few tbsp of hot water.
- FRIED EGGPLANTS AND BOILED CELERY
Once properly purged, rinse the eggplants pieces under running water and brush away any trace of salt. Then, dry the eggplants accurately with a kitchen towel pressing gently.
At this point, pour 1.5 cups of olive oil into a saucepan and heat until the oil reaches 335° F (170° C). Then, fry the eggplants a little at a time until golden.
Finally, raise the vegetable cubes and dry over paper towels.
After that, rinse the celery stick and cut it into pieces 1 inch long. Then, cook the celery into boiling water 4 minutes. Finally, raise the pieces and dry over kitchen towels.
- CAPONATA “AGRODOLCE”
Now, crush the olives into big pieces with your hands and pour them into the onions and tomato soffritto along with the fried eggplants, the boiled celery, the capers, and the roughly chopped basil leaves.
After that, place the saucepan over the heat. Eventually, add the vinegar and the sugar, raise the flame, and sauté 10 minutes more. Finally, add 1 tbsp of toasted pine nuts, and optionally the raisin, then cook 3 minutes more.
- REST AND SERVE
Immediately after cooking, the Caponata is not ready to serve; it’s need of 1 night into the fridge to melt the flavors together. Before serving, let the Caponata rest 30 mins at room temperature, then pair with bruschettas, grilled meats or fish.
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