The Caponata Messinese is one of the most famous Sicilian Caponata recipes. The most distinguishing trait of the Caponata Catanese is the adding chopped tomatoes instead of tomatoes puree. The taste of this Caponata results more fresh and simple confronting of the other versions. 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 Agrigentina, and the Palermitan, the Messinese is one of the most famous Sicilian Caponatas. The main difference between the Caponata Messinese and the other Sicilian variations is the adding of fresh chopped tomatoes instead of tomatoes puree. This replacement, change the color of Caponata Messinese, one of the few not predominantly red in Sicily.
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.
PALERMITAN CAPONATA RECIPE
- 1.5 Lb (700 g) Little or baby eggplants
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 celery stick
- 3 fresh San Marzano or Roma tomatoes (alternatively 3 whole canned San Marzano or Roma tomatoes)
- 1 tbsp capers in sea salt (alternatively, in vinegar)
- 12 Castelvetrano olives, pitted
- 6 basil leaves
- 1.5 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- to taste table salt
- 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.
- FRESH OR CANNED TOMATOES
The traditional Caponata Messinese requires peeled and chopped San Marzano tomatoes. Roma tomatoes is a decent alternative. If you use canned tomatoes, just chop them and discard any seeds. In case of fresh tomatoes, incise the skin, then boil them into lightly salted water for 3 minutes. Finally, raise, and peel the tomatoes, then chop and discard the seeds.
- 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.
- 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, the chopped tomatoes, 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.
- 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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