PALERMITAN CAPONATA - traditional Sicilian appetizer
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
  • 1.5 Lb (700 g) Little or baby eggplants
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 3/4 cups (170g) tomato puree (best if San Marzano)
  • 1 tbsp capers in sea salt (alternatively, capers in vinegar)
  • 12 Castelvetrano olives, pitted
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 1.5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups (500 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • to taste table salt
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts (rich variation)
  • 1 tbsp roasted almonds (rich variation)
  • 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder (rich variation)
  • 1 tbsp raisin (rich variation)
  1. PURGING EGGPLANTS AND CAPERSFirst 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.
  2. ONIONS SOFFRITTOPeel 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 tomato puree and cook 15 minutes more. Finally, turn off the heat and put the saucepan aside.
  3. FRIED EGGPLANTS AND BOILED CELERYOnce 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.
  4. 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.
  5. RICHER VERSIONIf you go for the richer version of Palermitan Caponata, also add 1 tbsp of toasted pine nuts, 1 tbsp of grated roasted almonds, 1 tbsp raisin, and ½ tbsp of cocoa powder, then cook 3 minutes more.
  6. REST AND SERVEImmediately 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 toasted bread slices, grilled meats or fish.
Recipe by philosokitchen at