CAPONATA MESSINESE - Sicilian appetizer with chopped tomatoes and eggplants
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 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 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • to taste table salt
  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. FRESH OR CANNED TOMATOESThe 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  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 bruschettas, grilled meats or fish.
Recipe by philosokitchen at