The classic Sicilian Eggplant Caponata is the perfect party appetizer and it can be made ahead! Vibrant and colorful, this version is a veggie lover dream and contains roasted – almost caramelized – veggies, tomatoes and olives.
An easy eggplant antipasto!
It took me a long time to like eggplant. And, to be honest, to this day it is not something I love.
Unless it is eggplant caponata! Oh, then we are talking about something else entirely.
Eggplant caponata has the power to please even the pickiest eaters! In this dish, the weird, rubbery texture of eggplant is totally gone and it melts into the sweet and sour mixture of caramelized vegetables, olive oil and vinegar.
Add a few slices of crusty bread and you won’t be able to leave the antipasto table!
And while this recipe is very simple and straightforward, I predict that once you try it once, you will likely want to experiment with different ingredients for future versions. It is meant to be like that!
Eggplant caponata is very adaptable and the type of dish that is great for using whatever you have on hand. That’s half the fun of it!
What is Caponata?
Caponata is a Sicilian dish consisting of eggplants and other vegetables, tossed with a vinegary sauce.
As it’s the case with most Italian classics, there are as many versions as there are cooks. Variations include olives, capers, celery, carrots, potatoes, pine nuts, stale bread and even raisins.
It is almost always a vegetarian dish, but you can find versions that include lobster, swordfish, anchovies and/or shrimp.
What is the difference between caponata and ratatouille?
Other than the obvious regional difference (as one is Italian and the other French), there are some small differences among the two dishes.
While eggplant is a prominent ingredient in both, caponata includes briny olives, tangy vinegar and sometimes a touch of sweetness from raisins and/or sugar.
Also, in caponata, all the vegetables are pan fried (or, in my recipe, roasted) in olive oil, and in ratatouille – at least according to purists – they have to be cooked separately and then combined and heated briefly together until soft and creamy.
Eggplant Caponata Ingredients
To make the best eggplant caponata, you will need:
- Bell Peppers
- Crushed Tomatoes
- Olive Oil
- Vinegar – It’s often made with red wine vinegar, but you can use white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
How to Make Eggplant Caponata
The main difference between my recipe and most of the other recipes is that I roast all the vegetables together, instead of roasting just the eggplant and panfrying the rest.
I find that this simplifies the recipe considerably and would save you a dish to wash if it wouldn’t be for the fact that I like to simmer the tomatoes with garlic in a saucepan before tossing them with the roasted veggies and olives. The flavor is worth the extra dirty pan, I promise!
You will also notice that while some recipes ask you to cook the vegetables gently so they don’t fall apart, I ask you to roast everything until caramelization starts to happen. That produces incredible flavor and also sweetness, so you don’t have to add sugar!
Here’s how I make eggplant caponata. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) recipe at the end of this post!
- Combine all the veggies in a large baking sheet. Toss with the olive oil, vinegar, salt, oregano and pepper. Roast until very soft and caramelized.
- While the veggies are roasting, heat olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the garlic until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer until very soft and slightly thickened. (You can add a pinch of sugar if you’d like.)
- Once the vegetables are done, remove from the oven and let them cool slightly.
- Toss with the tomatoes and olives. You can serve warm but it’s even better after a night in the fridge, served at room temperature.
How to serve Eggplant Caponata
Eggplant caponata is usually served at room temperature, as an antipasto, with bread. It is also a great topping for bruschetta.
However, it could also be served hot or cold, as a side dish for fish entrees, as a salad, or as a topping for pizza, sandwiches, burgers or pasta. It is great no matter how you serve it!
And if you have the patience to wait one or two days after you make it, it gets even better after the flavors mingle and meld together in the fridge.
How long can you keep caponata?
Store eggplant caponata in an airtight container or mason jar in the fridge for up to 7 days.
It will look and smell good even past that period, but I wouldn’t risk it, unless you use a pressure canner, as there is a risk of botulism after a week.
Can you freeze eggplant caponata?
I am not a fan of frozen caponata. The texture after thawed is very watery and mushy.
Did you make this recipe? I love hearing from you! Please comment and leave a 5-star rating below. You can also take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #oliviascuisine.
- 3 large eggplants (about 4 1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into strips
- 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into strips
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into strips
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup sherry vinegar
- 1 cup + 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can (14-ounce) crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup pitted green olives
- Preheat oven to 400ºF.
- Combine the sliced eggplants, bell peppers and onions in a large baking sheet. Drizzle the vinegar, 1 cup olive oil and season with the salt, oregano and pepper. Using your hands, or kitchen tongs, toss everything together so the vegetables are all coated.
- Roast for 45 minutes, toss and continue roasting until the vegetables are caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly.
- While the vegetables are roasting, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan, over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and reserve.
- Once the vegetables are done, transfer to a serving dish and toss with the reserved tomatoes and olives.
- You can serve immediately but it tastes better after 1-2 days in the fridge.
Make ahead:Eggplant caponata tastes better if made up to 2 days ahead. Let it come to room temperature before serving.
Leftovers:Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container or mason jar for 5-7 days.
Variations:These are some popular add-ins:
- pine nuts or walnuts
- chopped fresh herbs, like parsley, basil or mint