"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Recipes: Caponata (Spicy Italian Eggplant and Tomato)

I cannot remember when I first had caponata, but it was canned and delicious.  It had eggplant, tomatoes, celery, black olives, capers, onions all blended in a thick, savory mix.  It came only in small cans, and I had to ration the servings. I knew I could make it, and after a few tries, I succeeded.  Last night I made it after quite a while, and the recipe is now perfect!


* 2 lbs. eggplant (approximately) unpeeled and cut into 2” pieces.  I have been buying the long, twisted variety because the proportion of skin to flesh is much higher, and it is the skin which gives the unique taste to all eggplant dishes.

* 1 can Marzano Italian tomatoes, only the whole tomatoes (i.e. use only the tomatoes and reserve the juice for another meal)

* 2 stalks celery, chopped

* 2 med. onions, chopped

* 1 med. red pepper, chopped

* 5 lg. cloves garlic, chopped

* 10 small pitted Kalamata olives

* 1 Tbsp. small capers

* 1 med. bunch fresh parsley, chopped

* 1 lg. handful fresh basil, chopped

* 5 tbsp. olive oil

* 4 shakes hot pepper flakes

* 1 Tbsp. dried basil

* 2 tsp. dried oregano

* 2 tsp. sugar

- Place the eggplant pieces in a large mixing bowl, add 1 Tbsp. olive oil, toss and mix well

- Place the oiled eggplant pieces on a large cookie sheet (I always put a sheet of tinfoil down to make the cleaning up easier), and spread out evenly

- Preheat oven to 450F, and when ready bake the eggplant for about 25 minutes, turning thoroughly after 15.  At the end of the time, the eggplant should begin to be browned.  Turn again.

- Turn the oven to BROIL and broil for another 10-15 minutes.  The eggplant should be thoroughly browned but not blackened.  Remove from oven and reserve.

- In a large frying pan,sauté the garlic and onions in olive oil for about 5-7 minutes until soft

- Add the celery, parsley, basil, red pepper, hot pepper flakes, oregano, sugar, and dried basil.  Stir well and cook for another 5-7 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, break them up, mix all ingredients well and cook for about 30-45 minutes, stirring ever 15 or so.  The final mixture should be thick, all the ingredients cooked well but not mushy. 

- In a large Pyrex baking dish, place a layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom, adding half the olives and capers

- Place half the eggplant over the sauce

- Cover the eggplant with sauce

- Add the remaining eggplant over the sauce, and cover with the remaining sauce

- Preheat the oven to 350F then bake the mixture uncovered for about 15 minutes.  This is to thoroughly heat the dish, not really to cook it any more.  The heating will help blend the tastes of all the ingredients.  You will know the dish is done when you see the sauce bubble a bit around the edges.

- Remove from the oven, stir and taste for salt, sugar (mixture should not be too acid).  If there is too much liquid (the end result should be a thick mixture without runny liquid), replace in the oven and cook for another 10-15 minutes

- Remove from oven and let cool, uncovered. 

- Serve cold. Garnish with a few springs of parsley on each plate and some grindings of fresh pepper.


  1. This is a fantastic dish from southern Italy that's eaten as a warm vegetable side dish.

  2. Lovely, i love a nice spicy tomato sauce. Thanks for sharing this.



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