Sicilian cuisine is well-known for its intensely rich flavor and powerful, enticing aroma. The fruits and vegetables grown on the island are extremely concentrated in flavor. Between the heat of the sun and the island’s naturally warm climate, the crops near the sea just seem to grow exceptionally well. One of the most popular summer recipes is Sicilian Caponata, which uses freshly harvested crops. It features eggplants (lots of them!) and celery, which gives this dish its lovely flavor.
Sicilian Caponata is really all about celebrating sweet, tart, and salty flavors, creating a palate explosion to your senses as you take each bite. The diversity of the vegetables that make up this great dish also perfectly capture the flavors of the island!
It also happens to be super healthy while being extremely flavorful. We pack this dish full of vegetables, and you don’t even need to add many fats or carbohydrates to make everything taste fantastic. As an added bonus, this dish is also naturally gluten-free!
How to Enjoy Sicilian Caponata
You can eat Sicilian Caponata in many different ways. The best way to enjoy it is however you best like it, of course. To serve it as an appetizer, place a spoonful on toasted bread just like a traditional bruschetta. It could also be used as a side dish with fish or meat, or make it the main event by mixing it with pasta, spaghetti squash, or zucchini noodles.
It is best eaten when it is cooked in advance because it gets even better after sitting in the refrigerator for a day. That makes it ideal for those of you who love meal prepping because you can get it ready ahead of time and pull it out when you need it!
You don’t even need to warm it up before serving, either. It tastes fantastic at room temperature, and it’s even great lightly cold. Just be aware that ease of preparation and serving can easily hook you, making you become addicted to this great dish!
Pairing This Dish with your Favorite Wine
Now the wine. Since Sicilian Caponata has such an intense flavor, it’s best to complement it with a good wine. It’s easy to choose a wine that loses its flavor as you eat this dish. The wine and the dish should complement each other, so let’s forget about young white wines. Those wines are too delicate to pair with something with this kind of persistence and intensity.
If you want white wine, look for something that’s not so young. The best choices are full-bodied wines that are aged in oak. International grapes that work quite well with this include Chardonnay. There are also many local white wines full of character and mireality.
I especially like the ones kept in the bottle longer, like Carricante grown in the area of Mount Etna. Dry rosè wines and young red wines work perfectly well, too, especially the grapes of Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, or Nerello Cappuccio. The rosè version of Cerasuolo di Vittoria is one of my favorites, a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato the only DOCG wine of Sicily.
Yield: 8 servings | Serving Size: about 1 cup | Total Fat: 13 g | Saturated Fat: 2 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Carbohydrates: 16 g | Fiber: 5 g | Sugar: 11 g | Protein: 2 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Sodium: 495 mg | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 7
- 2 pounds eggplants, diced
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- 1/4 cup sunflower oil (or any neutral-tasting oil for frying)
- 1/3 cup capers
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 big white onion, sliced thinly (easier if mandoline is used)
- 1/2 cup green olives, pitted and quartered
- 1 cup passata di pomodoro (tomato purèe or tomato sauce)
- 1 celery stalk, cleaned and diced
- 2 tablespoons raw cane sugar (can be adjusted according to taste)
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (can be adjusted according to taste)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- In a large bowl of water, mix the coarse salt then soak the eggplants. After 15 minutes, drain completely and squeeze lightly to send away the excess liquid.
- Over medium to high heat, in a large saucepan with the sunflower oil, fry the eggplants until they turn golden brown. Do this in batches to avoid overcrowding in the saucepan. When cooked, transfer to a large paper towel lined dish to absorb the excess oil. Set aside.
- Rinse the capers under the faucet then soak them in in a bowl of water for 10 minutes, drain and squeeze lightly to send away the excess liquid. Set aside.
- Over medium heat, in a small to medium saucepan with 1/2 cup of water, cook the onions. When the water has evaporated, put the heat down, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil then sautè them until they turn lightly brownish. Add the passata di pomodoro and cook for about 15 minutes together. Turn off the fire then set aside.
- Over medium heat, in a medium cooking pot filled with boiling water, cook the celery for 10 minutes then drain. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, mix the sugar and vinegar well then set aside.
- For the final phase, over medium to high heat, in a large saucepan, add the remaining olive oil then sautè the celery for about 3 minutes. Add the onions with passata di pomodoro, 1/3 cup of water, olives, capers, eggplants and basil.
- After about 10 minutes, add the sugar and vinegar mixture. Adjust the taste according to your liking by adding more vinegar or sugar. Cook for another 20 minutes.
- Serve at room temperature or cold. Caponata tastes better when cooked much ahead, even better after a day. Keep refrigerated.