This caponata recipe is made Sicilian-style, with eggplant and agrodolce “sour and sweet” flavors from red wine vinegar and golden raisins. It’s easy to make with so many uses, from an appetizer served with toasted bread, to a main dish tossed into pasta!
What is Caponata?
Caponata is a Sicilian dish typically served as an appetizer, made from eggplant, tomato, other veggies, and olives and capers, with an agrodolce (sour and sweet) sauce.
In Italy, Caponata is often served with grilled or toasted bread as an appetizer or a side dish, but it can also be served as a main course over fish or tossed into pasta! You can even serve it alone – no bread, fish or pasta required!
Easy Caponata Recipe
I love this recipe because it doesn’t require frying the eggplant to yield a deliciously flavorful caponata. This caponata recipe is less mess, less dishes, less steps, and more YUM!
All I do is throw my ingredients into a big pot and let them sauté and cook down until all those beautiful Italian flavors come together. Served warm or room temperature, it’s the perfect dish to bring to a get-together or holiday gathering!
Save it in the fridge for a whole week (this recipe yields quite a bit of caponata!) and easily freeze your leftovers.
What You’ll Need to Make Caponata
- Eggplants – eggplant is the base for caponata!
- Yellow onion – onion adds flavor and texture.
- Red bell pepper – red bell pepper adds sweetness and color.
- Celery – celery is traditional in Sicilian caponata.
- Tomatoes – tomatoes are also the base for caponata. I prefer fresh tomatoes over canned.
- Garlic – everything with garlic is better!
- Pitted Italian green olives – I like to use any type of Italian green olive, like Cerignola, Castelvetrano.
- Golden raisins – golden raisins add sweetness, which is the signature flavor of Italian “agrodolce” caponata.
- Extra virgin olive oil – olive oil helps to sauté all of our ingredients.
- Red wine vinegar – red wine vinegar adds a delicious sour “tart” flavor for our agrodolce caponata.
- Capers – capers add a classic briny touch.
- Tomato paste – tomato paste enriches the flavor of the tomatoes.
- Bay leaf – a bay leaf adds subtle herbaceous flavor.
- Hot pepper flakes – hot pepper flakes add heat for the spicy fans out there! Add as much or as little as you want.
I recommend NatureSweet brand for your tomatoes and peppers!
Caponata Ingredient Substitutions
Here are some substitution suggestions for those who need them!
- Don’t like eggplant? Use 4 zucchinis!
- Don’t have fresh tomatoes? Use a can of crushed tomatoes (although it’s always better with fresh tomatoes in my opinion!).
- Don’t have green olives? Use any other Italian olives or Kalamatas.
- Don’t like raisins? Substitute them for about a tablespoon of honey (depending on how sweet you like it).
- Don’t have red wine vinegar? Use white wine vinegar.
How to Make Caponata
Basically throw everything in a big pot…
- Add half the ingredients.
Add olive oil, tomato paste, eggplant, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, celery, and a bay leaf.
Sauté over medium heat for 15 minutes, covered. Stir every few minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients.
Add tomatoes, olives, capers, golden raisins, red wine vinegar, salt and hot pepper flakes.
- Sauté again.
Heat for another 5 minutes, remove the bay leaf, and serve.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Serve caponata alone as a side dish or appetizer, or serve with toasted or grilled bread rubbed with a peeled garlic clove (when the bread is warm) for extra flavor. You can also top it on fish, baked chicken, or tossed into pasta! Serve warm or room temperature.
Store caponata covered, in the fridge, for up to a week!
Reheat in the microwave until warm, or in a pot (covered) over medium heat.
Yes! Freeze in a freezer-safe container for up to 6 months.
More Italian Recipes You’ll Love!
- Classic Italian Gremolata (Gremolada) Sauce
- Creamy Italian Tonnato Sauce
- Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup With Sausage and Kale
- Traditional Italian Bagna Cauda
- Italian Cheese Calzones (Folded Pizza)
- 2 medium eggplants cubed
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- ⅔ cup celery finely chopped
- 3 medium tomatoes cubed
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup pitted Italian green olives quartered
- ⅔ cup golden raisins
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons capers
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- Hot pepper flakes to taste
- Salt to taste
- Add olive oil and tomato paste to a big pot, along with cubed (unpeeled) eggplant, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, celery, and a bay leaf.
- Sauté over medium heat for 15 minutes, covered, stirring every few minutes.
- Add diced tomatoes, Italian green olives, capers, golden raisins, red wine vinegar, salt and hot pepper flakes to taste.
- Heat for another 5 minutes over medium heat (stirring occasionally), remove the bay leaf, and serve warm or room temperature.
- Scoop on toasted bread or enjoy alone…I have no words for how good this caponata is!
- Add 1/2 cup pine nuts to your caponata (optional). Toast them in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-6 minutes and then add them into your pot after you add the olives and raisins.