Caponata in pale gren ceramic bowl surrounded by grilled crostini and iced tea.
Photography & Art Direction: Anthony Contrino – Food Styling: Katie Stilo

In anticipating the need to defend myself, I’m going to start off by addressing the absurd amount of oil in this recipe.  Eggplant is one of those ingredients that acts like a sponge – you need to add enough so that it sautés properly.  When you drain the eggplant, you’ll be surprised as to how much of the oil get sopped up by the paper towels.  To ensure optimal drainage, place the eggplant, in a single layer, on a plate lined with 3 layers of paper towel. 

Anyways, caponata is a Sicilian dish usually served as an appetizer or as a component of an antipasto platter.  Caponata recipes vary greatly based on the region and family preferences.  Some are simple, with just eggplant and celery cooked in stewed tomatoes, while others may have potatoes, octopus or even lobster in them.  This is my grandma’s family’s recipe which hails from Gratteri, a mountain town 35 miles southeast of Palermo.  It relies on the addition of capers and Sicilian olives to season the sauce.  If you like things on the salty side, you may want to add a pinch of salt.

Gram’s Caponata

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Inactive: 8 hours
Servings: 4 cups


  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 pounds eggplant, peeled, cut into 1” cubes (about 1 ½ pounds yield)
  • ¾ cup chopped red onion, about ½ medium red onion
  • ½ cup celery, chopped, about 2 large stalks
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup cracked Sicilian olives, pitted, rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers in brine, drained, rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar


  • In a large stainless steel skillet, warm half of the oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add half of the eggplant and cook, flipping often, until lightly browned on all sides, about 6 minutes; if the eggplant absorbs all the oil, add a generous drizzle more.
  • Transfer the eggplant to a paper towel lined plate; drain well.
  • Add the remaining ½ cup of oil and repeat with the remaining eggplant.
  • When you remove the second batch of eggplant, if there is not residual oil, add a couple more tablespoons to the skillet.
  • Add the onion and celery and sauté until they begin to caramelize, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, reduce the flame to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add the olives, capers and ½ cup water.
  • Simmer for an additional 15 minutes, stirring often.
  • Add the eggplant and 1 cup of water.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes more, stirring often.
  • Add the red wine vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Season with salt, if necessary, to taste.
  • Remove the caponata from the heat and cool for 30 minutes before transferring to a storage container.
  • Refrigerate overnight; serve cold or at room temperature.
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Author: Anthony Michael Contrino