Sicilian Eggplant Caponata: The Italian Appetizer That’s Perfect On Pasta

Who wants to go to Sicily? Even if travel is curtailed or your life is more cooking than traveling these days, this classic Sicilian appetizer or pasta dish mix-in will transport you to the Italian island.

This recipe combines so many Italian flavors I love into one very versatile dish — the eggplant is roasted (not fried) and then sautéed with celery, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and capers. Red wine vinegar and a dash of sugar for sweetness make it irresistibly tangy.

If you love the bold flavors of tomato and eggplant, you’re going to love caponata.

This recipe for homemade Caponata is one of my favorite Italian dishes, and there are as many variations to this as families who make it. It’s also one of the easiest and most forgiving recipes — so easily adaptable to make your own depending on the flavors you love.

It doesn’t matter if you delete a few ingredients here and there, and substitute others depending on what you might have on hand at the time. Short on fresh tomatoes? Add some sun dried tomatoes. Or none at all. If you’re not big on olives, leave them out, or substitute black for green, or use both if you love them as much as I do.

Sicilian Eggplant Caponata


(1) 1-1 1/2 pound eggplant, cut into halves

1/2 c. chopped celery

1/4 c. chopped onion or shallot

1 tbsp chopped fresh garlic

1/4 c. olive or canola oil

1 16 oz can tomatoes, drained and cut up or hand-smooshed in the can

2 tbsp wine vinegar

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp sugar

2-3 tbsp toasted pine nuts

1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley (or basil)

2 tbsp drained capers

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

DOP balsamic to drizzle

I’ve had Caponata where the eggplant flavor takes center stage, and there are few other ingredients. Then other recipes had a sweet, syrupy balsamic glaze that shined through. It all depends on what you like!

So, go ahead — play with your food! Try it once and get a feel for how easy it is to make. Then experiment with new ways to make your own signature recipe of Sicilian Eggplant Caponata.

How to Make Sicilian Eggplant Caponata

Prepare the Eggplant

Cut the eggplant into halves and oil cut sides lightly with extra virgin olive oil. Lay cut side up on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil and broil on (High) until golden brown. The eggplant should be fork tender. Let cool.

In a large skillet, sauté the celery and onion in the olive oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until tender and soft.

Once cooled, dice the eggplant into 1” cubes, and add to celery and onion mixture.

Add tomatoes, wine vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, capers, and parsley/basil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes are no longer watery and the mixture is slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and let cool.

Toast the pignoli nuts (pine nuts) on the stovetop until medium brown. They should be done when you begin to smell the toasty flavor! Let cool.

Once cooled, stir most of the toasted pine nuts into the cooled eggplant mixture and combine. Reserve a few toasted nuts to top. Cover and chill.

That’s it — you’re done! Wasn’t that easy?

What to Serve With Caponata

Caponata makes a perfect and rustic appetizer or a meal on its own. Serve with crackers, or leaves of Belgian endive as a help-yourself appetizer, or on a pretty plate with an assortment of crackers, chunks of parmigiano reggiano, or charcuterie!

Caponata is also a perfect topping for a plate of pasta — simply toss a heaping spoonful in with a bowl of well-drained pasta, and drizzle with the best EVOO you have on hand.

However you serve it, don’t forget the drizzle of DOP balsamic vinegar over top!