How to Make Caponata, an Italian Eggplant Dish


Sami Grover Photo
Sami Grover

YIELD Makes about 5-1/4 cups

Sometimes the greenest recipes are those that you can use over-and-over again without cooking from scratch. Especially if you can use fresh, local and vegetarian ingredients. Whether it's risotto becoming risotto cakes or leftover turkey tacos - using up leftovers saves money and it often saves energy too.

Caponata is one of those dishes that seems designed to be a leftover - not because it's not tasty - but because it seems to get better over the course of a week, and because it is delightful hot, cold or at room temperature. We make this eggplant and tomato dish (somewhere between a stew and a relish), and keep it in the fridge. One day we might eat it in a panini with mozzarella, the next day with a baked potato, and the next day mixed in with spaghetti. I'm not sure how authentic any of these serving suggestions are, but really, almost anything goes.


Two medium eggplants - diced
One medium onion - dice
Three or four sticks of celery - chopped
One can of tomatoes, or a good bowlful of fresh tomatoes from the garden - also diced
A tablespoon of capers
Two tablespoons of black olives - coursely chopped
Three or four garlic cloves - chopped
Olive oil - lots of it!
Three tablespoons of red wine vinegar
A cupful of basil leaves - torn up
A handful of pine nuts
(Eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge)


  1. Preparation is simple - you just saute the eggplant, celery and onion over medium heat with the olive oil until soft and just browning a little here and there - adding more if the pan gets dry.
  2. After about 8 minutes, add the garlic, capers and olives and saute for a just a minute longer.
  3. Now add the tomatoes, red wine vinegar and basil leaves and allow to cook for half an hour with the lid on. It should reach a thick, yet still somewhat liquid consistency.
  4. Season to taste. Now toast some pine nuts in a pan, and scatter over the caponata. you can either serve the dish hot, or allow it to cool to room temperature.
  5. I like to leave mine overnight and then eat cold with bread, or in a warm sandwich with cheese. But do what you will...
This recipe appears in: Italian
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