Sicilian Caponata is one of the most traditional Italian recipes -This lighten up version with roasted aubergine makes a great veggie-loaded appetizer to share and it’s naturally gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.
Aubergine Caponata is a delicious warm salad or relish made with simple ingredients such as aubergine, celery and tomatoes, simmered in a distinctive sweet & sour sauce.
Caponata di Melanzane is a staple of Sicilian cuisine, and every city and possibly family in Sicily has their own version. The original recipe includes deep-fried aubergine, celery, fresh tomatoes, green or black olives, capers and pine nut. Some popular additions include tomato sauce or paste, bell pepper, sultanas or chopped almonds.I grew up with my mum’s incredible caponata, so that’s the one I’m sharing with you today. She’s originally from Palermo and pretty much sticks to the original recipe, but makes it lighter by roasting the aubergine instead of frying.
The main ingredients of the classic Caponata, aubergine and celery, are cooked separately to preserve their texture and flavour, and then mixed together the rest of the ingredients at the very end.
It may sound a bit laborious, but this dish all comes together in less than 1 hour, and requires very little cooking skills. Plus, it’s naturally dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan, making a fantastic allergy-friendly option to serve at dinner parties and get-togethers.
How To Make Sicilian Aubergine Caponata (Caponata di Melanzane)
To make your Sicilian Aubergine Caponata, start by blanching the celery. Throw the chopped celery in a pot of boiling water and take it out after a minute or two. I like celery on the crisper side, so I’d leave mine not more than one minute, and after a quick bath in ice cold water, I’ll let it dry over a sieve covered with a kitchen cloth. This process keeps the celery crunchy and retains its vibrant green color.Next step is cooking up your main ingredient, the aubergine. The traditional caponata calls for deep-fried aubergine cubes, but I’ve ditched the deep-fryer in favour of healthier oven-roasted crispy aubergine.
Speaking of baking instead of frying your aubergine, I’m delighted to partnering up with Mazola to lighten up this classic Sicilian recipe. Mazola is a leading corn and rapeseed oil brand with more than a century of heritage and experience. I was positively surprised to learn that Mazola Corn Oil is rich in plant sterols, which have been proven to lower cholesterol, and is a great source of healthy fatty acids! And for more cooking inspiration, make sure to check out #MazolaCornOil on Instagram.For this Aubergine Caponata, I’ve used Mazola 100% pure Corn Oil, only extracted at its peak time. It’s perfect for roasting the aubergine in this recipe, it has a subtle flavor and a high smoke point, making it great for oven-roasting at high-temperature. I lightly coated the aubergine with Mazola oil and roasted for abut 30 minutes – it came out perfectly crispy on the outside and beautifully soft within.
Whilst the aubergine bakes in the oven, get the rest of the ingredients ready. In a large pan sautee’ onion, garlic and tomatoes, until soft and caramelized.
There’s an ongoing debate on whether to use tomato passata/paste or just simply chopped fresh tomatoes. I personally opt for the latter, but a teaspoon of tomato concentrate will add a burst of umami to your caponata.Once your onion/garlic/tomato mix has caramelized well, you can fold in the roasted aubergine, celery, green or black olives ( I used Kalamata olives), capers and toasted pine nuts. Now, it’s time to give your caponata its unique sweet & sour taste. Fold in sugar and vinegar and simmer for a few minutes, until all the ingredients and flavours combine to perfection.
Top your Aubergine Caponata with loads of fresh basil and oregano and it’s all ready to be devoured. And if you manage to wait, let it rest for a few hours or overnight – Caponata is one of those dishes that tastes a ton better the next day.This epic Aubergine Caponata has an irresistible crunchy and soft texture, with delicate sweet and sour taste that will make your tastebuds rejoice. It’s loaded with veggies, quick and fulfilling, and served with warm toasted bread, makes a great rustic appetizer to share.If you want to make a meal out of it, just pair it with your favorite protein. Try it with classic grilled fish or chicken, or with a steak salad. I often like to make an all-vegetarian meal and serve it with a classic Italian potato frittata or stuffed zucchini boats.
Did you make this recipe?
Please let me know how you liked it! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thepetitecook! Looking at your pictures always makes me smile *and super hungry*!
**This post is sponsored by Mazola. Thank you for supporting the brands that support The Petite Cook!**
- 2 large aubergines
- 2 tbsp Mazola Corn Oil
- 2 large celery stalks, diced
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 200gr cherry tomatoes, halved (or 4 large ripe tomatoes , roughly chopped)
- 1-2 tbsp salted capers , rinsed, soaked and drained
- handful green or black olives, stones removed (I used Kalamata olives)
- 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- 1 tsp double concentrate tomato paste
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp apple vinegar
- handful fresh basil leaves
- handful fresh oregano leaves
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 180C and arrange a baking tray into the middle shelf.
- Cut the aubergine evenly into medium-sized chunks, sprinkle with coarse salt and leave to rest in a colander for at least 30 min, then quickly wash under running water and pat dry on a kitchen cloth.
- Place the aubergine chunks in a large bowl and coat with Mazola oil. Season with salt and pepper, and arrange on a baking tray. Roast in the oven until crispy and cooked through, about 30 minutes.
- Place the diced celery in a pot of boiling water with a little salt and blanch for 1-2 minutes. Drain and transfer to a sieve covered with a kitchen cloth.
- Heat a large pan with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add in chopped onion, garlic and halved tomatoes. Cook over low-heat until the onion is nicely caramelized and tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes.
- Throw in capers, olives, toasted pine nuts, and roasted aubergine. Add in the tomato paste and one tablespoon of water, if you feel it's getting too dry.
- Sprinkle with sugar and drizzle with vinegar. Simmer until all vinegar has evaporated, then cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes over low-heat, until all ingredients are cooked through.
- Top your caponata with teared basil leaves and oregano, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve with toasted rustic bread.