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The word caponata has no English translation, but it is usually described as an eggplant appetizer salad with an agrodolce, or sweet-sour taste.

This traditional family recipe is my favorite. Cocoa, the surprising ingredient here, gives this dish its clean finish. Other versions of caponata include bits of fried sweet peppers, pear slices and raw almonds and cinammon and cloves are also added.

This recipe makes a lot but keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks and also makes an unforgettable Holiday gift.

Makes about 9 1/2 cups.


8 young eggplant (4 to 5 inches long), cut in 1-inch cubes.

1 cup tomato paste

Coarse salt

1/2 cup capers in wine vinegar, drained

1 1/4 cups thinly sliced celery (about 2 ribs)

1 cup chopped Sicilian olives in brine, drained

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups peanut oil

2/3 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup Filippo Berio extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons baking cocoa

4 onions, thinly sliced (3 1/2 cups)

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Place eggplant slices in colander, salt them, and let them sweat in the sink for 1 hour, then rinse and dry them.

In a small saucepan, add the celery to the boiling water and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Drain the celery, saving the water and set aside.

In a large skillet or electric frying pan, heat half the peanut oil. Add have the eggplant pieces and fry until softened and lightly browned, about 12 - 15 minutes. Drain the pieces on brown paper and continue with the remaining eggplant and peanut oil.

In the same skillet, heat the olive oil, add the onions, and saute until soft and glazed-looking, about 10 minutes. Lower the heat and mix in tomato paste, reserved celery water, olives capers, sugar, vinegar, and cocoa. Mix well and let the mixture simmer about 5 minutes.

Add the eggplant and the celery pieces to the skillet, and mix well to coat the pieces with the sauce. Simmer the mixture uncovered for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place the caponata on a serving platter, cover, and marinate several hours at room temperature before serving.

Note:  Because this recipe makes a lot, I spoon the mixture into jars, cover, and store them in the refrigerator and use as needed.  You may want to cut this recipe in half, although this caponata never lasts long in my house.

Variation:  Serve the caponata in an eggplant that has been cut in half lengthwise and scooped out.  Surround the eggplant with slices of Italian bread, lightly fried in olive oil.

This recipe was featured on show 402 - Two Caponatas.

This recipe is from Nella Cucina by Mary Ann Esposito.


  1. Linda Rizzo's avatar

    Linda Rizzo

    Your recipe, MaryAnn, is exactly like our family recipe! I still recall being a very young girl, in the kitchen, standing on this little chair Nona had for me so I could watch her cook, bake, or whatever! We make caponata year round and even can it in late summer when required tomatoes and eggplant are ready! Caponata and Ciabatta...delizioso! So divine I can, and have, made a meal of this!
  2. carol's avatar


    every Christmas this recipe for coponato must be on our table. I have been making it and giving it out to family members the week before Christmas and if I am late they let me know..thanks Mary Ann
  3. Graceann Morawek's avatar

    Graceann Morawek

    OMG Maryann, adding the cocoa gilded the lily. Thank you. Made my mom's recipe even better.
  4. Holly's avatar


    I would love to make this and give out in the holiday season. Question- how long will it keep in the fridge? Or can I freeze it? If I make it in August whats the best way to keep until December?
  5. Georgia's avatar


    Thanks so much for this recipe, it has made me very popular at work! People wait to get this as a Christmas gift. I have added red bell peppers to it, chop the onions and use some balsamic vinegar too. My Sicilian grandmother made it a well done soft texture. I cook it a little mine a little less. Remember that you can't really tell what it's going to taste like when you make it as it needs to mellow, so don't worry if it seems harsh. If you put into hot sterilized canning jars it will keep a very, very, very long time in the fridge.
  6. Lucy  Liberatore's avatar

    Lucy Liberatore

    I really need a recipe to make and Can in a Hot water bath if necessary, at least 12 Pints for the winter. Can someone refer me to a site where I can get a recipe or if you have a recipe for this Homemade to Can in Mason Jars for the winter consumption, A million thanks , Lucy
  7. Lucy Liberatore's avatar

    Lucy Liberatore

    I just printed a comment here, but failed to mention I am looking for the Sicilian version of how to Can Capanata in Mason Jars to be able to put on a shelf for the winter months consumption. Thanks a million, Lucy
  8. LinnyMac's avatar


    Love this recipe, especially the video! Funny comment about her son, "don't we have any real food?" - hilarious! I arrived at this site when seeking a caponata recipe after having an awesome dish this weekend: duck confit with caponata and fig at the Trattoria Delia in Burlington, VT. Couldn't get it out of my head so just tried making this for myself. It came out fabulous, thank you so much.

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