Magda Gagliano's Caponata


Sicilians are very proud of caponata because it is made with produce that grows perfectly on their island: Eggplants, tomatoes, capers, and olives. I love it because it plays on the sweet and sour flavors that are often found in Sicilian cuisine. Caponata is like tomato sauce, in that no two versions are alike. Each province, town, generation and family has its own recipe and this is my interpretation.

You might be surprised by the addition of wine, but as one Sicilian home cook told me “it adds a certain richness” and I happen to agree. I like to serve caponata as an antipasto (on its own or on crostini), as a primo (warm) or as a contorno. I also like to spoon it over grilled fish as a sauce. I hope you enjoy this recipe and come to love this dish as much as I do.
Download Recipe
Magda Gagliano's signature take on a Sicilian Classic
(A few notes on the ingredients:  try to get smaller but firm eggplants as they have fewer seeds; and do not cut the eggplant chunks too small as they will absorb too much oil and become heavy.)
Makes: Approx 6- 8 cups
3 small Italian purple eggplants, cut into 1” chunks
1 heart of celery (stalk and leaves) cut on bias, 1/3 “ thick
2 large red peppers cut into large chunks similar to eggplant
1 large red onion cut into smaller chunks
6 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for frying if necessary
3 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons raisins
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted until golden brown
3/4 cup Sicilian green olives, pitted and sliced in slivers
4 whole and peeled canned tomatoes and their liquid
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup Sicilian red wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
small handful of roughly torn fresh basil

In a large sauté pan add 3 tablespoons olive oil and place on medium high heat.  Once oil is heated add eggplant and sauté for 4-5 minutes until eggplant is golden on each side. Remove and place in heat-proof bowl.
in the same pan, add 2 more tablespoons of oil and then celery.  Cook until celery is slightly wilted but still maintains crunch, approx 3 minutes.  Remove celery and add to eggplant.
Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to pan followed by red peppers.  Fry peppers until slightly browned but still intact, approx 3-4 minutes.  Remove peppers and add to eggplant and celery mixture.
Add 1 tablespoon of oil and then onions.  Fry onions until brown and caramelized, approx 4-5 minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan at any point in time if you feel it's getting too dry.   Add onions to eggplant, celery, red pepper mixture.
While vegetables are cooling, add tomatoes, wine, raisins, sugar and vinegar to sauté pan and simmer for 7 minutes.
Pour tomato sauce over eggplant mixture.  Toss in capers and pine nuts and mix all ingredients well. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Let caponata rest for 1 hour (up to 1 day in refrigerator) before serving so that all flavors meld.

To serve: drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with the roughly torn basil leaves.

Mentioned in this article


  • Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!

    Aug 13, 2010 at 1:33 PM

  • I second operaverdi, I'll just skip the raisins.

    Aug 13, 2010 at 1:53 PM

  • Snooth User: bahalana
    129434 1

    I grew up on Caponata, but most of the recipes I had found were not like what I was used to. This one sounds like it would be pretty close. I could probably just ask my mom, but I bug her for recipes enough as it is...

    Aug 13, 2010 at 2:02 PM

  • Snooth User: ssdenali
    106421 15

    Sounds like a yummy reason to hit the Farmers Market this weekend!

    Aug 13, 2010 at 3:57 PM

  • Snooth User: Al Green
    493926 20

    That's a Nice

    Aug 13, 2010 at 4:46 PM

  • Snooth User: gaflick57
    245694 2

    Have tried to open/download the PDF with both IE8 and Firefox 3.6.8 on 2 different PCs. File is corrupt. Of course, I can simply copy the HTML version, but wanted to let you know.

    Aug 13, 2010 at 6:10 PM

  • Snooth User: ifly34467
    152086 10

    gotta go to store tonight. sounds like a winner!

    Aug 13, 2010 at 7:10 PM

  • Stunning ! Here in Australia it is hot for Christmas and our summer holiday season, which comes at the same time This is just the best festive looking recipe - red white and green - to have on standby for antipasto, a side dish - or as the recipe also suggests, spooning over fish. (Or baked ham). I am just starting to amass some recipes in readiness for the family homecoming in December and this one has just been put on the list, filed under "Perfetto" !

    Aug 13, 2010 at 9:07 PM

  • Snooth User: irene h
    554996 1

    Thx so much for this great recipe and what great timing for me! I've been reading the Italian author Camilleri's mysteries-- his Sicilian police inspector, Montalbano, often includes caponata in his gustatory adventures en route to solving crimes!

    P.S. FYI.... I'm on a MacBook and I was unable to download the recipe, so I'll just cut and paste.

    Aug 13, 2010 at 10:07 PM

  • Thank you! I have a bounty of eggplant in my garden. I know what I will be doing tomorrow afternoon. This dish makes me nostalgic for my Grandmother's kitchen.

    Aug 13, 2010 at 10:20 PM

  • Snooth User: hannaclan6
    546112 22

    Delicious! My husband is having thirds with no signs of stopping ...

    Aug 14, 2010 at 12:23 AM

  • Snooth User: nanvong
    137262 1

    i am on ibook g4 and had no problem opening. GREAT RECIPE!!!!!

    Aug 14, 2010 at 1:10 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    I also couldn't open the pdf file, even on a Mac. ;-)
    You need to repost an uncorrupted file link...

    Aug 14, 2010 at 1:15 AM

  • Snooth User: manwolf
    482934 20

    This is the 1st comment on Snooth ever. But guess what, I didn't try to download, on Mozilla, there is a print icon on the 3rd toolbar top right, open it, select print and you have it. OK. On the 3rd glass of Parson's Paddock McLaren Vale Shiraz 2008. Have a head cold, lost $ at the races, but a great way too dry up the dribble of the nose, sorry to mention the effects of the cold but we have all been there. The recipe sounds very delicious. I once lived Australia, Queesland, Sunshine Coast, Caloundra that had a certain cafe I frequented often for their antipasto. Bloody fanastic. Now live in south east Brisbane, too far to city with booze laws to really enjoy oneself at the festivals. But, working on it for the seafood on the bridge festival coming up. Anyway, Snooth & The Spirit, keep the info flowing, we have had some great parties going through ur selections. What about a visit to our great wineries here around Stanthorpe and surrounding areas, including Kingaroy, before heading south to Hunter Valley, New south Wales & then into Barossa Valley, South Australia let alone Tasmania and Margaret River in Western Australia. Then you could go to New Zealand to the Marlborough region for their great white wines. We have much to offer here in the southern hemishere. Come and find out. Cheers. The manwolf.

    Aug 14, 2010 at 4:20 AM

  • Snooth User: Harobed454
    515848 12

    I grew up with a great recipe for Caponata, but this one knocks my socks off.

    Aug 14, 2010 at 6:14 AM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,085

    Keep These Great Recipes Coming

    Aug 14, 2010 at 7:35 AM

  • Snooth User: Lo Piano
    109953 4

    Great recipe! Brings up the good weather... Summertime in Belgium isn't always what it should be... Thx!!!

    Aug 14, 2010 at 10:45 AM

  • My family has been making caponata since the 50's with my born-in-Sicily Grandmother's recipe. Very similar to this, Grandma Giovanna's included mushrooms, zucchini and artichoke hearts, white onions instead of red,no raisins. The Sicilian wine would make a great addition. These jars were a taste of the old country, even to those of us who had never been there.
    Thanks for the memories!

    Aug 14, 2010 at 2:04 PM

  • When do you add the olives? They're in your list of ingredients, but couldn't find them in the recipe.

    Aug 15, 2010 at 10:31 AM

  • Snooth User: MGagliano
    556011 10

    Hello all! EatWellEatCheap brought to my attention an omission in the recipe. Please note that the olives should be added in the final step along with the capers and pine nuts. Thanks for catching this!

    Aug 15, 2010 at 10:53 AM

  • In our version, the olives are added with the capers and pine nuts, salt & pepper and simmered, uncovered for an additional 10 minutes.

    Aug 15, 2010 at 11:09 AM

  • Snooth User: MGagliano
    556011 10

    Since the vegetables are still warm when you add the olives (pine nuts and capers), the heat releases the olives' brine and adds another dimension of flavor. I prefer not to cook the final 3 ingredients simply from a textural perspective but yes, they can be simmered with the other "sauce" ingredients.

    Aug 15, 2010 at 11:42 AM

  • Really very informative and interesting site.because this site has good information all of user..

    Aug 17, 2010 at 1:57 AM

  • Snooth User: truedio
    349279 1

    Oh yea, this sounds just about right. I may even try it with the raisins seeing that their use is a testament to the more traditional style of Sicilian cooking. Well done. Thanks for the recipe.

    Aug 20, 2010 at 1:36 PM

  • Snooth User: Famata
    560180 1

    Excellent recipe! As a Sicilian/American myself, the only 'changes' I'd make is to eliminate the red peppers AND add 1tbsp of cocoa powder [don't's savory NOT sweet!]. Outside of that...great piece. Gets better as the week passes along!

    Aug 20, 2010 at 2:33 PM

  • Thanks to Irene h for referring to the Camilleri mystery series. Inspector Montalbano's crime-solving escapades, while snacking on caponata look to be amusing.

    Aug 20, 2010 at 3:06 PM

  • Snooth User: MGagliano
    556011 10

    I am so glad to see other Montalbano fans! BRAVO!!

    Aug 20, 2010 at 10:42 PM

  • My wife made this, it was delicious, and worth the special trip to the store for ingredients. {homegrown japanese eggplant - $4/lb at the store, and it grows like crabgrass in my garden}
    I was able to open and print PFD using Vista. I wish I knew where you keep the older recipes. I forwarded an etouffee recipe to the best cook in my world and she did it up great, but didn't save the recipe. There are a lot of keeper meals on 'Snooth'.

    Aug 21, 2010 at 11:25 PM

  • Excellent article I must say.. Simple but really entertaining and engaging.. Keep up the good work!

    Oct 01, 2010 at 1:39 AM

  • Nice idea of sharing link, thanks, it will really be useful.

    Oct 03, 2010 at 2:17 AM

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