Recipe: Aubergine and olive stew (Caponata alla giudia)

A Sicilian classic recipe that's perfect for summer suppers - and next day's lunch


Caponata is an ancient Sicilian dish (Photo: Ray Kachatorian)

  • place PRE 10 minutes plus draining time
  • place COOK 30 minutes
  • place SERVES 4
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Caponata is one of the most ancient Sicilian dishes and likely has Jewish origins, indicated by the presence of aubergine. It tastes even better the next day.


  • Cut the aubergines into 2cm cubes. Transfer to a colander, salt generously, weigh down with a plate, and drain for 30 minutes in the kitchen sink.

  • Cut the half onion into very thin slices. Roughly chop the whole onion into 2cm chunks. Cut the celery into chunks and halve the cherry tomatoes.

  • Pour the olive oil into a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat, add the sliced onion and garlic, and cook for about 3 minutes, until the garlic is slightly browned. Add the celery, tomatoes (cherry and chopped), olives, capers, and chopped onion and cook for 10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

  • Remove the plate covering the aubergines and squeeze them to remove any remaining liquid.

  • Pour 3 cm of the oil into a large pan and warm over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 180°C. (Test the temperature by dropping in a small piece of bread or apple. If it sizzles nicely but doesn’t bubble up too wildly, it’s ready.)

  • Adding only as many aubergine cubes to the pan as will fit in a single layer without crowding fry until golden, turning often. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel–lined plate. Repeat with the remaining aubergine cubes, adding more oil if needed.

  • Add the drained, fried aubergine to the pot of vegetables. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, adding a bit of water if the vegetables look dry, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

  • Stir in the basil leaves, remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature before serving.

  • Caponata keeps well refrigerated in a covered bowl or airtight container for 3 to 5 days and can also be frozen. Leftovers can also be used to dress pasta with some grated Parmesan cheese or mozzarella, torn into small pieces.

    Adapted from Cooking alla Giudia (Artisan Books)


3 aubergines
Kosher salt
1½ onions
2 celery sticks
5 cherry tomatoes
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed
200g chopped ripe tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes, with their juice
2 tbsp mixed black and green olives, pitted
1 tbsp capers
120ml white wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
Sunflower or peanut oil for deep-frying
Freshly ground black pepper
5 basil leaves

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