Rustic Italian Caponata

I’m a dessert person; always have been. My husband, on the other hand, is an appetizer person. He would much rather buy an appie and an entree and skip dessert when dining at a nice restaurant. I, NEVER want to skip dessert, so I would forgo an appetizer in order to save room (and money, let’s be serious here).

Over the many years of dating and marriage, he’s definitely turned me into a foodie, and one distinct difference I’ve noticed is that I have started gravitating more and more towards appetizers. It’s absolutely incredible what chefs can do with certain foods…mouth watering! There are some places we’ve eaten at where we just order a bunch of appetizers and skip the entree all together. They can be THAT GOOD!

When I entertain now, I find myself always trying to serve up a nice appie before dinner. This serves a few purposes: for starters, it gets food in people’s bellies! Nothing worse when going to someone’s house for dinner, starving, and having to wait an hour before it’s ready! I’ve been both that host (unfortunately) and that guest and both stink! Give your guests something to eat almost as soon as they arrive! Secondly, it helps keep your guests entertained and busy while you are finishing up the main course. This is also an important reason!

Italian Caponata

So with all of that in mind, today, I want to bring you an amazing italian appetizer: Caponata (pronounced ca-pu-nata). This dish originates from Sicily and is considered a warm salad made with eggplant and celery, in a sweet and sour sauce. The flavor profile of this dish is honestly out of this world! The are so many layers from the sweetness of the sugar to the sourness of the vinegar to the heat of the chili pepper to the acidity of the tomatoes to the woodiness of the pine nuts…I could keep going. Then let’s talk about the “chew factor”, as my hubby and I like to call it: how do all the elements hold up in your mouth and how to they contrast each other to make a supremely satisfying bite?! You have the softness of the eggplant, the crunch of the celery, the chewiness of the pine nut and the liquid bursts of the tomatoes! AH-MAZING! Like really, what more could you ask for in a dish?! 

Italian Caponata

I originally found this recipe while watching Buddy Valastro’s short lived “Kitchen Boss” series on TLC. I found he made very flavorful, relatively quick and easy dishes, so I really enjoyed watching! This is where I first heard of Caponata. It sounded so delicious to me that I ran out the next day and bought my first eggplant! I had never cooked with that veggie before, so it was time to get acquainted! 

 

Italian Caponata

Over the years, I’ve adapted my own variation of the recipe, based on our personal preferences. For instance, the traditional recipe calls for capers. We quickly discovered that we are not big caper fans! It also calls for raisins and for us, that component of raisins didn’t jive with our “chew factor.” It felt weird…almost distracting (is it weird to talk about food in this way?!) But what we’ve ended up with is such a delicious and flavorful treat, that you can really eat it whenever and however you’d like: as an appie, as a side dish, on top of chicken, hot or cold…you name it! It’s versatile and it delicious! And if I’m totally honest, the flavors change a bit each time I make it, depending what I have on hand and what food mood I’m in. For instance with this last batch of caponata (the one pictured here), I felt like adding more tomatoes. The recipes only calls for half a 28 oz can but I just kept adding more in and you know what? It tasted just as good as it always does!

Scroll below for the recipe card (which you can download into your recipe manager app or save and print!).

Rustic Italian Caponata
This rustic Italian dish will have your taste buds soaring to new heights! This dish is so versatile that you can serve it as any which way, hot or cold, and you will still be coming back for more!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2" dice
  2. 1 medium onion, cut into small dice
  3. 2 large stalk celery, cut into thin slices
  4. 3 plump cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  6. 1 14 ounce canned diced tomatoes (use some of the liquid)
  7. 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  8. 1 packet of stevia (or 1 tbsp of white sugar)
  9. 2-3 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  10. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  11. Salt
Instructions
  1. Heat a large skillet (12") medium high. Add the ¼ cup olive oil.
  2. When shimmering, add the eggplant and a pinch of salt. Stir and let cook, stirring occasionally until softened and browned (roughly 5 minutes). Remove and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Add the onion and celery, pinch salt. Cook, stirring until slightly softened and somewhat translucent.
  4. Add garlic and red pepper, stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the tomatoes, vinegar and stevia and stir well to combine.
  6. Add the eggplant and combine. Cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until richly flavored, 15-20 minutes.
  7. Remove caponata from heat and fold in the pine nuts. Check for salt and correct if more is needed. Serve this hot or let cool, up to you! Serve with grilled crusty bread or on top of your favorite cracker!
Notes
  1. * Adjust any of the ingredients depending on your preferences. There are many different kinds of recipes for Caponata out there, lots with various added ingredients such as capers, raisins, olives, carrots, etc.
  2. * Most pine nuts are sold raw. You will want to roast them in a frying pan on low heat. Make sure to keep a close eye on them and stir frequently to avoid burning.
Adapted from Buddy Valastro
Adapted from Buddy Valastro
Amidst the Chaos http://amidstthechaos.ca/
 Well I hope you’ve enjoyed this recipe! I know eggplant is not the most popular veggie out there to cook with but why not try something new?! I almost guarantee you’ll love it! Let us know in the comments below how this dish turns out for you!

What are some of your favorite appetizers to serve for a dinner party? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Love & Blessings,

CMartin-Sign

 

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46 Comments on Caponata: A Rustic Italian Treat

  1. Kara
    April 21, 2015 at 9:06 am (2 years ago)

    That looks delicious. My mom and I were just talking about new ways to cook with eggplant. Definitely adding this to the list.

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 9:23 am (2 years ago)

      Awesome Kara! Hope you guys love it! Come back and let us know after you’ve tried it! xox

      Reply
  2. Jamie
    April 21, 2015 at 9:14 am (2 years ago)

    Mmmm ! Hubby loves Italian! And I love the ideas to
    Change it up a bit, too. Thanks, Christine!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 9:22 am (2 years ago)

      Let me know how he likes it Jamie! xox

      Reply
  3. Lee
    April 21, 2015 at 9:29 am (2 years ago)

    I love Italian food and I have just started cooking more of it at home. I, also, really love appetizers and your recipe looks like just the new dish I need to learn to make. Happy Cooking!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 1:31 pm (2 years ago)

      So happy to hear Lee! Thanks for stopping by! Let me know how it turns out for you! xox

      Reply
  4. Sheryl
    April 21, 2015 at 9:33 am (2 years ago)

    You had me at eggplant! This dish looks amazing. Will have to try it.

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 1:31 pm (2 years ago)

      Awesome Sheryl! Let me know how you like it! xox

      Reply
  5. Chelsea
    April 21, 2015 at 9:47 am (2 years ago)

    Looks SOOOOOO good…I’m more with your husband and am an appetizer girl myself. I am definitely into trying new foods! Pinning!!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 1:30 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks lovely! xox

      Reply
  6. Chelsea
    April 21, 2015 at 9:48 am (2 years ago)

    Also Google shared it 🙂

    Reply
  7. Megan
    April 21, 2015 at 10:17 am (2 years ago)

    I’ve had this before, and you’re right it is totally delish!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 1:31 pm (2 years ago)

      So good eh?! xox

      Reply
  8. Sam @ PancakeWarriors
    April 21, 2015 at 10:39 am (2 years ago)

    Oh I love this!! Anything eggplant is a win in my book 🙂 Love that you used stevia to round this out – so many people forget that tomatoes love just a touch of sweet and salt to be perfect!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 1:32 pm (2 years ago)

      Absolutely Sam! And I should have mentioned that’s why I used it, to cut the acidity! Thanks for stopping by! xox

      Reply
  9. Jessy @ The Life Jolie
    April 21, 2015 at 11:17 am (2 years ago)

    I love Caponata but have never tried making it. I’ll look forward to giving this recipe a shot!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 1:32 pm (2 years ago)

      Let me know how it turns out for you Jessy! xox

      Reply
  10. kungphoo
    April 21, 2015 at 2:09 pm (2 years ago)

    mmm looks like a really good recipe.. I have never heard of this before.

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:22 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you! It really is! Let me know if you make it, how you like it! xox

      Reply
  11. Marissa
    April 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm (2 years ago)

    Yum! Thanks for sharing the recipe:)

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:22 pm (2 years ago)

      My pleasure! Enjoy! Thanks for stopping by Marissa! xox

      Reply
  12. Cindy
    April 21, 2015 at 3:18 pm (2 years ago)

    Not only are your pictures beautiful, but this rustic treat looks amazing. What a great treat for entertaining!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:23 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you Cindy! Kind words! Let me know if you make it, how it turns out! I’m sure your guests will love it! xox

      Reply
  13. Fi Ní Neachtáin
    April 21, 2015 at 3:34 pm (2 years ago)

    I’ve never had caponata before but it sure looks and sounds delicious! Can I just say that this is the first time I’ve come across your blog and it’s so pretty, I love it 🙂

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:24 pm (2 years ago)

      Well thank you so much, my dear! I appreciate every single visitor so much! I hope you’ll sign up for our email updates so you can follow along! And let me know if you try the recipe how it turns out! Thanks for visiting! xox

      Reply
  14. Very ERin
    April 21, 2015 at 3:39 pm (2 years ago)

    This looks amazing! I’m definitely more of an appetizer person, despite my love for chocolate 🙂

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:24 pm (2 years ago)

      Well I hope you enjoy this Erin! Let me know how it turns out! Thanks for stopping by! xox

      Reply
  15. crystal
    April 21, 2015 at 4:18 pm (2 years ago)

    That looks delish and healthy. Those ingredients are yummy!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:25 pm (2 years ago)

      Yes, it’s totally clean so you can indulge a little, knowing you’re eating healthy! Thanks for stopping by Crystal! xox

      Reply
  16. Brooke Knipp
    April 21, 2015 at 5:55 pm (2 years ago)

    So I just read every word of your post and it prompted me to create a new Pinterest board just for appetizers. I love apps! How did I not have a specific board devoted to them? This looks delicious and I love that it’s so flexible/adaptable. Thanks, Christine!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:27 pm (2 years ago)

      That happens to me so often where I wonder why a certain board hasn’t been created! Glad to have inspired a new board! It really is adaptable and just so delicious! Let me know when you try it! Thanks my dear! xox

      Reply
  17. Jamie
    April 21, 2015 at 6:27 pm (2 years ago)

    I’ve never heard of this dish before but it sounds healthy and delicious! And great tip about hosting parties, I’ll definitely have to keep that in mind!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:28 pm (2 years ago)

      It truly is Jamie! And I’m glad you found those helpful! Thanks for stopping by! xox

      Reply
  18. Terri Ramsey Beavers
    April 21, 2015 at 7:23 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing this rustic italian treat. I grow eggplant every year and I’m always looking for more recipes to use it in because I really love it.

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:29 pm (2 years ago)

      How fun to grow your own eggplant! I’d love to plant a vegetable garden someday! I bet this would taste even more delicious with home grown veggies! Enjoy Terri and thanks for stopping by! xox

      Reply
  19. Chelley @ AisForAdelaide
    April 21, 2015 at 9:54 pm (2 years ago)

    I want to try this and expand my app horizons! I love to cook, but always fall short on anything outside of main courses and desserts!

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 21, 2015 at 10:31 pm (2 years ago)

      Well this is an easy first try Chelley! It’s a forgiving recipe, where you can add in more or less of certain things and it will still turn out fabulously! Let me know how you like it! xox

      Reply
  20. Dhemz
    April 22, 2015 at 12:03 pm (2 years ago)

    oh, wow! that looks rich and yummy! I would love to try this.

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 22, 2015 at 4:40 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks! Let me know how it turns out for you! xox

      Reply
  21. Ourfamilyworld
    April 22, 2015 at 3:42 pm (2 years ago)

    I love love caponata. It reminds me so much of my nonna. I love your display: so inviting

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 22, 2015 at 4:38 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you! And I can see how this dish could invoke some great memories! Love that! xox

      Reply
  22. April Decheine
    April 23, 2015 at 11:43 am (2 years ago)

    Oh wow, that looks delicious, the table setting is so rustic too.

    Reply
    • Christine
      April 23, 2015 at 7:52 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks April! It really is delicious! Thank you for stopping by! xox

      Reply
  23. Vanessa
    June 8, 2016 at 4:15 pm (11 months ago)

    I myself recently saw the episode of kitchen boss where Buddy prepared this dish. I knew I was going to make it as soon as possible. I set about trying to find the recipie online and was so thrilled to find your recipie. It was the most like what I saw Buddy prepare. I have made a few variations as well and this dish was without a doubt the most flavorful and delicious thing I have ever tasted. I am not a caper fan either so I left them out and I had no pine nuts so they were out. I used fresh halved cherry tomatoes and fresh sliced mushrooms. I also used a drizzle of red pepper infused olive oil instead of flakes. But wow..the yum factor is through the roof and its like a flavor bomb going off in your mouth! Thanks for posting this! 💜💜💜💜

    Reply
    • Christine
      August 8, 2016 at 2:00 pm (9 months ago)

      My pleasure and your variation of ingredients sound delish.

      Reply
  24. Vanessa
    August 8, 2016 at 2:12 pm (9 months ago)

    It is so delicious with fresh tomatoes and mushrooms. I have made it several times and am spfeading the love for this dish. I have a few friends making it now too =)

    Reply

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