Caponata-Sweet Pepper and Aubergine Stew / peperone dolce e stufato di melanzane
“This stalwart of the Sicilian menu when made well tastes like a rich and exotic 'ratatouille'. It tastes better the next day …. but serve at room temperature.” Maxine Clark “Caponata is one of the outstanding vegetarian dishes and appears in many different versions throughout the island of Sicily.” Anna Del Conti
- 4 medium aubergines, sliced and cut into bite-sized cubes
- 2 Romano pointed sweet red peppers, seeds and white pith removed, sliced and cut into 2cm x 2cm pieces
- 5 tablespoons olive oil for cooking
- 1 white onion finely chopped
- 2 celery sticks cut in half lengthways and sliced into small pieces
- 1 medium carrot finely chopped
- 1 courgette, ends removed, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
- 12 very ripe large tomatoes, coarsely chopped, (preferred) or 2 x 400g tinned Italian plum chopped tomatoes
- 100 ml Italian tomato passata
- 50g sultanas
- 100 g best green pitted olives rinsed, drained and chopped in half
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Mixed Italian herbs, oregano, flat leaf parsley, sage, finely chopped and mixed together To serve:
- Toasted chopped almonds
- Freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
- Salting the aubergines. Put the cubes into a colander in layers, sprinkling the layers with salt. Set aside over a bowl for 20 minutes, then rinse well, and pat dry with paper towels.
- After salting, toss the aubergine cubes and the sweet red peppers into a roasting dish. Add the cooking olive oil, ground sea salt and pepper and mixed herbs. Spread them out and mix thoroughly. Roast in an oven preheated to 200°C (180°C Fan) (400°F) Gas 6 for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. If there is too little oil in the pan add more. Don’t allow the aubergine to become dry. Stir the mixture and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or until well browned, but not burned, and fork tender.
- Meanwhile blanch the celery and carrot in boiling water for 6 minutes then plunge into cold water. Drain and set aside.
- Put the sultanas into a bowl and cover them with hot water. Leave to plump up for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat until softened, but not browned, add the tomatoes, and then cook for 15 minutes on a low heat until pulpy, stirring often. If the mix becomes too dry add the passata.
- Add the olives, vinegar, sultanas, sugar and herb mix to the sauce, stir and cook for a further 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Stir the aubergines and sweet peppers into the tomato sauce until they are thoroughly mixed and warmed throughout. Taste and adjust the seasoning (this means adding more sugar or vinegar to taste to balance the flavours).
- Transfer the mix into a lidded casserole dish while everything is still warm, cover with the lid and leave at room temperature for at least 2 hours so the flavours can steam and mingle and develop while the vegetables cool slowly. It tastes better the next day and even better the day after that. Keep it in the fridge but pull it out a good hour before you intend to eat it as the cold dulls the flavours.
- Serve warm or at room temperature in shallow bowls and, if you prefer, top with the almonds, parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Serving option: To make Caponata into a perfect nutritionally balanced vegetarian meal garnish with hard-boiled eggs. Pass the hard-boiled eggs through the small holes of a food mill or metal sieve and before serving cover the Caponata with the sieved eggs.
Doris Anne has written her review here. She lives in West Yorkshire, UK.
Have sent a photograph of the caponata – I shall be serving it today for lunch to Susan and Sylvia – I will send comments later. Enjoyed making it and looking forward to eating it. Made it last night so that the flavours have longer to infuse.
Hi John. the caponata was delicious. I served it to 6 people, one of whom was vegan, and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all . There was enough left for 2 more portions so served 8. I offered crusty bread and butter with it. Looking forward to trying the next one. I wouldn’t have cooked it as I am not keen on aubergines but I am so glad I did. Thank you for the recipe. Take care Doris Anne
Doris Anne x