Giovanni of la Scaletta in Sicily gave us the recipe for his take on our favourite classic Sicilian dish: la caponata.
All the different methods of making it are more or less the same – the things that make it stand out and be special are the quality of the aubergines, tomatoes and vinegar.
This caponata recipe is absolutely gorgeous as a warm side or cold antipasto.
left: lunch at la Scaletta with caponata, parmigiana di melanzane and insalata di polpo; right: la Scaletta, seen from Marettimo’s harbour
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely sliced
1 large red onion, peeled, chopped
2 whole heads of celery, with leaves, chopped
1 large round, pale aubergine or 2 medium round, pale aubergines, cut into large chunks (instead of aubergines, you can also use apples!)
3 tbsp black Ligurian olives, stoned and kept whole
2 bay leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tbsp red vinegar
2 ripe plum tomatoes, or 3 drained from a tin
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp pine nuts
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and add the chopped onion, garlic and celery. When the vegetables are hot, lower the heat and cook until the mixture has taken on an amber color. Then add the tomatoes. Cook the aubergine separately with a couple of lugs of olive oil on a high heat for around 4 or 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake every now and then (depending on the size of your pan you may need to cook the aubergine in batches). Add the raisins and pine nuts to the tomato-celery mixture, continue cooking for another couple of minutes, and finally also add the aubergine. Add red vinegar, sugar (be careful with the sugar and red vinegar, it can easily become overpowering), olives and bay leaves. Simmer for around 15 minutes or until tender. Taste before serving and season if you need to with salt, pepper, and a little more vinegar. Drizzle with some good olive oil.
‘home cooked’ caponata at la Tonnara di Scopello