Italian Cooking 101: Caponata

While the caponata may be a simple dish, it's the perfect introduction to Italian cooking. Actually native to Sicily, this cooked vegetable salad has been adapted to the style of Tuscany.

Caponata, or cooked vegetable salad, is actually native to Sicily. Eggplants are a summer staple in Sicily, where caponata is prepared with sweetened vinegar and capers and served cold or at room temperature, either as a side dish or on top of bruschetta.  

Here, the dish has been simplified and adapted to the style of Tuscany. Like virtually all Tuscan recipes, the method is simple, allowing the quality and freshness of the ingredients to shine. High quality olive oil, as well as fresh basil, garlic, and oregano, make all the difference.

This simple Tuscan caponata is a perfect introduction to Italian cooking for those anticipating an upcoming Italian villa vacation or attempting to recreate the culinary magic of a recent trip. If you’re just starting to plan your Italian getaway, consider scheduling a group cooking class, which our concierge team can arrange to take place at your villa. After learning a few tips and tricks from an Italian chef – or even accompanying him to your villa’s organic garden or nearby market – you’ll never look at your local supermarket the same way again. 

Tuscan Caponata 
Serves 4 
From A Culinary Traveller in Tuscany: Exploring and Eating off the Beaten Track by Beth Elon

1 large eggplant (leave unpeeled) 
1 large red onion
1 large red bell pepper
3 medium zucchini
2 ribs celery
2 ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 bunch basil
1/2-cup fresh virgin olive oil 
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut the eggplant into bite-sized pieces, place in a colander with a generous sprinkling of salt, and allow to sit while you prepare the other vegetables. 

Wash and dice all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Rinse and drain the eggplant. 

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently sauté the onion with the garlic, oregano and basil. After 5 minutes, add the vegetables, along with the drained and rinsed eggplant, and cook gently for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Ready to learn from the locals? Learn to cook authentic Italian cuisine on your vacation in an Italian villa rental