This Sicilian vegetable dish is far more than any of its components. To call it an eggplant dish is to simplify its complexity. It is a Sicilian dish that has conquered the entire Italian peninsula. On family trips to Italy, we found it being served practically everywhere; however it is typically a Sicilian treat, steeped in Sicilian history and culture. It utilizes a sweet and sour flavor that was said to be introduced to the island by its Arab rulers in the 900’s AD. Agrodolce or sweet and sour sauces are not typically found as part of Italian cuisine, but the agrodolce flavor of caponata is now well known.
My mother was known for her caponatina as it was called in our home. Mom’s caponatina was so good that she was often asked to prepare it for others. I can only guess as to how caponatina became known as caponata. I believe it was known as caponatina throughout most of Sicily, and lost the diminutive INA meaning “small bits” when the dish was later popularized throughout the peninsula. Although my mother lovingly prepared this dish in her kitchen often right in front of my eyes, I did not have the insight to preserve the recipe. I regret this; however, I do know the list of ingredients and their cooking method, but lack the amounts. This recipe was compiled by me from memory and tested using other recipes for the missing quantities. I believe I have found Mom’s secret and would like to share it. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.