A Sicilian ratatouille with aubergine, peppers, salty capers and sweet sultanas topped with melting strings of mozzarella! Served on fluffy couscous, this is one of those meals that we keep coming back to. A flavoursome vegetarian dish that’s packed with vegetables, our Sicilian Caponata Melanzane with Mozzarella is an adored weekday dinner recipe of ours!
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Agrodolce Sauce For Aubergine Caponata
Sicilian Caponata is cooked in agrodolce sauce. Agrodolce means sweet and sour in Italian. With capers and lemon providing the sour and sultanas and honey bringing the sweet, this tomato sauce is full of flavour.
Is Aubergine Underrated?
In my opinion, aubergine is highly underrated. Yes, sure, on its own it can be bland and slimy if overcooked, but as soon as you put it with other ingredients, it is an amazing vegetable to use in vegetarian dishes:
- It’s full of nutritional fibre.
- Contains a good amount of vitamins B1 and B6.
- It’s like a blank canvas that you can pump full of flavour.
This time, we are using aubergine in a delicious Italian-inspired vegetable caponata.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- aubergine: also known as eggplant. More on choosing the best aubergine below.
- bell pepper: choose your favourite colour, or add a mixture to maximise the colour vibrancy of this Sicilian ratatouille.
- red onion: can be replaced with brown onion or shallots.
- capers: use small capers. Capers are bursting with sharp vinegary flavour, so you ideally want to use small little pearls that make into each bite and not overpower other flavours. Our favourite varieties of capers are surfines and capucines.
- sultanas: can be replaced with raisins.
- tinned chopped tomatoes.
- red wine: can be substituted with 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar.
- honey: clear runny honey.
- mozzarella: a ball of fresh mozzarella is optional in this recipe and is not traditionally added to Caponata Melanzane, but we think it does wonders to the dish!
- basil: leaves only, stalks discarded.
- couscous: white or wholewheat. It can also be replaced with bulgur wheat.
- stock: we used a vegetable stock cube mixed with 225ml of water.
How To Choose Aubergine?
There are a couple of things to look for when choosing aubergine in the shop. The good thing is, that aubergine normally comes without any packaging, so you should be able to see, touch and feel it before buying it.
- Colour: look for aubergine with deep purple skin colour; dull faded skin may indicate that the aubergine is past its “best before” date.
- The texture of the skin: fresh aubergine has a smooth and shiny surface.
- Firmness: if you can, give your aubergine a gentle squeeze – it should not feel too soft. When you press a ripe aubergine, the skin should quickly spring back to its original shape.
- Check for bruises.
Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan. Cut your aubergine into rough cubes. Then deseed and slice a pepper. Peel your red onion and cut it into eight wedges.
Spread the aubergines, peppers and onions in a single layer on a large baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Then put in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. The vegetables should soften and start to brown slightly.
In the meantime, finely slice your garlic cloves. Weight out sultanas and capers. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the garlic and fry for a minute until fragrant. Then add sultanas, capers, a tsp of honey and red wine.
If you don’t have any red wine, substitute with 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar. Stir for 30 seconds, then tip in chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Then turn the heat off and set it aside. This is your agrodolce sauce.
Drain the mozzarella ball and tear it up into 8 pieces. When the vegetables are cooked, add them to the agrodolce sauce, stir to coat and turn the heat on to medium-high. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
In the meantime, boil a kettle of water. Add couscous to a bowl, and crumble in a stock cube. Add boiling water and cover with a plate. Leave to stand for 5 minutes. If you wish to make the meal gluten-free, make some quinoa instead. But note that quinoa takes longer to cook.
Stir the basil into the tomato sauce, then place the mozzarella pieces on top and cover with a lid for a minute for the cheese to melt.
Fluff the couscous up with a fork, and divide between two bowls. Top with aubergine caponata with mozzarella and some reserved basil on top. Perfect served with a glass of red wine!
Absolutely! You can replace honey with agave nectar, brown sugar or maple syrup. Instead of mozzarella, dot the Vegetable Caponata with vegan cream cheese once you served it in bowls. Or you can simply skip it altogether!
Use quinoa or rice instead. Both white and brown rice works well with it! Or you can even try it with a creamy polenta mash!
Sicilian Caponata Melanzane
- 1 aubergine cubed
- 1 pepper deseeded and sliced
- 1 large red onion cut into 8 wedges
- 2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
- 20 g capers
- 40 g sultanas
- 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 50 ml red wine or 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 125 g mozzarella ball
- 10 g basil
- 150 g couscous
- ½ vegetable stock cube
- 225 ml hot water
- Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan. Spread the aubergiens, peppers and onions in a single layer on a large baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Then put in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. The vegetables should soften and start to brown slightly.
- In the meantime, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and fry for a minute. Then add sultanas, capers, a tsp of honey and red wine. Stir for 30 seconds, then tip in chopped tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Then turn the heat off and set aside.
- Drain your mozzarella ball and tear it up into 8 pieces. Strip the basil leaves off the stalks (reserve the pritiest leaves for presentation).
- When the vegetables are cooked, add them to the tomato sauce, stir to coat and turn the heat on to medium-high. Cook for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, boil a kettle of water. Add couscous to a bowl, crumble in a stock cube. Add boiling water and cover with a plate. Leave to stand for 5 minutes.
- Stir the basil into the tomato sauce, then add mozzarella and cover with a lid for a minute for the cheese to melt.
- Fluff the couscous up with a fork, divide between two bowls. Top with caponata with melting mozzarella and some reserved basil on top.