This caponata sauce stars eggplant, olives, capers, and sherry vinegar, creating a magical marriage of sweet and sour flavors that’s perfect over fresh pasta.Incredibly versatile - caponata can be served by itself or with just about any protein. I've made it with chicken, halibut or tofu. You can also add all sorts of ingredients depending on taste - I've seen caponata with carrots, bell peppers, potatoes, pine nuts, and raisins. It's a very easy, personal stew - and I encourage you to add ingredients to it and make it your own.
- 7 ounces penne
- 1 organic globe eggplant
- 1 or 2 organic shallots
- 1 or 2 cloves organic peeled fresh garlic
- ¼ cup pitted Castelvetrano olives
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 4 or 5 sprigs organic fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ½ cup diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1: Prep and cook the eggplant
Bring a medium saucepot of generously salted water to a boil for the penne. Separate the penne so the noodles don’t clump together during cooking.
Remove the stem from the eggplant; cut the eggplant into ½-inch cubes.
If you have time, you can remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant by “sweating” it before cooking. Slice the eggplant into ½-inch-thick rounds, sprinkle with salt, and spread in a single layer on a paper-towel-lined sheet pan. Let stand for 10 minutes, then pat dry, cut into ½-inch cubes.
(you can skip this above step, I do, but some people are turned off by eggplant's 'bitterness' - which for me is a plus. I just cut it up into cubes and went straight to the frypan)
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 to 3 tablespoons oil until hot but not smoking. Add the eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and lightly salt.
Do not clean the pan.
2: Cook the penne
To the pot of boiling water, add the penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the penne, reserving ½ cup (¾ cup) pasta cooking water. Return the penne to the pot; toss with about 2 teaspoons (1 TBL) oil to keep the noodles from sticking and cover until you are ready to serve.
3: Bringing it all together...
Peel and coarsely chop the shallots.
Finely chop, press, or grate the garlic.
Coarsely chop the olives, checking for any pits.
Rinse the capers.
Strip the parsley leaves from the stems; coarsely chop the leaves for garnish.
In the same pan used for the eggplant, warm 1 to 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.
Stir in the shallots, garlic, olives, and capers and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened slightly, 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat, add the penne and reserved pasta cooking water, and toss to coat. Stir in as much sherry vinegar as you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the penne and caponata sauce to individual bowls. Garnish with the Parmesan and parsley and serve.