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Grilling Takes Eggplant Caponata To New Heights

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eggplant peeled

Italian eggplant caponata gets a lift from the smokiness created by grilling all the ingredients

Caponata is a traditional eggplant based recipe especially popular in southern Italy. It is served as a sandwich, as an appetizer on rounds of a crusty fresh bread, on crackers, as a sauce on grilled seafood, on grilled pork chops or chicken, on pasta, and even on pizza. Italian eggplant caponata is usually made in a pan or pot, but grilling the ingredients adds a layer of complexity. Once you have the concept, you can riff on it. Alone, this is a great vegetarian grilling option, though some recipes incorporate squid, octopus, shrimp, or fish.

This recipe was inspired by a traditional indoor recipe from my wife’s niece Maria Scheuler. She served me my first taste of this wonderful relish which she makes by sautéeing the veggies, chopped first, in oil in her Dutch oven rather than grilling.

Grilled Italian Eggplant Caponata Recipe

eggplant caponata
Tried this recipe?Tell others what you thought of it and give it a star rating below.
2.70 from 20 votes
Caponata can be made as a vegetarian dish or made with fish.

Main Course
Side Dish
difficulty scale


Servings: 3 cups (236.6 ml)


Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes


  • ½ cup oil cured green olives
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 large eggplant, about 8" (20.3 cm) long (about 1 1/2 pounds (680.3 g))
  • 1 zucchini, about 6" (15.2 cm) long (about 3/4 pounds (340.2 g))
  • 1 medium sweet red bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 6 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • ½ teaspoon of your favorite hot sauce
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoon inexpensive balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 12 fresh basil leaves or 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • Salt to taste
About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page


  • Prep. Remove the pits from the olives and chop into 1/4-inch (6.3 mm) chunks. Set aside. Put the pine nuts into a dry frying pan over medium heat and toast them until they get some color. Be careful not to burn them. Set aside.
  • Prep some more. Cut the eggplant and zucchini into 1-inch (25 mm) slices, discarding the ends. Peel the onion and leave the ends on. Cut in half. Remove the leaves from the celery and clean it well. Save the leaves for another dish such as, they are an underestimated herb. Cut the bell pepper in half and remove the stem and seeds. Put them all in a big bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, pour in about 3 tablespoons olive oil (about half the amount in the recipe).
  • Fire up. Prepare a grill for medium high direct heat cooking. Place the eggplant, onion, zucchini, celery, and bell pepper on the grill. Cook the until the eggplant and zucchini are starting to brown on both sides, until the onions get some grill marks, and until the celery begins to get flexible. Remove from heat.
  • Simmer. In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, pour in 3 tablespoons of olive oil to cover the base of the pan with a thin layer. Warm to medium high. Mince or press the garlic, stir it in and let it cook until it is soft but not brown, about 1 minute. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Mix in everything else except the pine nuts and fresh basil (if you are using dried basil, add it now). Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is thick, about 30 minutes.
  • Serve. Chop the basil, add it to the pot, stir in the toasted pine nuts, and season to taste. You can serve it warm, spooned on slices of baguette, or cool, and chill for a few hours or overnight.

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Published On: 8/22/2012 Last Modified: 2/13/2024

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  • Meathead, Founder And BBQ Hall of Famer - Founder and publisher of, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", and is a BBQ Hall Of Fame inductee.


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