Traditional Caponata

By Chef Kristine Schug

Some recipes featuring traditional Mediterranean ingredients like eggplants, tomatoes and peppers are enhanced by the flavor of olive oil - what grows together goes together! The pure, true flavor of olive in Piro olive oil is the perfect addition- every cook should have a bottle of Piro olive oil in their pantry for that last splash of elegance…

- Kristine


½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil Piro 

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cups celery, finely diced

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 large red bell peppers, finely chopped

1 lb. ripe tomatoes (Roma is best), peeled, seeded and diced (or 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes, with puree)

2 lbs. small eggplants (Asian or Fairy Tale are best, less bitter), peeled, cut into small dice

¼ cup capers, rinsed, drained

¼ cup chopped Castelvetrano olives

Zest and juice from one large lemon

1 cup fresh basil, chopped

Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

Sugar, to taste




Heat half of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick sauté pan. Add the onion and celery. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

Next, add the garlic. Stir and cook onion mixture for a minute, until the garlic begins to smell fragrant.

Now add the peppers and ½ teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring, until just about tender, about 8 minutes. 

While onion mixture is cooking, heat another large, heavy nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the other half of the olive oil, then add the diced eggplant. Brown the eggplant cubes on all sides, gently turning the cubes now and then with a spatula. Try to brown the eggplant without breaking the cubes apart. Once the cubes are nicely browned add them to the first sauté pan. 

Next, add the tomatoes to the pan with the onion/eggplant mixture. Cook, stirring gently until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and their liquid has reduced. Now add the capers, olives, lemon zest and juice.


Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are thoroughly softened. The mixture should be fairly thick.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once the caponata has cooled to room temperature, add salt, pepper and possibly sugar to taste.

Add the chopped basil and stir to mix it in. Place in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

Refrigerate up to two weeks, or freeze. Serve at room temperature. 

Cook’s Note: 

I like my caponata to be more on the “relish” side and less tomatoe-y.

This recipe is delicious on its own, but is lovely with burrata cheese, goat cheese, eggs, etc. It’s such a great recipe for using up extra garden goodies.

Do freeze extras, they freeze beautifully!

all photography: Kristine Schug 


A passion for gardening helps Chef Kristine create new recipes year-round at Schug Winery.

She loves meeting and cooking for people from all over the world and discussing all things food with anyone who has a question. Her extensive recipe collection can be explored on the Shug Estate's  cookbook page

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