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Sicilian Caponata Pasta

June 5, 2010 by Joan Nova in Italian, Marrying Flavors, Pasta | 30 Comments

I was surprised to note that I hadn’t posted this dish before because it is definitely one of my favorites and I make it frequently. I call it Sicilian because it has ‘ingredient pairings’ that are often found in rustic Sicilian dishes, like mixing savory and salty with a trace of sweet and citrus. You definitely want to try this recipe…even if you don’t like the second ingredient. :)

So, take out the soundtrack to “The Godfather ” and get ready to eat a dish that just builds on flavor…layer after layer…right up to and through the Finishing Touch(es).  Questa pasta ha un sapore molto buona!

It doesn’t photograph as well as it tastes, but take a look at the ingredient list and use your imagination.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1 eggplant cubed
1 tin anchovies mashed
1/3 fennel cubed
1 carrot minced
1 oz. rehydrated porcini mushrooms (reserve liquid)
1/4 small red onion minced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup pesto base (w/o cheese)*
1 pint fresh grape tomatoes halved
raisins (rehydrate with mushrooms)
sun-dried tomatoes (a few minced)
parsley minced
rosemary minced
parmigiano reggiano
orange zest
olives
capers
boccoccini
evoo
pasta
Seasonings: salt, ground fennel seeds + star anise, red pepper flakes

First Step: Cube, dice and mince all vegetables. This can be done in advance as I did earlier in the day. Set aside with a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil. I also added the fresh herbs at this time along with salt, fennel seeds and star anise.

Step 2. Mash contents of 1 tin of anchovies (with oil) in hot skillet till it breaks down. Add vegetables and sauté. When vegetables start to caramelize, add pesto, mushrooms and raisins. Reduce heat and cover.

Step 3. Depending on how vegetables cook down, you may want to add some liquid. Here you can use the rehydrating liquid and/or broth/wine/tomato sauce. Your choice.

Step 4. When caponata is just about ready, add olives and capers.

Pasta shells are a good choice because…well, it all fits so neatly.

For a special treat, just before plating, add fresh boccoccini and watch it melt.

Finishing Touch. A sprinkle of porcini salt (just because I have it and why not?) The other usual finishing touches are a few fresh basil leaves, grated fresh parmigiano and black pepper. Lastly, a quick zest of orange adds a bright finish and brings it all together.

*Pesto base. I make this often and keep it in the refrigerator (basil, olive oil, nuts, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt). A spoonful or two is a great base to many dishes, like vinaigrettes, fish sauces, etc. When you want the traditional pesto, just add the cheese. It was perfect for this dish because I wanted to add the cheese separately at the end.

NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!

30 Comments

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  1. liz says:

    Looks delicious. Will definitely try it. Where can I get porcini salt?

    • Joan says:

      I got it as a gift but a quick google search shows it’s readily available online at places like amazon. Truthfully, though I’m not sure what it actually added in this dish because there were so many layers of flavor before I actually got to that sprinkle.

  2. norma says:

    Porcini salt you can get at any high end supermarket in their international section.

    This is a delicious dish. How can you go wrong with anchovies they add so much to a sauce. Mi piacciono molto!

  3. giz says:

    Now I’m humming the tune from The Godfather and can’t get it out of my head.
    I love the ingredients and absolutely am intrigued by porcini salt. Does the flavour of the porcini come through?

    • Joan says:

      The flavor of porcini definitely comes through the salt (as does the aroma). You can also get this affect yourself by grinding dried porcini to a powder and adding some sea salt.

  4. Joan, I adore caponata! I haven’t made it in a long time, but it will be one of the first dishes I will make with all these garden fresh tomatoes, eggplant, carrots and onions!

  5. I Sicilian says:

    You’re my kind of Sicilian. Are you Sicilian? Lovely recipe

  6. I love everything about this Joan, pasta, eggplant, cheese…..time to make lunch.

  7. elra says:

    You know, I used to make this a lot, thanks to you for posting it, now I can start to make it again. Maybe I’ll use your recipe for variation. Thanks Joan.

  8. Anamaris says:

    Oh, Joan. I’m swoooooooning! I want this. I want A LOT of it. I want A LOT of it NOW.

  9. Anamaris says:

    Quick q, on that last photo, the closeup of the fork bite, it looks like melted mozarella, e’corretto?

  10. peter says:

    Ahhh, has to be Sicilian with the orange zest thrown in the mix! The shells are ideal for capturing chunks of veggies.

  11. The flavour profile here is bold and right up my alley. I cannot wait to try it. People that don’t like anchovies I think haven’t learned to cook with them properly. Basically, that can be an effective salt replacement… depending upon how they are used. This looks like a bowl full of goodness that would be good hot or cold. YUM.
    :)
    Valerie

  12. joan, what is the other part of your ethnicity? just curious. this is my favorite combo. we make this sort of combo but with ground meat as a sicilian timbalo that we read about it the Inspector Montalbano books (set in Sicily.)

  13. Savory, salty, touch of sweet, more citrus – this recipe looks wonderful :)
    The fork in front pictures is making me very hungry!

    Have a great week,

    Gera

  14. redkathy says:

    Pasta and veggies good, anchovies even better, splash of citrus almost there, melted cheese OMG over the top!

    Been MIA caring for the family. Miss my daily foodie reading time Joan.

  15. Devaki says:

    Joan – I LOVE Caponata. It’s my annual ritual when eggplant’s are at their best.

    This is wonderful and I can’t get the sight of that spoonful of melting boccoccini out of my head ;)

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  16. Maria says:

    Wow Joan! That is a delicious pasta dish … it seems like there is a lot going on and yet it all ties in together in the end and, as you explain, there are just four easy steps–one of which can be done in advance. My daughter’s birthday party is next week and I think I will be making this … just don’t know if I should serve it on bruschetta or over pasta.

    Is eggplant always in a traditional caponata?

    • Joan says:

      Yes, eggplant is the key ingredient in ‘caponata’. Everything else is optional…but adds up to the great taste.

  17. Anamaris says:

    I’m in love with this, it was SOOOO good! Thanks for sharing, Joan.

  18. Erica says:

    Oh my. What a wonderful dish,Joan! The pictures are beautiful.

  19. Actually I think it photographed quite well. I have some in the freezer from last year that I think I need to pull out and use over pasta.

  20. elly says:

    Sounds delicious! Love the porcini and the pesto base. Yum! Photos look fab to me!

  21. I have never heard of this recipe until your Christmas post – and when you said you made it often, I had to come over to read it. I cannot imagine the flavour – I love all of the ingredients, but the combination is so unfamiliar to my palate that I almost think I have to try it somewhere to know how it is supposed to taste before I make it… but, I am going to give it a whirl and just adjust the flavours to my palate. It looks scrumptious – and there is actually a recipe! Rare for a “Joan” post! All of your sides looked novel and spectacular, Joan!
    :)
    V
    Happy Happy and Merry Merry!
    A Canadian Foodie recently posted..A Christmas Angel Came to My Door: Sharing the Magic with each of you!My Profile

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