This is a very popular dish in the south of Italy. There are many variations, and many contain olives and capers. I have made it following these recipes and they are very good, but I was wanting something with a sweeter undertone and packed with umami.
So, I chose to follow a traditional recipe and then use raisins for sweetness and finished with Asian fish sauce.
The ancient Romans frequently used a condiment called garum. It was basically a fermented fish sauce, made from many different types of fish. There were many different recipes for garum and some were very expensive. They liked to put it on a variety of dishes. I find Asian fish sauce to be a good substitute for garum, based upon the descriptions I\’ve read.
If you want a more authentic “garum”, there is an Italian company called Nettuno that makes a product called Colatura di Alici, and it is a lighter version made from anchovies and very good.
You can order it from Gustiamo from this link https://www.gustiamo.com/colatura-anchovy-sauce-from-cetara-by-nettuno/ For this recipe I used Red Boat Fish Sauce, which is from Vietnam.
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic
1/2 Onion, chopped
1/2 Red or Yellow Pepper, chopped.
1 large Eggplant, peeled and cubed.
3 cups Cherry Tomatoes, pierced.
1/2 cup Marsala Wine
1/4 cup Raisins
1 tsp Chili Flakes, or to taste.
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Add your olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat. This is a slow food process, so the slower it cooks, the better. Add your onions and peppers and sauté until translucent, add you garlic and lightly sauté. Add a pinch of salt and some black pepper.
Add in your cubed eggplant, stir and coat well. You will notice that the eggplant will absorb most, if not all, of the oil. Don\’t panic and add more oil, because the wine will fix that. Cook until the eggplant is translucent. Then, add your Marsala wine. Keep sautéing until the wine reduces by about half.
Add your cherry tomatoes, which you have pierced with a paring knife. This prevents them exploding as they cook. Add your raisins, chili flakes and your fish sauce. Drop the heat down to a very low simmer and adjust salt as needed. This is a good time to start your pasta water.
Cook until the smell becomes less raw and more combined. It should smell like a mixture of ingredients, not just one particular ingredient. I like to crush the cooked cherry tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon.
Drain your pasta, add your caponata and serve with Romano or Parmesan cheese, as desired. Some Italians do not not like to mix seafood or fish dishes with cheese, so it’s your choice. I think it works very well. Bon appetito!