Caponata is a Sicilian relish of eggplant and assorted vegetables. Usually, the skin of the eggplant is removed before adding it to any dish. Smaller eggplants, like the ones I’m using in this dish, the skin is tender and edible For this recipe, I’m using the ingredients from a Caponata-style dish and spinning it into a non-traditional chili. This is my Caponata Chili.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Yields: 4 to 6 servings
Equipment: 6-quart Dutch oven, chef’s knife, 3 medium-size bowls, 2 small bowls, 2 large plates
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (substitute hot Italian sausage)
1 small (1 pound) eggplant, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 onion, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 Poblano pepper, seeded and diced
2 1/2 cups of zucchini, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 pint of cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 Fresno chili, seeded and minced
1/2 cup beef stock, unsalted
1 (15-ounce) can of Cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can of crushed tomatoes
1 (9-ounce) package of frozen (Birds Eye) artichoke hearts, thawed
2 tablespoons of fresh oregano leaves, extra for garnish
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, freshly grated for garnish
1 pound (16-ounce) box of orzo pasta, cooked
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat add olive oil, minced Fresno chilli, and sausage. Using a wooden spoon break up the sausage. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes or until browned with no pink. Using a slotted spoon to drain the excess fat, remove the sausage, transfer to a medium-size bowl.
Remove all the fat leaving about 2 tablespoons in the bottom of the pot. Over medium-high heat add the diced onion, diced fennel, Kosher salt, and fresh ground black pepper. Stirring frequently, cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft.
Add fennel seeds, dried oregano, chili powder, ground cumin, tomato paste, stir to combine. Next, add the diced orange, red, yellow, Poblano peppers, and minced garlic, and Fresno chili, stir to combine. Stirring occasionally, cook for another 4 to 6 minutes or until just tender.
Add beef stock to *deglaze. With the back of a wooden spoon, scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pot. Continue to cook for 2 minutes allowing the beef stock to reduce by half.
Add diced eggplant, mushrooms, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and cooked sausage, stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium, cook for 45 minutes.
Add dice zucchini, artichoke hearts, and Cannelini beans, stir to combine. Over medium-low heat, simmer for another 45 minutes until the sauce reduces slightly and thickens. Turn the heat off before adding 2 tablespoons of fresh oregano leaves, stir to combine.
To serve, I like to spoon a good helping of orzo pasta in the bottom of a porcelain bowl. Ladle the Caponata Chili on top, garnish with a few oregano leaves, from my garden, then finish with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I have to tell you it’s not your traditional chili but if you love Caponata-style dishes, then you’ll definitely love my Caponata Chili.
*Deglaze is the process of diluting sediments in (a pan) in order to make a gravy or sauce.