Fennel and Pumpkin Caponata with Mozzarella from Recipes for a Lifetime of Beautiful Cooking

I am very drawn to the Sicilian flavour profile of sweet, sour, salty and oily. Caponata is the perfect embodiment of this combination. As with many Sicilian dishes, caponata has drawn its ingredients from across the Mediterranean. It is also a dish that traditionally travels, with the vegetables being bought fresh at port and the sailors preserving them with vinegar and sugar while at sea. This dish is best served at room temperature, with good crusty bread or focaccia to mop everything up.

Fennel and Pumpkin Caponata with Mozzarella from Recipes for a Lifetime of Beautiful Cooking



  • Quarter of a large butternut pumpkin (squash) (or half a small honeynut pumpkin)
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for roasting vegetables
  • 1 medium fennel bulb
  • Half a brown onion, diced small
  • 1 x 400 g (14 oz) tin cherry tomatoes, rinsed, or 250 g (9 oz) fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • 1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup (50 g) pitted green olives (e.g. gordal or green Sicilian)
  • 1½ tablespoons white (granulated) sugar
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 stalk celery, diced small
  • 1 ball (about 110 g/3¾ oz) fresh cow’s or buffalo milk mozzarella (see note)
  • Fine sea salt
  • To serve
  • Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper.

    Step 2

    Peel and deseed the pumpkin and cut it into 3–4 cm (1¼–1½ inch) pieces. Toss the pumpkin with some of the extra olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then place it on the baking tray. Cut the fennel into eight wedges then toss with more of the extra olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then place on the same tray, next to the pumpkin. Roast for 30–40 minutes, until both are golden brown and tender.

    Step 3

    Set a large sauté pan (with a lid) over a medium heat and add the ¼ cup (60 ml) of olive oil, the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is soft and sweet and beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, currants, capers, olives, sugar and vinegar and cook together on a low heat for about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat.

    Step 4

    When the pumpkin and fennel are ready, set the sauté pan with the tomato mix over a low heat and add the celery. Cook for 1 minute, then add the roasted pumpkin and fennel to the pan and stir to combine. Cook for a further minute, then turn off the heat and place the lid on the pan. Let it sit and steam together as it cools. Taste for seasoning and adjust with more salt and vinegar if needed.

    Step 5

    Serve the caponata at room temperature with the torn mozzarella on top, finishing with a drizzle of good-quality olive oil, a sprinkle of flaked sea salt and a crack of pepper. Note: Mozzarella is made with either cow’s milk or buffalo milk. Cow’s milk mozzarella, known as fior di latte, literally means “flower of milk”, indicating its purity, and the name is used to describe both mozzarella and gelato. Mozzarella made with buffalo milk, known as di latte di bufala, has a creamier, more tangy flavour than the more traditional cow’s milk mozzarella. Seasonal adjustment: In summer, swap the pumpkin and fennel for a large purple eggplant (aubergine) for a more traditional caponata.

From Recipes for a Lifetime of Beautiful Cooking @2023 by Danielle Alvarez with Llbby Travers. Reprinted with permission of Murdock Books. Order your copy from Now Serving Bookstore here.


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