Marinated Eggplant: Melanzane Sott’olio


Sott’olio is a term that means preserved in olive oil.  Eggplant, artichokes, zucchini, cauliflower, and bell peppers can be made this way.  There are two methods for making melanzane sott’olio.  The traditional Sicilian method is to use raw eggplant.  In the alternative method the eggplant is cooked.  It’s really a simple process.  In this recipe for melanzane sott’olio, the eggplant is partially cooked in a vinegar bath, and then marinated in olive oil, garlic, herbs, and spices.  The eggplant needs at least two days to marinate – the longer it ages, the better it tastes.  It makes a delicious addition to an antipasto (appetizer) dish, or served as an appetizer on thin slices of toasted Italian bread.  It’s also great in a sandwich.  The eggplant will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

(Milinciani Sutt’ogghiu)

Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes approximately 1 pint.

1 large Italian or Globe eggplant (about 1 /12 pounds)
3 cups water
2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 peppercorns
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Olive oil
1 one-pint glass jar with lid, sterilized

1. PREPARE THE EGGPLANT:  Wash the eggplant, cut off the stem end and remove the outer skin using a vegetable peeler.  Cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices.  Place in a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt, and allow the eggplant slices to drain for 1 hour.

2. COOK THE EGGPLANT:  Place the vinegar, water, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a small stock pot.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Add several slices at a time, cooking in batches.  Cook for approximately 6-8 minutes, until just tender.  The eggplant will become somewhat translucent.  Remove slices with a slotted spoon and place in a colander over a bowl to drain.  Taste the eggplant and season with salt if necessary (bear in mind that the eggplant will taste vinegary at this point).

3. FINAL ASSEMBLY:  Layer a few eggplants slices in the jar, and sprinkle with a few pieces of garlic, some oregano, half the peppercorns, and some pepper flakes, if using.  Cover with olive oil.  Add another layer of eggplant slices, packing them down firmly.  Continue layering, every so often adding a few pieces of the garlic and oregano, and then covering with oil.  The eggplant should be completely submerged in oil.  Tuck in one bay leaf into the jar and add the remaining peppercorns.  Cover with lid.  After 2 days, serve cold or at room temperature.  Refrigerate up to 4 weeks.

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