I have always thought of caponata as a Sicilian dish containing eggplant, tomatoes, olives, and capers. In fact, I make my recipe for Caponata quite often as it stores well and is great for entertaining. On our recent trip to Positano, I learned that Caponata along the Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfitana) is an entirely different dish, yet just as delicious. Caponata here is a sort of bread salad, similar to the Tuscan Panzanella, but it is made with friselle (also called freselle or frisedde), which are circles of bread that are twice cooked becoming very hard and dry. Friselle are found throughout all of Italy but are more common in southern Italy, particularly Puglia, Calabria, and Campania. I was first introduced to friselle when we were living in Milan over twenty years ago and at that time I used to serve them with topped with a simple tomato salad. We saw this unique bread based caponata on many restaurant menus during our exploration of the Amalfi coast, particularly at the more casual beach spots.
In my version of Caponata di Amalfi, the friselle are first moistened, then squeezed dry. Do not let the friselle become completely soft though as it is better to have some crunchiness in the salad. A salad made from fresh, ripe tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, olives, and celery is spooned over the bread, and it is then drizzled with a red wine vinegar and olive oil. Variations of this salad may contain canned tuna or salad greens, but after tasting a few variations, I prefer the basic tomato and mozzarella combination. Friselle can be found at many Italian specialty stores, or online here, or at Amazon.com. Scordo.com even has a recipe for making your own friselle at home if you’d like to give it a try! You can also substitute very stale, dry crusty Italian bread and follow the same steps as in the recipe below if you cannot locate friselle in your area. If buffalo mozzarella is unavailable, you can substitute regular fresh mozzarella. Do try and buy a good quality mozzarella as well as very ripe tomatoes as it does make a difference in the flavor of this dish. This is my basic recipe, but you can play around with the ingredients depending on what you prefer. Some versions of this dish contain capers and/or arugula, and I even saw a caponata in the town of Amalfi that was topped with slices of grilled chicken.
Positano, where I first tasted Caponata di Amalfi.
Deborah Mele 2015
Caponata di Amalfi
- 4 Friselle
- 8 to 10 Ripe Plum Tomatoes, Chopped
- 2 Cups Cubed Mozzarella (Buffalo Mozzarella Preferred) or Bocconcini
- 3/4 Cup Diced Celery
- 1/3 Cup Coarsely Chopped Flavorful Olives (I Used Taggisca)
- Fresh Basil Leaves
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- Fill a bowl with water and dunk in the friselle.
- Let sit for a few minutes until you begin to feel them soften, then drain.
- Squeeze the friselle removing as much water as you can (they will continue to soften once dressed).
- Place the friselle on a platter and then arrange the tomatoes, mozzarella, celery, olives, and basil leaves.
- Drizzle with both vinegar and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.