Make Ahead

Melanzane sott'olio

October 26, 2010
2 Ratings
  • Makes about 2 cups
Author Notes

My obsession with melanzane sott'olio began on a summer trip to the Aeolian Island of Salina. My brother bought a jar of the pickled, oil-packed eggplant from a woman selling it out of her living room window, and, paying a hefty eight euros for it, we thought we might have just been a couple of suckered tourists. But we opened the jar for lunch, along with some cured meats, cheese, and bread, and suddenly we found ourselves trying to not eat all of it in one sitting. The strips of eggplant were firm and almost chewy, tasting lightly of brine and heavily of the olive oil and herbs used in the marinade. I haven't quite figured out how this woman mastered the texture of the eggplant (mine is definitely softer), but I've managed to hit on a taste close to what I remember, at least enough so that it should hold me over until I can get back to Salina and buy this woman's supply out. - vvvanessa —vvvanessa

Test Kitchen Notes

A fleeting crush on aubergines (eggplants) blossoms into full-fledged romance with vvvanessa’s Melanzane sott’olio all’eoliana. There’s something about the way the discs ‘perk’ up in the pickling liquid, transforming from dark purple to bright. I’ve enjoyed the melanzane, slice by slice. It is delicious, meaty, fragrant and well-flavoured. I suspect it will make a die-hard aubergine romantic out of me. Note: I’d recommend using less vinegar per cup of water for a subtler taste. - Kitchen Butterfly —Kitchen Butterfly

What You'll Need
  • 2 medium-sized Italian eggplants, washed and dried
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 5-10 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn
  • 3-5 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried chile flakes (Calabrian chiles if you can get your hands on them) or 4-6 whole dried chiles, sliced open
  • 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, very thinly sliced
  • 2-3 cups very good quality extra virgin olive oil
  1. Slice the eggplants into rounds not more than 1/4" thick. Toss them with the salt so that they are evenly covered, and place them in a colander. Place the colander on a bowl or plate, then place a sheet of wax paper over the eggplant. Set a few pounds of weight on top of the wax paper; bags of dried beans or sugar or a few big cans of tomatoes will work well.
  2. Let the eggplant sit for a good 6 hours, or ideally overnight. Gently squeeze any remaining liquid from the eggplant. Discard the liquid that drained from the eggplant.
  3. In a large, non-reactive saucepan, bring the vinegar and water to a boil. In 3 or 4 batches, add the eggplant to the mixture, bring it back to a boil, and let it cook for about 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the eggplant slices to a platter lined with an absorbent dish towel or paper towels. Let them drain for about 5 minutes, turn them, then let them drain for another 5 minutes.
  5. In a minimum 1-quart capacity jar or bowl, layer the eggplant with the herbs, chiles, and garlic. Top off the layers with enough olive oil to cover the eggplant completely.
  6. Keep the eggplant refrigerated for up to a couple of weeks, but it won't last that long. Melanzane sott'olio is a perfect addition to an antipasti platter or picnic basket and makes for a great sandwich or crostino topping. I eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all points in between.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • hardlikearmour
  • AntoniaJames
  • susan g
    susan g
  • Kitchen Butterfly
    Kitchen Butterfly

23 Reviews

Ema P. June 28, 2015
So good! Consensus says this is the best way to put eggplant in your mouth! Looking forward to using the magically created dipping oil soon :)
LeBec F. July 23, 2013
vanessa, 2-3 cups of evoo is exPENsive!; are you able to re-use it after the eggplant has been devoured? with the vinegar and water traces, i'm guessing the evoo could not be used for sauteeing, just for vinaigrettes?
vvvanessa July 30, 2013
I've used the oil for vinaigrette (for salad (green, grain, pasta) and for tossing steamed green beans, etc. in) and for dipping bread in. You also might need less oil that what's called for.
hardlikearmour October 11, 2011
I had the opportunity to try this, and it is delicious! Thanks for sharing such a lovely memory and recipe.
vvvanessa October 14, 2011
thanks, hardlikearmour! : )
lapadia October 14, 2011
Me too, thanks for sharing this with us! Even though I am not an "eggplant" person, but couldn't resist tasting it :0
AntoniaJames July 7, 2011
Hey, vvvvvvanessssssa, I am able to get really nice Japanese eggplant, (and sometimes, the even tinier ones) so I'm wondering . . . how much volume of eggplant, i.e., how many cups of slices, would you say you use for this, when you make it with the larger ones? I'm sooo eager to try this! Thanks so much. ;o)
vvvanessa July 7, 2011
hi, aj! i would guess that i had maybe 3 or 4 cups of slices, thinking that each eggplant yields a couple of big handfuls. but i also think there is a good amount of leeway in the amount of eggplant you use, so i think that even if you ended up with 6+ cups, you'd be fine. and are these beautiful eggplants you're getting available to other east bay dwellers?
: )
AntoniaJames July 7, 2011
Vvvvvvvanessssa, I get them in Oakland Chinatown; sometimes the ones at the Old Oakland Farmers' Market, right across from Chinatown, are really nice looking. Other times they are cosmetically challenged, but fresh. I go super early, when possible. I usually park on the north side of the market (near 9th and Washington), peruse the Asian vendors' tables and buy anything that looks fabulous but isn't in great quantity, then I cross Broadway and shop at the first big market with produce on 9th St. (also great for fresh bean sprouts, lemons/limes, every bottled Asian sauce imaginable, etc.) for anything not available at the farmers' market, then load up on farmers' market produce last. If you go in the middle of the day, you get the great R&B bands and the food trucks are out in full force. The guy playing the traditional Chinese instrument's there for most of the market (8-2). I love Oakland. ;o)
lazychef July 6, 2011
Made this over the weekend, and it's terrific. The flavors are quite similar to makdous, a Syrian dish in which baby eggplant are pickled and stuffed with garlic and peppers and chopped walnuts- eat for breakfast with scrambled eggs and toast, yum!
vvvanessa July 7, 2011
thanks, lazychef! i'm glad you liked it. now i'm going to have to look up a recipe for makdous-- the walnut element sounds divine.
AntoniaJames July 7, 2011
Oh my, that makdous, minus the peppers, sounds right up my alley. Definitely going to run that down. ;o)
susan G. July 1, 2011
Great story! Add eggplant to today's shopping list (and white wine vinegar -- too bad I can't borrow some from Kitchen Butterfly).
Kitchen B. July 2, 2011
Oh Susan G if you live anywhere near the Netherlands :-), I'd be happy to send you some!!!!!!!!!! So looking forward to making this
susan G. July 5, 2011
Excellent, and very pretty. I think they'll only get better until we eat it up -- which won't be long.
And thanks, KB. Hope you've made yours too.
susan G. July 5, 2011
...and that oil will be put to good use when the eggplant's gone.
vvvanessa July 7, 2011
thanks, susan g! a good heap of bread got dunked in the leftover oil for sure!
Kitchen B. July 1, 2011
And guess what - I have 2 bottles of white wine vinegar which I'd been looking forward to using up!!!!!
vvvanessa July 7, 2011
it was meant to be : )
Kitchen B. June 30, 2011
Looking forward to testing these!
vvvanessa July 7, 2011
i do hope you like the recipe. i was very happy to see that you'd testing it!
hardlikearmour June 22, 2011
This sounds fabulous!
vvvanessa July 7, 2011
i wish it were as fabulous as the one i had in salina. maybe i just need to move there and keep the vendor in business.