What’s the Difference Between Ratatouille and Caponata?

One dish has an adorable Disney-Pixar movie featuring a spunky rat chef named after it. The other, well, it doesn't. (Fail.) Cartoons aside, you could make this comparison of ratatouille and caponata into a culinary battle between France and Italy, but let's be grownups. We, along with millions of others, are enamored with the cuisines from both European countries. For, like, ever.

Ratatouille is a popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic, and herbs — all simmered in olive oil. But the vegetables can vary according to what's available or the cook's taste. They can be cooked together or cooked separately and then combined and heated briefly together. Ratatouille can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature, as a side dish or appetizer with bread or crackers.

Caponata is a Sicilian dish that's generally served as a salad, side dish, or relish. It's composed of eggplant, onions, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, pine nuts, capers, and vinegar, all cooked together in olive oil. Oftentimes caponata contains something sweet like raisins or a touch of sugar. It's most often served at room temperature.

The briny olives, pungent anchovies, tangy vinegar, and salty capers really differentiate the taste of caponata from ratatouille, despite their similar vegetables — eggplant, tomatoes, onions — and cooking method — mixed together in olive oil. Either dish would be great on pizza, in pasta, or on top of toasted French or Italian bread slices for bruschetta.

Check out these ways to use that big, shiny, purple vegetable.

1. Ratatouille

Chowhound

You can cook ratatouille many ways, and the stir-fry way is a faster method, which we like for weeknight dinners. You stir-fry some vegetables first, remove them, and cook others next. The trick is the order, which can keep the vegetables from getting overcooked and mushy. Get our Ratatouille recipe.

2. Caponata Bruschetta

Chowhound

These dishes are crying out to be placed atop slices of crusty bread, and this recipe comes to the rescue. Because you're fitting this on small toasts, there aren't that many large vegetables — just mainly the eggplant, onions, and capers. Oh, and white raisins sweeten it up a tad. Get our Caponata Bruschetta recipe.

3. Ratatouille Pasta

Chowhound

This dish combines the traditional French ratatouille vegetables cooked in olive oil with the pasta of your choice, plus crumbled feta, lemon juice, and fresh basil. If you already have some ratatouille from another meal, this is a great way to use the leftovers. Get our Ratatouille Pasta recipe.

4. Caponata

Smitten Kitchen

"A good caponata is like a sweet and sour eggplant jam, or even a pickled Mediterranean compote, with both crunch and softness," says Deb Perelman on her Smitten Kitchen recipe post. Try this blogger-turned-cookbook-author's take on the Italian specialty. Get the recipe.

5. Ratatouille Crostini with Pecorino

Chowhound

Go the distance when picking your tomatoes for this James Beard House-adapted dish, which resembles bruschetta. The Pecorino contributes a wonderful salty bite. Get our Ratatouille Crostini with Pecorino recipe.

Head Image: Chowhound/Jamie Oliver's Food Tube

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