Caponata Positano (Positano Bread Salad)
From Elizabeth Minchilli's The Italian Table: Creating Festive Meals for Family and Friends, p. 100.
You’re probably thinking, "What’s this typical Sicilian eggplant dish—caponata—doing in the chapter on Positano?" That’s what I thought, too, the first time I saw it on a beachside menu. But it turns out that caponata in Positano is a completely different animal. First of all, there is no eggplant in sight. It is more like a brilliant mash-up between a caprese salad and panzanella—with some tuna thrown in for good measure.
While I’ve now had caponata almost everywhere in Positano, one of the best was at the restaurant Pupetto, located at the farthest end of Fornillo Beach.
The one ingredient you may have trouble finding is the special kind of rusk or twice-baked bread called friselle that form the basis for this dish. Made all over the south of Italy, the friselle in Positano have an extra crunch thanks to corn flour. These days, friselle are pretty widely available from Italian specialty food stores.
© The Italian Table: Creating Festive Meals for Family and Friends, by Elizabeth Minchilli, Rizzoli, 2019. All images credited © Elizabeth Minchilli.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- 4 friselle (or 4 slices of stale bread)
- 4 large ripe tomatoes
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, such as Tondo DOP Organic
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, like Fleur de Sel from M. Gilles Hervy
- 12 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed (about 2 cups)
- One 8 ounce jar of tuna packed in olive oil, drained, like Bonito del Norte Tuna from Conservas Ortiz
- 1/2 cup of chopped celery
- 1/2 cup black or green olives, pitted (optional)
- 2 small bunches of arugula, rinsed and dried
- 10 fresh basil leaves, torn
- Additional extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Soak the friselle in cold water for about 3 minutes to slightly soften them.
Remove them from the water, letting the excess water drain away. Break them up roughly and place them in a large shallow bowl. (If using stale bread, just crumble the bread into the bowl).
Chop the tomatoes into 1-inch chunks, place them in a separate bowl, and dress them with the olive oil and salt. Stir them and let them sit for about 10 minutes, to let the juices seep out.
Using a spoon, place the tomatoes and any juices on top of the friselle. Toss them. Add the mozzarella, tuna, celery, olives, arugula, and basil and toss again. Drizzle with more olive oil and let sit another half hour to let the bread soften and absorb the rest of the tomato juices and olive oil.
Pile the salad onto a platter with a slightly raised edge. Serve at room temperature.