Print Friendly

I am a sucker for Italian Food.

And for Godfather movies.

If I can have both–and a decent bottle of red– all in one night? That’s amore…

But, when I was still cooking my beloved Italian dishes the way my favorite Italian chefs instructed me to make them, I ended up looking way more like Clemenza than Giada.

It wasn’t just the usual suspects–like meat, cheese and pasta–that were doing me in. As it turns out, because of the 3 big glugs of olive oil that began every saute, even my favorite Italian vegetable recipes were whacking my waistline.

I know what you’re thinking:  “Wait a minute! Olive oil is healthy! It has omega 3’s! It’s on the Mediterranean Diet!”

I hate to break it to you, Fredo…but even though olive oil does do some great things for your body, it also has 120 calories a tablespoon!  Those few glugs you add to broccoli rabe, peppers and onions, spinach or zucchini, also add about 500 calories to foods that should be calorie free!

But that doesn’t mean you have to clip those delicious dishes from your menus for good. You just have to learn to cook them differently, so you can use less oil.


Take Eggplant Caponata, for example. One of my favorite Sicilian dishes, it’s similar to the French stewed vegetable dish, ratatouille.  Incredibly versatile, it makes a great side dish, a topper for Skinny Crostini or grilled fish, a quick and easy filler for an omelet or, tossed with a bit of pasta and shrimp, a delicious low meat main dish.

The recipe I used for years came from my Saveur Cooks Italian cookbook and called for 1 and a-half cups of olive oil, (more than 2000 calories!), and quite a bit of stirring over a stove.

But by roasting instead of frying, it now needs only 1 Tablespoon of oil (120 calories) and just a quick stir or two during the cooking.

I’ve even cut out the sugar the original recipe called for, using just a little balsamic to add sweetness, instead.

So, next time you’re in the mood for caponata, try this version. It has all of the taste, half of the work and none of the guilt…which is an offer that’s hard to refuse!


1 eggplant, unpeeled, roughly chopped

1 large onion, diced

3 large ribs of celery, diced

4 cups tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup green olives with pimento or black olives (from jar, not canned) sliced

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1 T.  garlic, minced

1 T. Balsamic vinegar

1 T. olive oil

1 T. dried oregano

1 t. salt

1 t. dried red pepper flakes

½ cup capers, rinsed

1 handful fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 425.

Chop all your veg and toss everything– except the capers and basil –into a large Pyrex dish that has been sprayed lightly with canola oil.

Roast for 45-55 minutes, stirring halfway through, more if you  feel like you’re not working hard enough.

After you remove from oven, toss in the capers and fresh basil.

Let it rest at least 30 minutes before serving warm or, better yet, use it the next day so the flavors have a chance to meld and intensify. Good for a solid week in the fridge.


If you live in an eggplant-free zone, make this dish anyway, just substitute zucchini for the eggplant.



Caponata makes a fantastic Egg-Beaters or egg-white omelet. Add a few dollops of fat free cottage cheese and a drizzle of Parmesan or Romano, and you’ll have a fabulously filling breakfast for under 300 calories. And, with all of that protein and fiber, you won’t be hungry for hours!

Or you can toss it with some whole wheat pasta or brown rice pasta and have it for lunch.  Add some sauteed shrimp or calamari, and you have a quick dinner.

Or, throw some extra veg into that dish, like zucchini, yellow squash, grape tomatoes and artichokes, and you’ve transformed it again!

And, never forget, if you have caponata in your inventory, you can pile it on 2 slices of Wasa bread, for a huge mid-day Skinny Crostini snack that only costs you about 100 calories!

Your Skinny Godfather would approve…


About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
This entry was posted in One Oven/One Time, Quickies, Skinny Sides, Skinny Snacks and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *