Melanzane sott’olio (or Italian pickled eggplant) is an Italian delicacy featuring eggplant sticks, garlic, herbs, and red pepper chilies, packed in extra-virgin olive oil, creating a flavorful preserve. Pop them on a bruschetta, toss them with pasta, or simply enjoy them on their own.
Melanzane sott’olio, known in English as Italian pickled eggplant, is a traditional dish made by preserving eggplant in oil and vinegar along with various herbs and spices.
The pickled eggplants usually have a tender yet slightly firm texture due to the pickling process. This textural contrast, along with the combination of flavors—earthy, savory, tangy, and rich—creates a complex and harmonious taste profile that will leave you asking for more!
Melanzane sott’olio is commonly served as part of an antipasto platter, which is a traditional Italian appetizer course. The platter might also include other pickled vegetables like peperoni sott’aceto, cured meats, cheese, olives, and bread.
- Eggplant: You need a type of eggplant that is meaty and with almost no seeds. Graffiti, Sicilian and Italian eggplants work wonderfully here since they’re big enough to have a lot of pulp and a minimal amount of seeds.
- Oil: Choose an excellent quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Vinegar: White wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be used in this melanzane sott’olio recipe.
- Aromatics & seasonings: Garlic, oregano, peperoncini, black peppercorns, and salt.
How to Make Melanzane Sott’olio
This is a visual overview of the steps to make this recipe. See the detailed list of ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below.
Wash the eggplants under cold water and pat dry them with a kitchen towel. Trim off the stem end and the blossom end of the eggplant and then remove the peel.
Stand the eggplant upright on your cutting board. Cut the eggplant into slices, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.6 to 1.3 cm) thick.
Take each eggplant slice and stack a few slices together. With the stack of slices, cut lengthwise to create long strips.
Fill a large boiling pot with 6 cups of water. Add 3 tablespoons of coarse salt and 3 cups of vinegar. Bring to a boil.
Working in small batches, add the eggplant sticks and let them simmer for 2 minutes or until tender but not mushy.
Remove the cooked eggplant with a slotted spoon and place them inside a strainer over a large bowl, so they will drain excess liquid.
Once all eggplant strips are cooked, allow them to reach room temperature before doing the next step.
Working in layers, add cooked eggplants to a sterilized jar, then some peppercorns, peperoncino chilies, oregano, and garlic.
Pour enough extra virgin olive oil into the jar to fill it completely. Use the back of a spoon to gently push down the vegetables. Repeat the process until all jars are filled.
Let the jars rest for about 20 minutes, then use a skewer to break the air bubbles that have formed.
Tip: This is an essential step as there shouldn’t be any air gaps that could possibly spoil the pickled vegetables.
Close the jars tightly and place them in a dark and cool spot for at least a week before consuming your Italian pickled eggplant.
- To make this melanzane sott’olio recipe, select eggplants that are firm, shiny, and free from blemishes. Fresher eggplants will have better flavor and texture when pickled.
- I don’t find it necessary to salt the vegetable, most of the bitterness is on the peel and we’re removing it. The boiling process and brine will remove the remaining bitterness and you’ll have one less thing to do when preparing the recipe.
- Since olive oil is a significant component of this recipe, make sure to choose a good quality extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor and aroma.
- You can use the olive oil leftovers as dressing for salads, pasta, or rice.
Ways to Serve Italian Pickled Eggplant
Once the flavors have developed to your liking, these Italian pickled eggplants are ready to be enjoyed! Here are some ways how you can serve them…
- Antipasto: Arrange them on an antipasto platter alongside other cured meats, cheese, olives, fried peppers, and marinated artichokes.
- Bruschetta: Top them on toasted homemade bread for a delicious and authentic bruschetta.
- Panini & sandwiches: Layer the eggplant in a panini along with fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, and basil leaves. Use ciabatta bread or focaccia for an authentic panino con le melanzane sott’olio!
- Pizza topping: In Italy, these eggplants are often served as a topping for pizza.
- Past & salads: You can chop them and use them as a condiment for pasta or this insalata di riso (rice salad).
- Side: Serve the Italian pickled eggplant alongside grilled or roasted meats for a flavorful and tangy side dish.
How to Store
Italian pickled eggplant is best consumed within a few months to a year for optimal flavor and quality.
Store the sealed jar in a cool, dark place such as a pantry or cellar. The jar should be kept away from direct sunlight and temperature fluctuations.
Once you open a jar of melanzane sott’olio, place it in the refrigerator and make sure to consume them within 4-5 days. The oil might solidify in the refrigerator, so you can let it come to room temperature before serving.
- Use a clean jar: To be safe, I strongly recommend sterilizing the jars before packing the eggplant.
- Pack tightly: Pack the pickled eggplant pieces tightly into the jar, using a spoon to push them down as you pack them.
- Remove air bubbles: Use a skewer to remove any air bubbles that might be trapped among the eggplant pieces.
- Seal the jar: Ensure that the jar’s lid is tightly sealed. Use jars with airtight seals to maintain freshness and prevent air from entering.
- Label the jar: I recommend labeling the jar with the contents and the date of pickling. This will help you keep track of how long the Italian pickled eggplants have been stored.
- Cover with oil: As you remove them from the jar, add more oil to always keep the eggplants completely covered. The oil acts as a preservative and helps prevent air from coming into contact with the eggplant, which can cause spoilage.
Is pickled eggplant good for you?
Eggplants themselves are a source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, and dietary fiber. These nutrients can contribute to overall health.
The use of olive oil in Italian pickled eggplants provides healthy monounsaturated fats, which are considered beneficial for heart health and can help lower bad cholesterol levels.
Italian pickled eggplants can offer certain nutritional benefits, particularly when it comes to vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants. However, due to considerations like sodium content and calorie density, it’s best to consume melanzane sott’olio in moderation and as part of an overall healthy eating pattern.
What is eggplant called in Sicily?
In Sicily as well as in the rest of Italy, eggplants are called melanzane (plural) or melanzana (singular).
More Italian Appetizer Recipes
Did you like this melanzane sott’olio recipe? Please, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below. Also, remember that you can share this recipe using the buttons below and follow this blog on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram
Melanzane Sott’olio (Italian pickled eggplant)
- 6 jars, sterilized (250 ml capacity each)
- 6 ½ lb eggplant (about 3-4 large pieces, read notes)
- extra-virgin olive oil (as needed)
- 6 cups water
- 3 cups white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- 3-4 large garlic cloves (peeled and sliced)
- 3 fresh peperoncino peppers (chopped)
- peppercorns (as needed)
- dried oregano (as needed)
- 3 Tablespoons coarse salt
Prepare the eggplant
- Wash the eggplants under cold water and pat dry them. Trim off the stem end and the blossom end.
- Peel the eggplants and cut them into slices, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.6 to 1.3 cm) thick.
- Stack a few slices together and cut lengthwise to create long strips.
Cook the eggplant
- Fill a large boiling pot with water and vinegar. Add the salt and bring to a boil.
- Working in small batches, add the eggplant sticks and let them simmer for 2 minutes or until tender but not mushy.
- Remove the cooked eggplant with a slotted spoon and place them inside a strainer over a large bowl to remove excess liquid. Allow them to reach room temperature before doing the next step.
Pack the eggplant
- Working in layers, add cooked eggplants to a sterilized jar, then some peppercorns, peperoncino, oregano, and garlic.
- Pour enough extra virgin olive oil into the jar to fill it completely. Use the back of a spoon to gently push down the vegetables.
- Repeat the process until all jars are filled.
- Let the jars rest for about 20 minutes, then use a skewer to break the air bubbles that have formed.
- Close the jars tightly and place them in a dark and cool spot for at least a week before consuming
- You can use graffiti eggplant, Italian eggplant, or American eggplant to make this recipe.
- For this recipe I don’t find it necessary to salt the eggplant, most of the bitterness is on the peel and we’re removing it. The boiling process and brine will remove the remaining bitterness.
- Use sterilized jars to pack the pickled eggplant and make sure to read thoroughly the “how to store” section on the post.
Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.