Italian Pasta Salad served in a bowl with plates in the background

Italian Pasta Salad 🌶 Vegan Caponata 🌶 Gluten-Free+Oil-Free

The Caponata is a Sicilian dish (vegan by nature!) that is such a staple in the Italian cuisine, and it is the inspiration for this Vegan Italian Pasta Salad.                                                                                                

As we can expect from Sicilian food, the Caponata is not only fulfilling but budget-friendly too.

This Vegan Pasta Salad Caponata inspired is an excellent option if you are looking for a dish that is guilty-free, nutritious and super easy to make.   And can still be called Italian cooking. Check it out!🌶

Italian Pasta Salad close-up in a white bowl with a fork

Usually Italians are very strict when it comes to the traditionality of their dishes.

However, since what I have added to the recipe is Pasta, I guess I will be OK. And I am only half Italian so cut me some slack, just been true to myself here. 😉

This red lentil pasta and this amount of veggies can not harm anyone. I’m talking 100% plant based and unrefined deliciousness here.

The Ingredients

  • 100% Red Lentil Penne Pasta: that was my choice of pasta because it is less refined and gluten-free. Taste wise it is also worth considering a more flavored pasta when your dish is not going to be dipped in sauce. Another tendency I have, when making salads, is to go for the short varieties of pasta, like the penne here, as they mix easier with other non-liquid ingredients.
  • Veggies: I usually use them more to the ripe side as they are to be softened anyway and do react better with the seasoning. The Sicilians do have local variants when it comes to the ingredients; so if you want to try and add something else you already know it works too with: carrots and potatoes (both diced), pine nuts and grapes (both added when the dish is ready). And olives, they put it everywhere.
  • Seasoning: As for the vinegar I have used white wine and apple cider, both with pretty much the same end result. The sugar I have tried with demerara when I stopped using the white variety and I was a bit afraid of the result at first. The first time I even reduced a lot the amount. No worries here, it just added to the dish without fighting with anyone.

How To Make Italian Pasta Salad

The preparation is basically dicing all the veggies and cooking the pasta al dente. The eggplant is pan fried (no oil). Them you sauté the onions first, add the peppers and zucchini and let it simmer. Add all the seasonings and turn off the heat before adding the fresh tomatoes, cooked pasta and fried eggplant. Let it cool and you’re done. So dang easy!

It is nice as a main served with some dark green leaves salad and maybe an Italian marinated tofu or tempeh. Easy option to take to work or a picnic. If you are wondering, I drink white wine with it.

It lasts for a couple of days in fridge, well closed not to dry too much.

Thanks for reading, let me know of any suggestions and check the recipe card below if you want to print the recipe and the picture gallery of the how to make it.

And by the way, if you are curious about the Sicilian Caponata, there is a recipe from Recipes From Italy you can take a look at.

And if you are already a fan and want to try other recipes with legume pasta we have a Fall Pasta Salad and a Creamy Pasta Salad that are worthy of your kitchen.

Buon Appetito!

  • Veggies for the Italian Pasta Salad yellow and red peppers, eggplant, red onion and zucchini piled
  • Uncooked lentil pasta in a glass jar and uncooked lentils in a small white dish
  • Halved, sliced and cubed eggplants on a wooden chopping board
  • Different size bowls with chopped zucchini, tomatoes, red and yellow peppers and red onions, veggies for the Italian Pasta Salad
  • Raw cubed eggplant in a pan
  • Cubed eggplant being cooked in a pan with a wooden spoon
  • Cubed eggplant already cooked in a pan with a wooden spoon
  • Close-up of penne pasta on a wooden spoon and boiling water on the background
  • Lentil pasta already cooked in a colander, to be used in the Italian Pasta Salad
  • Red onions being fried in a pan and mixed with a wooden fork
  • Yellow and red peppers mixed with the red onions in a pan with a wooden fork
  • Chopped zucchini added to the yellow and red peppers mixed with the red onions in a pan with a wooden fork
  • In a pan the cooked pasta, eggplant and peppers, onion and zucchini mix and fresh chopped tomatoes being added
  • Italian Pasta Salad all ready in a pan with a wooden spoon

Italian Caponata Pasta Salad

Recipe by Carol MarsolaCourse: Main, SidesCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time






Cooling time



This caponara inspired pasta salad is super easy and fast to make. Not to mention nutritious and very nice looking; 100% vegan, oil and gluten free( when made just like I have).
And it tastes as good as Italian food. Buon Appetito🌶


  • 8 oz (225g) pasta of choice, gluten-free is preferred

  • 2 medium zucchini (2 1/2 cups), chopped in cubes

  • 1/2 large red bell pepper (1/2 cup), diced

  • 1/2 large yellow bell pepper (1/2 cup), diced

  • 1 medium eggplant (2 1/2 cups), diced

  • 1 small red onion (1/2 cup), diced

  • 4 small early girl tomatoes, diced

  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar

  • whole salt, to taste

  • black pepper, to taste

  • your choice of oil, OPTIONAL

  • fresh basil, for decoration


  • Prep the eggplant cubes: place it on a skillet (here the oil can be added, I haven’t); on medium to high temperature, mixing occasionally until golden brown.
    About 15 minutes. Add salt to taste an set aside.
  • Cook the pasta: bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente (2 or 3 minutes less than the label time). Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water until cooler.
  • Prep the veggies: on a pan (oiled if needed) place the onions and let it soften for a couple of minutes. Add both peppers and the zucchini and mix it for another 2 minutes on a high temperature. Bring it to a minimum, add salt to taste, cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
    Proceed to add the vinegar and sugar, mix well and simmer further for 2 minutes. Open and turn off the heat.
  • To assemble: add to the veggies mixture the cooked pasta, the fried eggplant and the diced tomatoes. Mix it all and check the seasoning.
    Ideally, let it cool for half an hour out and 15 minutes inside the fridge. Enjoy!


  • Gluten-free flavored pasta: I have used before on this recipe pasta made with only pea or chickpea flour. Recommend both. But any kind would do here, really.
  • Vinegar: white wine or apple cider work great, I would avoid red vinegar if you are using demerara sugar.
  • Sugar: white or refined cane sugar (demerara) are fine. The unrefined cane sugar has a too overpowering taste to be used here.
  • Garnish: basil, a few chopped olives or capers are cute and tasty.
  • Eggplant: if you have some extra time to prep, it is easier to fry without oil if you first mix well the cubes with 1/2 tablespoon of salt and let it loose water for about half hour.

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