Ratatouille is one of my favorite vegetarian dishes, and while it takes a bit of time to prepare it’s well worth it. The combination of vegetables and the rich tomato, garlic and herb flavors is complex and wonderful. This version will take you right to Southern France, and goes great as a side dish, or even on its own with a bit of rice or pasta. The one key that I really strongly suggest is cooking the vegetables separately at the beginning. Doing so, allows you to keep each at the right texture, as the dish stews later on.
Ingredients for Ratatouille
- Red & yellow onion – one each
- Red & yellow bell pepper – one each
- Zucchini squash – one small to medium size
- Eggplant - one
- Garlic – 5 – 6 large cloves
- 5 – 6 tomatoes
- Tomato paste – 3 – 4 tablespoons
- Olive oil
- Herb de Provence (tablespoon)
- Red wine vinegar or lemon juice
- Bread crumbs
- Parmesan cheese
To me ratatouille is essentially a vegetable stew. While each individual vegetable retains its own identity, they blend together, combining flavors, and making one cohesive dish. The tomatoes and olive oil are the bridge between all the vegetables. To make the dish the best possible I always do these things:
- Cook the vegetables separately before combining. They each have different cooking times, and if you try to do them all at once, one may be over-cooked, while another needs more cooking.
- Use a good amount of olive oil and garlic. In this dish, olive oil is not a lubricant, but an ingredient – use good quality oil as well.
- After combining the vegetables, use a bread crumb and cheese topping to make a crust that bakes onto the top of the vegetables. I think that provides a needed crunch to the otherwise soft vegetables.
- One thing you can do is swap out vegetables – use what you like.
- Eggplant: Eggplants are a bit like sponges, they are porous and full of water, so they require a bit of special attention. Before cutting up the other vegetables, I cut the eggplant into bit size cubes, then place them in a colander lined with paper towels. Salt the cubes generously, and let them stand for 30 minutes to an hour. The salt will draw out a lot of the water, and give you a better texture on the eggplant.
- Cut the onion and peppers into a julienne cut, the squash & tomatoes into bit size pieces, and the dice the garlic.
- While you sauté the vegetables you may find the pan gets dry from time to time. If so, just add more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper as you go.
- In any order you’d like, separately sauté the squash and eggplant in olive oil until slightly tender and the edges just start to turn brown. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon while you cook the remaining vegetables.
- Sauté the onions and peppers (together is fine) until they are tender and slightly brown.
- Add the herbs and garlic to the onions and peppers and toss. Cook for a few minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, stir it in, and let it sauté for a few minutes
- Add the chopped tomatoes, stir to combine, cover and let cook for 10 – 15 minutes until the tomatoes have “melted” into the onions and peppers
- Add a few dashes of red wine vinegar or lemon juice
- Add back the squash and eggplant, some additional olive oil and gently toss together. Taste for the right seasoning and adjust if needed. Let everything simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes
- Grease the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil and fill with the cooked vegetables
- Top the vegetables with the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese
- Bake in a 350 – 375 degree oven for about an hour, or until the top is golden brown.
I love to serve this dish as a side, but it can easily stand on its own, and with a side salad would make a great lunch or light dinner. Hope you enjoy!!