A dish made famous by the beloved rat, Remy, in the namesake Pixar film, ratatouille is a classic French dish that oozes with flavor. Eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and basil (hello summer!) are roasted and stewed together. Traditionally a very time consuming recipe, and one that even with my cheater tricks I still cannot claim to be a “quick dinner”, this dish like most things is worth the effort and the time. The flavors of each ingredient melt into one another until the pot is bursting with goodness.
Makes: 8-10 servings
Total Time: 2 hours
Active Time: 40 minutes
- 2 large eggplants
- 1 Tbsp. + 2½ tsp. salt, divided
- 3 Tbs. + 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 bell peppers (yellow or red), deseeded and cut into bite size pieces
- 4-5 medium-size zucchinis or yellow summer squash
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced or minced
- 4 medium-size ripe tomatoes, diced into ½ inch cubes
- ⅔ cup fresh basil leaves or 2 Tbs. of fresh marjoram/oregano leaves
- 1 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
- squeeze of fresh lemon or a few drops of vinegar
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Stripe the eggplants (peeling alternate strips of the skin off to leave a stripe affect on each eggplant). This will help it to stay tender and avoid tough skin, while keeping the pieces from falling apart. Cut the eggplant into cubes slightly larger than bite size. Season with one tablespoon of salt, tossing to evenly coat, and place the eggplant in a colander/strainer over the sink or a bowl.
While the eggplant sits, place a large pot over medium heat and add one tablespoon of oil along with the onions and a teaspoon of salt. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the onions are translucent and tender; stir often to prevent browning and adjust the heat as necessary. This should take about 12 minutes.
Add the diced peppers to the onions and continue to cook.
While the onions and peppers cook, cut the zucchinis into bite-size pieces similar in size to the eggplant. Toss the zucchini in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of oil and ½ teaspoon of salt to combine. Spread evenly on a baking sheet (or two, the vegetables shouldn’t be too crowded or they will steam) and bake in the oven about 30-35 minutes. Every ten minutes use an off-set spatula to gently move and flip the vegetables around during cooking to ensure even color and cooking. The zucchini will be just tender and golden when done.
While the zucchini and onions/peppers are cooking, return to the eggplant. Salting it will help release some of the excess water in eggplant, extracting some of the bitterness and ensuring a nicely roasted vegetable as opposed to a tough, steamed eggplant. Shake the diced eggplant of any excess water, or lightly dry off with a towel. Toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil (eggplant is a sponge for oil) and 1 teaspoon of salt. Lay out eggplant on a baking sheet and roast in the oven alongside the zucchini for 25-30 minutes until just tender and golden.
When the various components of the dish are ready, you can start to assemble. Add the sliced or minced garlic to the onions and peppers and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the diced tomatoes to the pot and cook for 5-7 minutes.
Finally, add the roasted zucchini and eggplant to the pot.
Let the vegetable mixture simmer on low heat, stirring every so often, for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half. The flavor of the dish will get better with more time, but can also be served after only 20 minutes and the dish is heated through. Less cooking time will leave more distinct vegetable pieces, while a longer time on the stove will create a more stew-like texture that is softer and more broken down.
Before serving, stir in the chopped basil and parsley and the squeeze of lemon juice or vinegar (about 1 teaspoon). Taste to adjust any seasoning. Ratatouille is often better the next day, as time has allowed all the flavors to settle in. It can keep refrigerated for up to a week and be frozen for at least 3-4 weeks.
As mentioned, this isn’t a “quick fix” dish but there are ways to help alleviate some of the time constraints. Dicing your vegetables (except the eggplant, that can NOT be cut ahead of time) the night before can help make this classic dish come together a bit quicker.
If the amount is too much for you, the dish can easily be cut in half. When making time-consuming dishes like this, I prefer to make a large batch and then freeze the rest to make the time invested worth it by creating multiple meals for weeks to come.