How-To: Easy Ratatouille
I’m going admit, that since writing this post about the most delicious Ratatouille ever, I’ve watched the movie “Ratatouille”…2 times. It’s one of the best movies ever! All about delicious food and cooking AND it’s a kids movie. Can’t get any better than that right? Well maybe eating a big bowl of my ratatouille (recipe below) and watching the movie at the same time. That might be better :). Anyways, if you’ve never had ratatouille you might be somewhat unfamiliar with the recipe. It’s a French dish that’s more or less a really thick and chunky vegetable stew. It generally features eggplant, squash/zucchini, onions and red peppers all stewed in a fragrant and garlicky tomato sauce. It’s such a great cold weather dish. And perfect served over a big mound of something nice and starchy – mashed potatoes, pasta or in this case…fried polenta (post coming soon)!
It took me a few attempts to get the perfect ratatouille method down. But my latest batch was the best one yet. I personally love serving it over creamy polenta. But there is a certain husband out there that just loves fried polenta…but who wouldn’t really? Fried polenta? Yum! So that’s what is pictured above. But creamy polenta, rice, pasta, potatoes, bread, you name the starch, they all pair beautifully with ratatouille. Anyway you serve it, ratatouille is a big bowl of warming comfort! And making it is a pretty simple process. The full recipe is below, but here are some key points that I’d like to share so you can be sure to make the most delicious ratatouille you’ve ever had:
- Get organized. Prepare all your vegetables in advance (or mise en place if I wanted to be fancy). All the vegetables should be cut up into 1″ chunks. It helps them to keep their shape and some texture through the long cooking process. Having everything chopped and ready to go is a big help.
- The order of cooking. It’s important to follow this order of cooking the veggies. It really helps to keep everything cooked perfectly. If you added all the vegetables together, you’d get a big mess of all things either overcooked or undercooked. Not good. Here’s the order I recommend following:
- Create the sauce. Now there aren’t any crazy suggestions here. But because ratatouille doesn’t have any meat or other big flavor punches, it’s important to get a really flavorful and rich tasting sauce. My first flavor booster? Using good canned San Marzano tomatoes. They’re fairly common in grocery stores, but if you can’t find them not big deal. Just use regular. These tomatoes are a bit sweeter and more acidic which is why I really like using them. Next up is a big slosh of a good red wine. You can totally leave this out or substitute some broth. Also, I’m heavy on the garlic. There’s not much else going on here, so this is a good way to get some good flavors!
- The herbs. I used fresh herbs in this, but you could definitely use dried. The best combination, I think, is rosemary and thyme. These are really hearty and woody and stand up well to long cooking times. Don’t use basil or parsley early on in the cooking because they’ll just disintegrate. However, I do recommend a liberal sprinkle of fresh parsley right before serving for a hit of freshness!
- 1 medium eggplant, cubed
- 1 medium zucchini, cubed
- 1 medium yellow squash, cubed
- 1 red pepper, cubed
- 1 yellow pepper, cubed
- 1 red onion, cubed
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/3 cup red wine (I used a Merlot, but whatever you have on hand)
- 1 28 oz + 1 15 oz can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the eggplant for about 10-12 minutes or until eggplant is golden and somewhat broken down. Remove eggplant from dutch oven and set aside in large bowl.
- Add in 2 more tbsp of the olive allow pan to reheat. Add in the zucchini and yellow squash and saute for about 5 minutes or until squash gets slightly golden. The squash should retain its shape and some texture – do not over cook it. Remove from dutch oven and set aside in the bowl with the eggplant
- Add in the red and yellow peppers and cook again for only 3-4 minutes or until slightly softened. Remove from pan and add to the bowl with the eggplant and squash.
- Add in the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil to pan and the red onions. Saute for about 5 minutes until onions are softened. Add in the garlic and tomato paste. Cook for about 1 minute or until garlic is fragrant and tomato paste has turned a deep brown/red color.
- Deglaze the pan with the red wine. Make sure to scrape up any stuck on bits from the bottom of the dutch oven. Cook for an additional minute.
- Add in both cans of tomatoes, the rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
- Return the eggplant and other cooked vegetables to the pan and stir to combine and thoroughly coat everything. Cover with lid and allow to sit over medium low heat for about 45 minutes.
- Ratatouille can remain on low for up to 2-3 hours. Stir every once in a while to avoid burning or sticking on the bottom of your dutch oven.
- Serve over mashed potatoes, pasta or fried polenta.
You tell me! What’s your favorite vegetarian stew? Have you ever tried ratatouille? What’s your favorite kids movie (besides Rataouille)?