I don’t know about you guys, but I am a huge fan of Pixar’s animated movies. The studio is able to bring alive light but meaningful plots with great storytelling, voice acting, and animation. They also have an attention to detail that often not even live action movies can match up to.
Still, some people might think it’s odd that a movie about a rat, that controls a human’s cooking from inside a chef’s hat no less, is what inspired me to first try out this Provençal French dish. While Ratatouille was what originally got me interested in the dish, what actually got me to make it was the discovery that the dish is extremely simple and healthy to make!
So what is Ratatouille? Ratatouille comes from the Provence region of France, and it’s said to derive from the french verb touiller, which means to stir, or to toss. So at its core it can be interpreted as tossed vegetables, but today Ratatouille almost always has garlic and herbs in a tomato base.
While there are many, many, many variations and types of the dish, most of them, at their core, follow the veggies, tomato base, herbs and garlic template. Recipes include versions where each vegetable is cooked separately and then combined, as well as a version with saffron added to the mix. The dish can have a creamy texture or be baked in the oven. In fact, the Guardian has painstakingly put together different ways of making Ratatouille here. I recommend you check out – it is a really good look into different ways to make the dish. While you can definitely have fun with any of these ways of making Ratatouille, the recipe I am going to share with you is a simple one that you can use to make a quick and light meal, or use as a side with another dish for a more substantial meal.
In this version of Ratatouille, we are going to let fresh vegetables shine. While we still have a tomato base, garlic, thyme and basil in the recipe, we do not want to overpower the veggies we use. We are going to be cooking the vegetables, but we will make sure the peppers have a roasted flavor, the mushrooms sweat but don’t go soft, and the zucchini has a good crunch to it. The recipe pairs really well will crusty bread, especially when it is absorbent enough to soak up the tomato and garlic sauce! Remember that while the olive oil will bring the vegetables together, it is important not to use extra virgin olive oil in the recipe since the heat will destroy its delicate flavor, leaving it with a bitter aftertaste instead (use pure olive oil if possible, but virgin olive oil will also work).
I also encourage you to customize this recipe to your own liking. Don’t like eggplant? Don’t cook with it! Want to use different herbs? Go ahead! Want to deglaze the plan? Use a half cup of light white wine! You could also cut the vegetables thinner up if you like them soft, or lightly steam them and serve with the sauce. Make this recipe yours, and let me know how it turned out!
This is a simple recipe that will take about 20 minutes. Remember to let the vegetables keep a little bit of a crunch, and serve freshly made for the best possible taste!
Serves 4 as a Main Course
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
1 large red onion, cut into rings
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
6-8 medium button mushrooms, halved
1 medium zucchini, cut into discs
1 small aubergine (eggplant), cut into discs
8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 medium tomatoes
1-3 cloves of garlic, depending on size and to taste
3-4 sprigs thyme
A handful of basil
Olive oil for frying
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Note: If your zucchini tends to have a bitter aftertaste, you may it might be worthwhile to rub the ends until you get a white froth-like substance to come out. It’ll make the zucchini a lot less bitter (pictured below.)
Put the four tomatoes into some boiling water until the skins start to blister and peel. Rinse in cold water, then remove and discard the skins. Put the tomatoes, a clove of garlic and salt to taste in a food processor and mix until smooth. Taste sauce and add more garlic or salt if needed, making sure the garlic is properly combined.
Put the olive oil over medium high heat in a large saucepan. When the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the onions to the pan. Fry until golden.
Add the thyme and both the bell peppers and continue to cook until the pepper starts to brown.
Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to sweat, then add the zucchini, aubergine, cherry tomatoes and the sauce.
Bring to a gentle simmer and cover until the zucchini has softened but still has a bite to it, or around five minutes.
Add the basil and toss into the ratatouille. Serve with a little crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Enjoy hot!