Ratatouille is one of my favorite dish to cook as it brings back a lot of childhood memories preparing it with my grand-mother in the South of France with fresh produce from her garden. Ratatouille, which is basically a vegetable stew, is fairly quite time consuming with washing and chopping all the vegetables. My grand-mother would tell me stories and have me help out getting the vegetables ready so I just thought it was a fun cooking project which I now enjoy cooking with my daughter.
The secret to this recipe is pre-cooking the vegetables in batches with salt before simmering this delicious concoction.
- 1 oignon
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tomato sauce jar (24 oz. or 28 oz.)*
- 1 large eggplant
- 2 medium zucchini
- 2 peppers
- 1 fresh sprig thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 to 8 tablespoons olive oil
Note: this makes 4 to 6 servings. Double the ingredients for 8 to 10 servings. *You can of course substitute the tomato ready made sauce with 2 fresh large tomatoes.
1. Peel the oignon and cut it in half. Cut each half in thin slices. Mince the garlic.
2. Remove the stem of the eggplant and chop it into bite-sized cubes. I personally prefer cooking eggplants with the skin on but you can peel it as well. Set aside in one bowl since the vegetables will be cooked in batches. Then chop the zucchini into bite-sized cubes. Set aside in separate bowl. Do the same thing for the peppers and be sure to remove the white seed.
3. Warm 2 large tablespoons of olive oil in a deep large pan over medium-high heat. Add the bite-sized eggplant cubes and a generous pinch of salt and cook for 5 minutes. Sauté until the eggplant has softened and all sides of the cubes are translucent. Set aside. In the same pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the zucchini with a generous pinch of salt until softened for 5 minutes. Set aside with the eggplant. Repeat same cooking process with the peppers. Note: a brown glaze will gradually build on the bottom of the pan. Turn down the heat to medium if the glaze turns black.
4. All of the vegetables are now ready to be cooked together. In a Dutch oven or deep large pot, warm 2 large tablespoons of olive oil, add the onion with salt, and sauté for 5 minutes until translucent. Add the tomato sauce, garlic, thyme sprig, bay leaf and all the pre-cooked vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Cover and let it simmer for at least one hour, stirring occasionally. If you cook it longer, the vegetables will break down into a silky stew. Shorter cooking time will leave the vegetables in more intact pieces.
Tips: Ratatouille is usually best the next day and can be eaten cold, room temperature or warm. The best part is having leftovers! You can refrigerate it up for one week or frozen up to 3 months and serve it with rice or pasta. A great way for the little ones to eat their vegetables!
At my grandmother’s house, we ate it as the main course served with a grilled fish or meat and plenty of fresh crusty bread. Bon appétit!