Ratatouille is a wonderfully warming and rustic Provencal dish prepared with a colorful array of fresh vegetables. My ratatouille recipe features tender eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and garlic, plus lots of herbs, all gently simmered until stew-like, rich, and deliciously velvety!
A Deliciously Rustic Vegetable Dish From Provence
One of the many things that I adore and admire about French cuisine is how elegant, delicious, and full of flavor even the most rustic of dishes can be.
Take for instance ratatouille, a simple yet flavorful vegetable dish originating in Provence, which is in the southeast region of France where glorious produce is abundant and the fresh herbs grow wild.
While there are different methods for preparing a ratatouille recipe as well as varying ingredients, a basic and more classic version of ratatouille typically consists of eggplant, some type of summer squash, tomatoes, peppers of some sort, onions and lots of garlic, plus aromatic herbs.
All the ingredients are then simmered gently for an extended period of time until velvety and stew-like, and full of earthy flavor and aroma.
Ratatouille is the perfect light dish to enjoy garnished with fresh basil leaves, and finished with a generous drizzle of good quality olive oil over top.
Of course, I always enjoy having some warm bread with my ratatouille as well, and perhaps a nice glass of wine on the side. Perfection!
I love that this wonderful Provencal dish is not meant to be a fancy meal, but rather a dish which reminds the one partaking of it that elegance and a little taste of heaven can be found in the simplest of ingredients.
Ratatouille deliciously highlights a beautiful bounty of colorful, healthy vegetables that each bring their own unique flavor and texture to this marvelous-yet-simple recipe, coming together in a food marriage that overflows with rich flavor.
How To Make Ratatouille
In doing some research on ratatouille recipes, I'd discovered that the more “classic” method of preparation involves sauteing each of the vegetables individually first, and then adding them into the same pot for the extended simmering so that all the flavors can develop.
The reasoning behind this is that each vegetable can be given the attention that it needs—the correct initial cooking time that's best for its particular texture—so that once added to the pot, each can still individually be tasted and experienced.
When preparing my ratatouille recipe, I incorporate this method by first sauteing my eggplant and then removing it from the pot, and then do the same with the zucchini and yellow squash next.
Then, the aromatic ingredients are sauteed, followed by adding in the tomatoes and finally adding back into the pot the eggplant and squashes, so that all can then be gently cooked for about an hour or so until rich with a stew-like consistency.
Here's a peek at my ratatouille recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe...)
- To get started, I sprinkle a small amount of salt over my cubed eggplant, and allow it to sit in a colander to drain of excess water for 20 minutes; then, I pat it dry and proceed. I do the same with my zucchini and squash.
- I place a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, and add in some oil; once hot, I saute my eggplant until golden, then remove from the pot. The zucchini and squash are added in next to saute just until crisp-tender, and also removed.
- Aromatics are added in next, followed by tomatoes, and then the eggplant and squash is adding back in. Herbs are added to the ingredients, and the mixture is gently simmered for a little over an hour until thick, rich, and stew-like.
- To serve my ratatouille, I sprinkle fresh basil leaves over top, drizzle generously with olive oil, and serve with warm, crusty bread.
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 6
Nutrition Info: 246 calories per serving (ratatouille only)
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
- Sea salt
- 1 large eggplant (1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds), cut into large cubes (about 1 ½ inches in size)
- ¾ pound zucchini (about 2 zucchini), cut into large semi-circles
- ¾ pound yellow squash (about 2 yellow squash), cut into large semi-circles
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, large dice
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
- 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cored and seeded, and cut into large (1”) pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ¼ pounds Campari tomatoes, quartered
- Black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
- ½ teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Basil leaves, for garnish
- Warm, crusty bread, to serve as optional accompaniment
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of the ingredients according to the ingredients list above to have ready and organized for use.
- Add the cubed eggplant to a colander or sieve, sprinkle over it about 1 teaspoon of the sea salt, and toss to coat. Allow the eggplant to drain for 20 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and squash to a separate colander or sieve, sprinkle over about 1 teaspoon of the sea salt, and toss to coat. Allow the zucchini and squash to drain for 20 minutes.
- Once the eggplant and squashes have released their excess water, keeping them separate, pat them dry and set them aside for a moment.
- To prepare the ratatouille, place a large Dutch oven (about 5 quart) or heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about ¼ cup of the olive oil; once hot, add in the eggplant and allow it to cook and slightly caramelize for about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the eggplant from the pot and spoon into a bowl to hold.
- Next, add a bit more olive oil the the Dutch oven or pot, and add in the zucchini and squash and allow these to cook for only about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender. Remove these from the pot and spoon into the same bowl as the eggplant, to hold.
- Add a touch more oil to the pot, then add in the onion. Allow the onion to cook for about 4-5 minutes, until it softens and takes on a small amount of color; then, stir in the the garlic.
- Once the garlic is aromatic, add in the bell pepper and saute for about 2-3 minutes; then, add in the bay leaf followed by the quartered tomatoes, and gently stir to combine the ingredients, cooking for about 4-5 minutes, allowing things to begin to simmer.
- Next, add in a couple more good pinches of salt, a couple of good pinches of black pepper, as well as the Herbes de Provence and the marjoram, and stir to incorporate.
- Allow the ratatouille to simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 1 hour up to 1 hour and 15 minutes (my preferred amount of time), stirring occasionally, until stew-like and rich.
- To finish the ratatouille, remove the bay leaf; then, stir in the red wine vinegar, drizzle in a generous amount of olive oil to enrich the dish, and sprinkle in the fresh thyme leaves. Check to see is additional salt and pepper is needed.
- To serve, spoon the ratatouille into shallow bowls, garnish with basil, and serve with warm, crusty bread on the side, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my Ratatouille recipe:
- Globe eggplant, or your preferred variety: A classic globe eggplant is perfectly fine for this ratatouille recipe, but if you prefer using the smaller or thinner eggplants, that's fine. Simply purchase about 1 ½ pound worth, and cube as directed.
- Campari tomatoes, for flavor: Campari tomatoes are my favorite tomato to use when fresh tomatoes are called for in cooking. They are smaller, juicy, and mildly sweet, with nice red color. However, feel free to use any fresh tomatoes that are nice and ripe, especially in the summer months when tomatoes are plentiful. You can also substitute whole, canned tomatoes (drained of juice) that you chop into chunks by hand, if you prefer.
- Lots of aromatic herbs: My ratatouille recipe calls for both dried and fresh herbs, for lots of depth and earthy flavor. I like to use the dried herbs (marjoram, Herbes de Provence) during the cooking process, and sprinkle in the fresh (thyme and basil) as a finisher and garnish.
- Good quality olive oil for richness: Good quality olive oil adds a lot of delicious, fruity flavor to this rustic vegetable dish, so do be liberal with it! You can use a less expensive oil for the cooking, if you desire, and then finish the dish (and individual servings) with a good quality, rich and fruity oil.