Ratatouille sounds fancy, but at its core it’s just a simple, hearty and rustic dish out of the South of France. This classic Provencal dish is a medley of summer vegetables accentuating all the Mediterranean flavors.
Melt in your mouth chunks of beautifully cooked eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash in a tomato sauce spiked with fresh herbs with a good dose of olive oil. That’s Ratatouille for you!! Make this famous vegetarian and vegan French Vegetable Stew that appeals to masses, and feel like a master chef whipping up a big pot of this easy French culinary master piece.
Bite into buttery, tender veggie morsels drizzled generously with extra virgin olive oil over some crusty bread, and raise a glass of wine. Yes… Ratatouille is a marvelously good simple vegetarian meal.
Who wouldn’t like to whip up some famous culinary delight that not only sounds gourmet, but turns out finger licking delicious? Not all French cuisine is complex. Our French Tapenade and Chicken Provençal are dishes that are simple and quite quick to whip up in your kitchen. Even the world famous Coq Au Vin takes a little longer to develop amazing flavors, but your trusty oven does most of your work for you.
Ratatouille reminds me of a classic Italian dish, Caponata. Both highlight summer veggies that are cooked beautifully in a tomato based sauce.
Now to really make a cracking ratatouille, you need a few tips and tricks, but in the end you will find that it’s one of the easier French dishes you can make for your friends and family.
There are different versions and cooking methods to make this one pot dish. Some recipes take longer times to cook, and some people use different cooking methods. Basically what everyone is trying to achieve is perfectly cooked summer vegetables, braised in a simple delicious tomato sauce.
There are a Lot of Reasons to Love Ratatouille
1. This is a recipe to use summer’s bounty. All summer veggies like squashes, eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers go into this pot. When your summer garden is overflowing, and you don’t know what to do with all the surplus, think ratatouille. When you return from the farmer’s market with a bagful of colorful veggies, think ratatouille. And when you simply want to make something healthy all year round, think ratatouille! It’s the ultimate vegetarian comfort food.
2. It’s probably one of the best vegetarian and vegan meals you can feed to the crowd, loved equally by hard core meat lovers. All the vegetables make it not only delicious, but a super healthy meatless dinner option. This is the dish to feed to all your special diet people. It’s gluten free and Mediterranean diet friendly. Everyone is happy to greet ratatouille! Very economical way to feed a crowd.
3. This is great as leftovers. In fact, all the flavors get accentuated as it sits for a few days in your refrigerator. That makes it a great contender as a make ahead recipe and meal prep option for all your future weekly meals.
4. This is very versatile, and you can make it with any of the vegetables present in your refrigerator, and even can be served in many different ways. It can be your main, or a side dish. We will tell you all.
5. This ratatouille recipe happens a little faster, yet every vegetable is perfectly and harmoniously cooked.
What is Ratatouille?
Isn’t it fun to say ratatouille? It’s pronounced as “rat-tuh-TOO-ee”!!
This rustic and humble vegetable stew comes from Nice in the South of France, bordering the Mediterranean Sea with plenty of sunshine. This region is known for an abundance of fresh produce and great seafood. In summer, when squashes like zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes are at their peak, locals make huge pots of this hearty, rich vegetable stew.
In Provence, ratatouille is typically cooked on the stovetop, where each vegetable is individually sautéed in olive oil until tender. Then all of the ingredients are combined in tomato sauce along with garlic and fresh herbs like thyme, basil and rosemary, and simmered together to let the flavors mingle.
Originally a food of the poor, ratatouille was a peasant dish made of a braised medley of whatever summer vegetables were on hand, or any leftover vegetable scraps. Eggplant, zucchini, squashes, peppers, tomatoes, herbs and whatever else you find on any particular day can go in the ratatouille pot. Simple and rustic, but if cooked with just right ingredients, it’s a Mediterranean stunner of a dish.
Disney made the dish popular all over the world in 2007 with a movie named “Ratatouille”. It’s about a young rat named Remy who likes to cook. Set in Paris, the plot follows his dreams of becoming a chef at famous French restaurant, along with the help of his friend, Alfredo Linguini. The movie ends with Remy cooking ratatouille. And if Remy can cook, anyone can cook.
Though Remy presented the dish as ratatouille, food critics would disagree. Remy’s dish is actually not traditional French ratatouille, but a Provencal layered vegetable dish known as “tian”.
As far as ingredients go, tian and ratatouille generally share a lot of similarities. Both use summertime vegetables and generally include a tomato-based sauce. The difference between the two dishes is how they are prepared. Tian is made of thinly sliced vegetables aesthetically arranged in a casserole dish.
Ratatouille, on the other hand, usually involves cooking cubed or thinly sliced vegetables in olive oil until they create a hearty stew, with the help of tomato sauce.
- Eggplant – Ratatouille might top all recipes where eggplant is a star. When caramelized and cooked, it turns creamy, buttery and melt in your mouth tender.
- Summer squashes – Zucchini and yellow squash are the usual summer squashes that go in ratatouille.
- Bell Peppers – Use any color of bell peppers. Using multi colored peppers make prettier ratatouille.
- Tomatoes – Only use fresh, sweet, ripe tomatoes. We absolutely love Campari tomatoes, which are a little smaller in size, but are so sweet that they are fondly called sugar bombs. You can also also use ripe Roma tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine.
- Onion – We used red onion this time, but you can use any available. This creates the sauce along with tomatoes.
- Aromatics and fresh herbs and spices – Garlic, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, fresh basil, red chili flakes. In absence of fresh herbs, you can use dried herbs in a pinch.
- Extra virgin olive oil – You need a good dose of it to create rich and hearty ratatouille.
- Salt and pepper
The dish starts with cooking vegetables that have different cook times separately in olive oil, before adding to the tomato sauce. This way the faster cooking veggies don’t turn into mush, and retain their individual structure.
You can certainly cook all the veggie like eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash separately. But we found that all three of these veggies can cooked together, they just need more room so as not to steam. Cook them in batches so they get browned before being braised in the tomato sauce.
1. Brown eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash: Chop the veggies into larger chunks and mix them well in large bowl. Heat 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven. Depending on the size of dutch oven, cook the vegetables in 2 or 3 batches, so they cook almost in a single layer. Season the veggies with salt and pepper, and cook stirring occasionally for 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
2. Create tomato sauce: Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil and add onion. Sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and bell peppers and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. Add in diced tomatoes along with thyme, rosemary, red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, until tomatoes are cooked into a sauce.
3. Mix in the veggies: Add eggplants, zucchini and yellow squash back into the sauce and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked soft to your liking.
Some like to cook it for longer to make a softer version of ratatouille, but we prefer to keep it tender, yet still chunky. Stir in basil leaves and adjust the seasoning for salt and pepper to your taste.
Serve it with a drizzling of more extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and a little red chili flakes (optional). You can also serve it with grated parmesan or mozzarella.
- For a tangier and soupier version of ratatouille, consider using canned tomatoes. Or add a little tomato paste.
- Try using other herbs like marjoram, herbs de province, or oregano.
- We can see black olives or capers going well in this recipe.
- You can add a dash of white wine (about 1/2 cup) to the tomato sauce for a little different flavor.
Tips and Trick for the Best Ratatouille
- Always use fresh good quality produce for great tasting ratatouille. The tomatoes need to be sweet, juicy and ripe. The zucchini, squash and eggplant should be at their prime. If your tomatoes are more tangy than sweet, add a little sugar or honey to the sauce.
- If possible, stick to fresh herbs rather than dried to get real fresh flavors. That being said, if you lack fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon of dried for every 1 tablespoon of fresh.
- You can brown the eggplant and squashes together as long as they are cooked in batches, and in a single layer so they don’t over crowd the pan.
- Use multi colored peppers to make prettier looking ratatouille.
- If you want ratatouille softer, let it simmer covered on low heat for a longer time. We like it chunkier, yet where the vegetables are still tender and soft.
Ratatouille Serving Suggestions
This French Vegetable stew can be served in so many ways, let your imagination run. It’s good with everything.
- Our favorite way to eat these stewed veggies is with fresh, crusty, warm bread. Our No Knead Bread is just what you need… yum. Just drizzle some more extra virgin olive oil all over. Toasted bread, baguettes, and crostini are all good topped with ratatouille.
- Top it over your favorite pasta or orzo.
- A side of grains like couscous, quinoa, farro or polenta is perfect with ratatouille.
- Turn the leftovers onto breakfast by adding fried eggs on top, or cook the eggs Shakshuka style right in the ratatouille. Fold it into frittata or in omelets.
- Serve it as a healthy side for roasted or grilled meats and fish.
How to Make Ahead, and Storing Leftovers
Like any other stew, ratatouille is absolutely delicious the next day, making it a great make ahead meal contender.
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Simply thaw it and warm it up through out in the microwave, or on stovetop with a dash of water.
Ratatouille is a quintessential summer recipe to cook when your garden is overflowing and your kitchen is full of fresh produce.
Make this amazing French classic stew in a big pot to feed the crowd. Marvel at the super simple, yet delicious, Mediterranean flavors, and spread the love of good food.
Ratatouille, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 6 Tbsp extra virgin oil, divided (plus more for serving)
- 1 large eggplant, diced into large chunks
- 1 large zucchini, diced into large chunks
- 1 large yellow squash, diced into large chunks
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 5 large vine ripened tomatoes or 12 smaller Campari tomatoes
- kosher salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, cut into strips (plus whole basil leaves for serving )
- Heat 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat in a large dutch oven. Add eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash seasoned with a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 6-8 minutes. Work in two batches so as not to over crowd the pan. Transfer to a plate.
- Add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil along with onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic and bell peppers and sauté for another 3-4 minutes.
- Add in diced tomatoes along with thyme, rosemary, red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, until tomatoes are cooked down to a sauce.
- Add eggplants, zucchini and yellow squash back into the sauce and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked soft to your liking (see note 1). Stir in basil leaves and adjust the seasoning for salt and pepper to your taste.
- Serve it with a drizzling of more extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and a little red chili flakes (optional).
- We like the veggies to be on the chunkier side, but you can simmer it for 25-30 minutes if you prefer a softer consistency.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 255Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 13gCholesterol 0mgSodium 69mgCarbohydrates 30gFiber 8gSugar 14gProtein 5g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.
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