Ratatouille is at its core, a simple french vegetable stew. The word itself translates to “to stir up”.
The dish consists of namely courgettes, bell peppers, eggplants (or aubergines, if you will), tomatoes, garlic, onions and provencal herbs such as thyme and basil. Of course, doused generally in olive oil as all good french recipes are. Many purists insist that the vegetables be cooked separately in order to fully attain the original flavors of each individual ingredient and melded together only at the end in order to allow the flavors of each vegetable to stand out as its own.
However, the general perception of Ratatouille at this point in time tends to drift towards a beautiful spiral of thinly sliced vegetables, with a base of sauteed garlic and onions along with both fresh and tinned tomatoes. Largely thanks to the role it played in the 2007 Pixar film of the same name “Ratatouille.” Certainly eye-catching, but time consuming as well. Where the vegetables have to be sliced thinly with a mandolin and placed in alternating rows with slices of the same size. For an originally simple stew, I prefer not to overcomplicate it and enjoy it in its most simple form for what it is, a rustic french stew with earthy, sunny flavors, fresh-tasting yet sweet and caramelized.
While I do agree that the style of ratatouille in the film is beautiful to say the least, I would much rather reserve it for celebratory occasions, or when there is a need to impress. It would certainly do very well for a potluck or family gathering, where fingers crossed the young children will be deceived by the garlicky, tomatoey flavors and overlook the presence of eggplants in the dish. Perhaps adding a blend of grated cheddar and mozzarella on top and broiling it to create a gorgeous cheesy crust would partner well with the tomato based stew to create flavors akin to pizza, and cover up the initial doubt children may have with the vegetables. Non-traditional for sure, but necessary.
This colorful dish is immensely delicious. Once sauteed, the peppers and courgettes become unnaturally soft and sweet. I myself couldn’t help from stealing bites of the vegetables here and there. Even if you’re not a huge fan of vegetables, trust me when I say you’ll love this!
Rustic Ratatouille Recipe
- 1 yellow courgette
- 1 green courgette
- 2 small eggplants
- 1 large bell pepper
- 1 ripe tomato
- Half a can of peeled tomatoes
- 1 large red onion
- 6-7 cloves of garlic
- 1 ½ tsp of thyme
- A few leaves of fresh basil
- 3 tbsp olive oil
Roughly chop all the vegetables
Saute the courgettes and peppers
Saute the eggplants
Saute the onions and garlic
Add the tomatoes and fry on medium heat until the tomatoes are soft
Add the cooked vegetables
Cover and cook for 20 minutes
Garnish with chopped basil and serve
STEP ONE – ROUGHLY CHOP ALL THE VEGETABLES
Roughly chop the bell peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and courgettes. Followed by the onion which should be chopped into wedges. After this, slice the garlic and set all the ingredients aside.
STEP TWO – SAUTE THE COURGETTES AND PEPPERS
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a pot. Saute the courgettes and bell peppers on medium-high heat until slightly caramelized and soft. This should take about 10 minutes. To speed up the caramelization process, you can lay the vegetables single file in the bottom of the pot. Remove and set aside.
STEP THREE – SAUTE THE EGGPLANTS
Add in another tablespoon of olive oil and cook the eggplants on medium-high heat until soft. You’ll see the eggplant absorbing up the juices released by the previous vegetables in the pot. This is good as peppers and courgettes naturally release them in the process of cooking. Remove and set aside.
STEP FOUR – SAUTE THE ONIONS AND GARLIC
Now, add in the last tablespoon of olive oil and fry the onion wedges on medium-low heat until soft, fragrant and translucent. When it reaches this stage but hasn’t browned yet, add in the garlic and continue frying. At this point, your kitchen will start to smell lovely and fragrant.
STEP FIVE – ADD THE TOMATOES
Toss in the chopped fresh tomatoes and half a can of peeled tomatoes. If you’d like to use purely fresh tomatoes, the soft texture of canned tomatoes scan be emulated by scoring and blanching ripe tomatoes and removing the skins off of them. Fry on medium heat until the fresh tomatoes are soft.
STEP SIX – ADD THE COOKED VEGETABLES BACK IN
Finally, add in all the cooked vegetables from before back into the pot. Stir them all in together, Season with salt and thyme. If using fresh thyme, chop finely and sprinkle into the pot.
STEP SEVEN – COVER AND COOK
Cover and cook for 20 minutes on medium-low heat or until you reach your desired consistency. The end product shown on the first image is after simmering for 20 minutes. If you prefer a mushier texture, cook for up to 45 minutes. Likewise, if you prefer more of a crunch, you can simmer for just enough time that the flavors meld together and is fully heated through. Around 5 minutes.
STEP EIGHT – SERVE!
Give it a last taste and adjust the seasoning. Garnish with chopped basil and serve!
This wholesome, hearty stew can be served on its own or on a bed of steaming rice, allowing the creamy sauce to coat each grain. You can even throw in some angel hair pasta midway through cooking along with some extra water. This ensures the pasta is able to cook through provided it is thin enough, while allowing the starch to naturally thicken the stew. One-pot pasta
at its best! Or even better, serve it bruschetta style. Drizzle olive oil and throw on whole garlic cloves and fresh rosemary stalks onto baguette slices and toast in the oven till golden-brown and crispy. Serve it with a generous dollop of ratatouille on top or separately, allowing diners to scoop it out themselves.
Do you prefer the more simplistic, rustic style or ratatouille? Or do you find the more aesthetically pleasing style of ratatouille to be your cup of tea? Write in the comments below!