Over the years, one of my favorite recipes has been ratatouille. Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stew that originated in Nice. I discovered it as an adult when I was looking for vegetarian recipes. The first recipe I found for ratatouille was in the Betty Crocker Cookbook which I bought about the time I set myself up in my first apartment. It is a simple stew cooked on top of the stove, but very flavorful and satisfying. I have used that recipe for years, sometimes as a stew or a side dish, sometimes as the main course served over brown rice and topped with shredded mozzarella cheese. I have even served it wrapped in crepes and topped with Gruyère cheese.
When the movie Ratatouille came out, I noticed that a baked version was featured in that animated film. I decided to search for such a recipe. There are a number of baked ratatouille recipes to be found online. Ratatouille typically includes eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions. I found one called “Roast Ratatouille” that looked interesting. It is included in a line of recipes featured by a British grocery chain, Waitrose.
I have tried the roasted ratatouille recipe a couple of times now, and it is a hit with the family. Using less oil, it is a lower fat version, and the roasting adds a different flavor to the mix. I thought I would include both recipes here, and you can choose whichever one you want. They are both good. In preparing the eggplant, I usually peel it first, but you may slice it or dice it with the peeling still on. Your dish will actually have more color as well as more vitamin content if you leave the peel intact.
(From the 1983 edition of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, ninth edition)
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1½ pounds)
- 2 small zucchini (about ½ pound)
- 1 medium green pepper, chopped (about1 cup)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- 4 medium tomatoes, each cut into fourths
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 5 cups eggplant, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes.
- 2 cups sliced zucchini
Cook and stir all ingredients until heated through. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.
YIELD: 6 TO 8 SERVINGS.
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(From Waitrose Recipes online)
Traditional ratatouille is a mix of garlic, onions, peppers, courgettes and aubergines braised with lots and lots of olive oil. It's very healthy, but not exactly low-fat. To cut down, roast the vegetables in a hot oven with just a hint of olive oil. Stir in a further tablespoon of your very best olive oil at the end, for flavour and richness.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
- 3 medium courgettes (zucchini), sliced on the diagonal
- 1 large red onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin wedges held together by the root
- 1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
- 1 medium aubergine (small eggplant), halved lengthways and sliced into half-moons
- 3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 6-8 ripe tomatoes, cut into large chunks
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C, gas mark 7. (Note: This is equal to 428 ° F – the first time I heated the oven to 450°, the second time I tried 425°. I think I liked the hotter temperature better. Of course, you can always turn the dial somewhere between 425 and 450)
2. Put the courgettes, onion, peppers, aubergine and garlic into a non-stick roasting pan large enough to fit them in one and a half layers (if the vegetables are more crowded, they'll steam, not roast). Toss with 1 tsp olive oil (or spray lightly with oil from an atomiser). Roast for 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. Remove from the oven, stir in the tomatoes, and cook for 10 minutes more, till the tomatoes are soft and all the vegetables cooked. Remove from the oven, stir in the extra virgin oil, season to taste, and serve.
(Additional Note: I started out with a 13 x 9 inch Pyrex baking dish and quickly realized that my vegetables would completely fill the dish, which is not what the recipe recommends. I quickly got two additional baking pans so that I could spread all the vegetable out in a single layer. I roasted the vegetables in those three separate pans for the first 20 minutes of cooking time. Then when the recipe calls for adding the tomatoes, I threw everything into the 13 x 9 Pyrex dish for the final ten minutes)
3.You could add chopped olives and capers to create a flavourful accompaniment for fish. Try serving the dish with macaroni cheese, or stir in fresh basil and toss with pasta for a simple supper.
(One more note: you will notice that this recipe calls for very little seasoning. The second time I made the dish, I sprinkled some herbs de Provence on top along with some shredded mozzarella cheese before serving – it was superb!)
Photos Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
Upper - Traditional ratatouille
Credit: Tomáš Zeleninský
Lower - Roasted ratatouilleCredit: Ji-Elle