Ratatouille is a famous braised vegetable preparation from Provence in the South of France. The main ingredients typically include Eggplant, Tomato, Onion, and Bell Peppers, but Zucchini and Fennel often appear, with Mushrooms and Black Olives being added in some versions. It can be served as a hot, as a vegetarian casserole or vegetable side dish, and, once cooled, can be served as a relish, or used as an ingredient in more complex preparations.
How to make a Ratatouille
Traditionally, the main ingredients for a Ratatouille are individually sautéed with a little olive oil, and then finally cooked together until everything gets nicely blended with a rich ‘creaminess’. Here, though, I am also doing a two-stage cooking, but I am roasting some of the vegetables before-hand and then letting them sit overnight with some aromatics to really develop the flavor before finishing with the remaining ingredients in the second cooking process.
Here, I am using one small eggplant, one small zucchini, one small red pepper, and one large tomato, all cut into large dice. Before roasting, the vegetables are drizzled with enough Olive Oil to coat all the pieces and then everything is seasoned with a little Thyme, Oregano, Parsley and Black Pepper. Naturally, you can change the mix of vegetables and seasonings to suit your own preferences.
You want to roast the vegetables in a pan (not too over-crowded), at about 500 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until you see a just a little charring here and there. Once this happens, remove the pan from the oven and let it all cool.
After cooling, the vegetables get gently tossed in a bowl with a splash of white wine, a tablespoon or two of capers, a teaspoon of Garlic Purée and a tablespoon of Basil Paste. This then left in the refrigerator to blend the flavors for a couple of hours, or (much better) overnight.
By the way, if you want the flavor of Basil, and prefer to use fresh leaves rather than a Basil Paste, just tear then in strips and add them at the end the final cooking step rather than at this stage so that they don’t turn unpleasantly dark.
To make the ‘sauce’ for the finished relish, chop up a couple of small tomatoes and cook them in a little olive oil over medium heat until they collapse, adding a bit of water from time to time so that you don’t dry things out too much.
Next, coarsely chop a small onion and add the pieces along with a pinch or two of sugar and a moderately generous splash of Balsamic Vinegar. Cook until the onions are translucent but still have a bit of ‘bite’ and then let the mix cool down.
Finally, gently stir in the chilled and marinated main ingredients.
Serving and Using a Ratatouille
If you wish, you can reheat your Ratatouille for service as a vegetarian main course, or a vegetable side dish, but one of the best ways to enjoy it is served cold as relish along with thick slices of freshly baked crusty bread. This makes a terrific appetizer, a snack, or one of a series of small plates in a Tapas style meal.
As noted in the introduction, however, a Ratatouille can also be used as a component of, or an ingredient in other dishes, such as the ones shown below: