The first time I made ratatouille it was the grilled version. Grilling the tomatoes, red bell pepper, eggplant and zucchini brought out a lot of flavor for the dish. Of course, the bulb of garlic I roasted along with it didn’t hurt either. But a couple nights ago I wanted to make ratatouille like Remy did in the Disney/Pixar movie. However, because it is well into the autumnal season, my eggplant was frozen (side note: eggplant freezes quite well when sliced thickly and tossed into a Ziploc bag) and I decided to add a little more substance. Internet research led to a multitude of variations of the dish and a little history. As a typical peasant dish from the south of France, the main ingredients haven’t changed since they are all late summer vegetables, but depending on what was available at the time, substitutions or additions could be made. I decided to add some potatoes to the mix. And then the next Google search option was Rachel Ray’s version which included potatoes. Go figure.
For the sauce I decided to go chunky rather than smooth, but if you feel like a puree, go for it. Or, if you feel like using a premade pasta sauce that will work too. Personally, I felt that I wanted to go somewhere between traditional and trendy so I kept the sauce rustic and sliced all the veggies thin for the roasting process.
1 to 2 medium eggplants, thinly sliced
1 to 2 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
3 to 4 small red potatoes, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 small onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can petite diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz
2 to 3 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
4 sprigs fresh thyme, stems discarded
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a sauce pan over medium heat, pour in two tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and cook until slightly translucent, about five minutes. Add the finely diced bell pepper and garlic and continue to cook until everything starts to turn golden brown. Pour in the can of tomatoes or if using fresh about one pound. Next, add the Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper and allow sauce to cook down slightly, letting the flavors mingle together, about 5 minutes. Don’t have Herbes de Provence? Use equal parts basil and thyme. Not the same, but it will do.
Pour the sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Yes, it is supposed to be chunky. Don’t like chunks? Puree it then. Anyway, with the sauce as the base, begin arranging the thinly sliced vegetables in a circular motion around the pan and then into the center by alternating. By alternating, I mean zucchini, eggplant, red bell pepper, potato, repeat. Did you see the Disney/Pixar movie Ratatouille? Do it like that. When the pan is full or you run out of veggies, top with the remaining extra virgin olive oil and season with salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Don’t have fresh thyme? Use about ½ teaspoon dried.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit over the top of the ratatouille and bake 50 to 60 minutes or until everything looks nicely roasted. Serve right away with French bread for a vegetarian meal, or as a side dish. Can also be eaten at room temperature or cold. Leftovers actually taste better so don’t be afraid to make a big batch of it.