The Best Ratatouille Recipe
This Ratatouille recipe comes together quickly for a fresh weeknight dinner. It’s a light & fresh dish that’s gluten free, vegan, and paleo. Plus, it freezes well – so go ahead and make a double batch! (Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Paleo, and Whole30 Compliant)
Granted, this might be the yuppiest thought to have ever been uttered, tied only with “OMG! They’re out of pumpkin spice lattes!” and “Ugh my premium high speed internet is totally only running at the speed of standard” but can I just ask what the heck we did before CSAs?
All over the country, small farmers are pulling insanely fresh, plump vegetables out of the ground and off of vines or trees or… wherever one finds vegetables ??????? (See, this is why I leave the farming to the farmers).
Anyway, I only mention it because a CSA means you not only get to support these fabulous farmers, but receive, in return, a weekly box full of said freshly picked veggies (and, in some CSAs, fruits too), and do incredible-slash-incredibly-simple things with them, like make Ratatouille.
Every week, I open my box with big eyes and a hopeful stomach, hoping for another round of the crisp zucchini and juicy cucumbers that were in last week’s box.
t seems like my CSA’s cucumber stock has been exhausted (damn. But don’t think I am not still making fridge pickles.), but they’ve wisely softened the blow by replacing them with plump tomatoes and long, smooth Japanese eggplants. Those, combined with the extra onions that went unused from this recipe, just screamed MAKE ME INTO RATATOUILLE!
WHAT THE HECK IS RATATOUILLE?
It’s not not the fancy, complicated dish that the name sounds like. Oh, and it’s not a cartoon mouse either, as it is probably primarily known in the United States. (As someone who, as a rule, detests cartoons, the degree to which I adore that cartoon mouse is somewhat alarming. But that’s for another post. But seriously, how could you not love that face?).
It’s a simple and casual dish that originated in France, probably as peasant food. The heart of the dish is stewed summer vegetables, with very little else, so the flavors of the peak-season vegetables shine through.
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, about 3-4 large leaves, sliced , plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence spice mix
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 medium sweet or red onion,, sliced
- 1-2 large zucchini, (about 1 1/2 cups slices, sliced)
- 1 large Japanese eggplant, (about 3 cups slices, sliced)
- 3 large fresh tomatoes, (roma is best; about 3 cups slices, sliced)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 6"x9" baking dish and set aside. (see notes for baking in an 8"x8" square pan)
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes, oil and vinegar. Stir in the garlic, basil, herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and chili powder.
- Pour the tomato mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth it into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
- Stack the veggie slices in alternating patters (e.g.: onion, zucchini, eggplant, tomato; repeat) and place them on their side in the pan, leaning against the edge of the pan. Repeat until you've formed a couple of rows of veggies, filled the pan, and used up all of the veggie slices.
- Optionally, spray or brush the exposed tops of the veggies with oil to encourage browning in the oven. This is more for appearance, so feel free to skip this step if you want.
- Bake for about an hour, until the tomato sauce at the bottom is bubbling and the veggies are tender.
- Garnish with additional chopped fresh basil before serving (optional). Serve hot or cold.
- If you'd like to bake this in an 8" x 8" square pan, you can. The bake time is about the same.
- The vegetables, including the crushed tomatoes, take center stage in this dish and there is relatively little in the ingredient list to season them, so flavor is very important. Try to get the absolute best quality vegetables you can. It really is worth the splurge, and will take this dish from good to great.
- If you can't get Japanese eggplant, you can use Italian eggplant (the fat, inky purple eggplant you commonly see in supermarkets). Try to cut it so that it is roughly the same size as the onions and tomatoes, even if that means cutting each slice into halves or quarters. That way, all of the vegetables will cook evenly.
- If you must replace some of the vegetables, try to go with similarly summery vegetables with a high water content (again, for even cooking). Try things like a bell pepper or yellow squash instead of zucchini, shallots instead of onions, or - like I mentioned above - Italian eggplant in place of Japanese eggplant.
- Some people have cautioned that Herbs de Provence contains a little bit of Lavender, so if you are especially sensitive to that flavor, replace the herbs de Provence with a heaping 1/4 teaspoon each: dried or fresh rosemary, oregano and thyme.
- Here are a few other recipes to help use up those Herbs de Provence.
- This may seem like a lot but is really enough for 2-3 people. If you're feeding a family or a crowd, double the recipe and bake it in a 9"x12" pan.
- Optionally, you can finish the dish by drizzling it with a little bit of good quality olive oil.
- As written, this recipe is gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo friendly, low carb and Whole30 compliant.
- To make it heartier, you can add vegan or dairy cheese on top, and/or serve over quinoa, mashed sweet or white potatoes, rice, or your grain of choice.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Or, if you'd like to make this ahead for a future dinner, cool it completely and transfer it to an airtight container. It will keep in the freezer for up to three months. To prepare, bring to room temperature (just leave it in the fridge for a day or two) and then microwave until heated through.