Today’s generation knows ratatouille Pixar-style—a dish of sliced vegetables arranged alternately in a concentric circle to make the colors of the vegetables pop. Well, this isn’t Pixar’s ratatouille. This is classic ratatouille—diced vegetables stewed in chopped tomatoes—although I wish that all the vegetables were more Provençal.
Classic ratatouille is a peasant dish that uses seasonal vegetables. The most common combination has eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers and summer squash. The summer squash varieties that grow in Provence, sometimes available here in tropical Asia as a pricey imported vegetable, is nowhere to be found in the suburb where we live. I used local squash instead.
Ratatouille is a vegan dish; for us omnivores, we needed some meat to go with our veggies.
I took a small slab of pork belly, salted the meat, cut it into cubes which went into the frying pan until browned and lightly crisp. It was a lovely partner for ratatouille.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 eggplants, cubed
- 1 zucchini, halved then cut into half-inch sliced
- 2 bell peppers, deseeded and diced (see tip)
- 1 wedge squash, cubed
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 red onion, roughly chopped (see tip)
- 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano or 3 sprigs fresh oregano
- salt and pepper, to taste
- basil chiffonade and chopped parsley, to garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a wide shallow pan.
- Saute the garlic and onion until softened and aromatic.
- Add the eggplants, zucchini, bell peppers and squash. Fry lightly for a minute or so.
- Pour in the chopped tomatoes.
- Add the thyme and oregano.
- Sprinkle in some salt and pepper.
- Stir the vegetables. Bring to a boil then immediately lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until tender. The juice from the tomatoes should be just enough to allow the vegetables to cook. For best results, taste the ratatouille midway through the cooking and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
- Off the heat, taste the ratatouille one last time and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
- Sprinkle the basil chiffonade and chopped parsley over the ratatouille. Serve warm or at room temperature with rice, bread or noodles.