Ratatouille is a French vegetable stew that at first glance seems like a humble dish – because it is. Made well though, it’s a summery stunner bursting with the sunny tastes of the Mediterranean! The key to flavour-packed ratatouille is to sauté each vegetable separately before braising everything together. Ratatouille can comfortably star as a vegetarian main, otherwise it makes a perfect vegetable side.
Makes side for 6 to 8 people, main meal for 4 people. (Video below)
- 1 eggplant (aubergine) , cut into 2cm / ¾” cubes (leave skin on) (~450g / 16oz)
- 1/2 tsp salt , cooking / kosher salt
Other ingredients for Ratatouille:
- 3 tomatoes , chopped, Note 1 canned subs
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 brown onion , chopped 1cm cubes
- 2 capsicum (1 red, 1 yellow), cut into 2cm cubes
- 2 zucchinis (courgettes), diced into 1.5cm pieces
- 2 garlic cloves , finely chopped
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves , chopped (Note 2 for subs)
- 3/4 tsp salt , cooking salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 20 black olives , pitted, halved
- 1 tbsp fresh basil , finely chopped, plus more for garnish (Note 2 subs)
- Extra virgin olive oil , for drizzling
1. Tomato – It seems on-theme to use fresh tomatoes for the sauce in a dish like Ratatouille! But you can absolutely use canned crushed tomato (1 x 400g/14oz can) or tomato passata (2 cups). Please use a good quality one – cheap is usually sour and flavourless! I like Mutti brand best, personally.
- Sweat eggplant: Place eggplant in a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt, toss with hands. Leave for 30 minutes to sweat (no need to wipe off water that beads on surface).
- Make tomato puree: Place tomato in a blender, food processor or other appliance of choice. Blitz until smooth. (No need to do this if using passata or crushed tomato.)
- Cook eggplant: Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add eggplant and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until it’s golden on the surface but still somewhat firm and raw inside. Transfer to a large pot.
- Cook onion and garlic: In the same skillet, add another 1 tbsp olive oil. Add onion and garlic with a pinch of the salt. Cook for 3 minutes until onion is soft with a hint of golden on the edges. Add to pot holding eggplant.
- Cook capsicum: Add another 1 tbsp of olive oil and cook the capsicum with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes. It should still be firm inside. You won’t get much colour on the capsicum, this is OK. Add to pot.
- Cook zucchini: Add another 1 tbsp olive oil and cook the zucchini with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes. Make sure it stays firm (ie. raw inside). Like the capsicum, it won’t go golden. Add to pot.
- Add remaining ingredients to pot: Turn the stove under the pot to medium-high. Add tomato, thyme, olives, remaining salt and all the pepper, and mix. Once the mixture is hot, reduce heat to a low simmer.
- Braise: Cook for 20 – 25 minutes with the pot lid off, stirring every now and then, until all the vegetables are cooked through and the liquid has reduced. The mixture should be thick enough so you can pile it on a plate (ie. not watery), but still very moist and juicy.
- Basil and salt: Taste and add more salt if needed; vegetables can taste bland if not enough salt is added. Stir through basil then serve immediately, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of extra basil on top, if desired. Serve as a main with crusty bread, or as a side dish. See above recipe card for more ideas!
The single most important thing that differentiates meh Ratatouille from holy-cow-this-amazing Ratatouille?
Pan-searing each vegetable separately before bringing them together in a pot to braise. Most recipes will have you (attempt to) sauté everything in one pot at the same time but you will achieve a far better outcome by cooking them separately.
This way offers much better control over how much each vegetable gets cooked so you don’t end up with a pot of overcooked mush (the #1 Ratatouille offence, right there!). You also get some browning on the vegetables, and as we know, colour = flavour!!