Ratatouille (French Summer Vegetable Stew)

 

ratatouillepRatatouille is a French vegetable ragoût from Provence region (originally from Nice). Its name comes from “ratatohla”, a word in Occitan language, still spoken by some people in Southern France. It is the Summer dish par excellence, since all the necessary vegetables don’t leave the French markets – and kitchens – from July till August. Everyone cooks ratatouille in a different way, but there are three main general methods.  Some people chop all the ingredients and let them simmer or fry together, others fry them separately and assemble them only before serving. I use a third method, which consists of quick frying of all the vegetables separately (except for the courgette, which gets too mushy), and then putting them in the same pan to finish the cooking process. The French are not fond of hot dishes, so the peppers used in ratatouille are always sweet. Personally, I find a hot version more palatable and always include a couple of chili peppers. Ratatouille is often literally drowned in oil and since I use it very sparingly, I would define mine as “light”.

Ratatouille is usually served as a side dish with grilled fish, meat or an omelet, but it can also be a vegetarian main dish. The amounts of the ingredients depend on your preference (I always put a bit more of courgette, since it is my favourite here). This is one of those dishes, which improve when reheated, so don’t hesitate making a big batch and serving it throughout the week.

Preparation: 1h30

Ingredients (serves 5-6 as a main dish and at least 8 as a side dish):

4 tablespoons oil

2 medium aubergines

1 big sweet pepper

1-3 hot chili peppers

2 medium courgettes

6 big tomatoes

4 big garlic cloves

1 big onion

thyme

bay leaf

salt, pepper

(tomato sauce or concentrate, in case the tomatoes don’t give the desired consistency or taste)

Put the tomatoes in a pan filled with boiling water. Take them out after 10 minutes and cover with cold water.

Peel them, chop them roughly and place in a big pan.

Chop the aubergine in 1-2 cm pieces and put into another bowl.

Slice the onion.

Chop the garlic.

Cut the courgette in half slices or quarters of slices.

Chop the peppers.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil a frying pan. Fry the onion for a couple of minutes and when it starts softening, add the peppers.

Fry both for 5 more minutes.

Transfer the onion and the peppers into the pan containing the tomatoes.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the same pan, add the garlic and, after 30 seconds, the chopped aubergine.

Fry the aubergine until it starts giving off water.

Transfer it to the big pan.

Add thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper and let the ratatouille simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.

Add the courgette and let the ragoût simmer for 30 more minutes.

Serve hot.

29 Replies to “Ratatouille (French Summer Vegetable Stew)”

  1. Hooray for “light” ratatouille. I haven’t had ratatouille in years! About 12 years ago when my father first decided he wanted to start cooking he picked up an “Elizabeth David” recipe (famous French cook I think) and found a recipe which he then proceeded to make every Sunday lunchtime for about 3 months. After a few weeks my sister and I were sick of it… my mother was claiming to love it though. It was just drowning in oil and thus earned the nickname amongst my sister and I of “grease fried vegetables”. Makes me want to try it again… with significantly less oil 😀

    1. Hi Charles! Thank you for the “hooray” 🙂 Your father probably cooked the “standard” ratatouille… I could eat this lighter version almost every day. I also sometimes combine it with ground meat, it makes a full, one-pot meal.

  2. I have never made ratatouille, it sounds very similar to the Spanish eggplant I had few days ago, minus a few ingredients. I had it as a spread on toast and it was great.

    Thanks for the history lesson!

    1. I have never heard of the Spanish eggplant dish. Do you remember the name? It sounds yummy!

  3. Ratatouille, you know there is no way I would know anything about this dish without the help of that cute animated film with the talented little rat! Vegetable drenched in oil? That doesn’t sound like my cup of tea, but your light version looks good, I bet it’s tasty also!

    1. Thanks Jeno! I have completely forgotten about the cartoon with the rat! It was very amusing.

  4. I’ve seen some ratatouille recipes before while blog visiting, but I think none of them explained about this dish as well as yours. Thank you! I have never eaten or cooked this dish and your ratatouille 101 lesson was very helpful. 🙂 I didn’t know French don’t like hot food. One similarities in Japanese cooking (sort of). 🙂 Your ratatouille looks very delicious Sissi!

    1. Thank you, Nami! I have never thought about it before, but you are completely right: this is one of the similarities between the two cuisines!

    2. Ha Nami – tell that to my ex girlfriend, who was Japanese. She’d be always plying me with kimchi (even though it’s Korean I never knew Japanese were so crazy about this) and mouth-melting spicy Golden Curry 😀

      1. Just saw this message – Hi Charles! Curry is an exception, I think. Japanese love curry so much that we have a curry specialized restaurant and they serve very spicy one! Korean food became popular in last 10 yrs or so and most supermarkets start to sell Kimchi, till then our common spice has been Japanese chili peppers…and we only dip a little bit. I have friends who love spicy food, but we just have to find other cuisines to enjoy the spiciness. 🙂

  5. I cook ratatouille all the time, ’cause I love vegetables, I love those vegetables and I love even using it to dress cous cous (I know, it’s not ortodox, but I like it)…
    You know, in Italy exist dishes similar to ratatouille… caponata in Sicily but, above all, ratauia here in Piedmont.. similar name, uh?!

    1. Thank you, Giulia! I have been thinking about caponata for a long time… I will certainly make it soon! (Haven’t I seen it on your blog???). The Piedmont name is incredible! Is ratauia very similar?

  6. You know … I can’t remember but I might have had this before but I never knew what I ate. Or maybe it was something similar. If not for the movie, I wouldn’t have known it was called what it’s called. Duh. And if I remember the flavors, I believe this would be super with some crusty bread…. all those lovely vegetables! I will definitely give this a go one day when I don’t fancy a heavy meal. And since you say it tastes better reheated, I’m all for this!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Ping! It definitely tastes better when reheated. I had it three days in a row and the third day it was the best (also the hottest, since I had put some chili and it gets stronger with each reheating).

  7. First time I learned about Ratatouille is from the movie Ratatouille and i fell in love with that dish. I have always wanted to make it at home but somehow it never happened. You inspired me 🙂

  8. I love you light version of this well known French dish. I make something similar too. with the abundance of veggies we’re having over the summer, this type of meals make their way on out dinner table quite often.
    thanks for sharing and thank you for your lovely words left on my guest post on Nami @ Just One Cookbook blog

    1. Thank you, Roxana and welcome to my blog! Your cookies on Nami’s blog looked fantastic!

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