Ratatouille is a French stew that makes the most of everything you might have in abundance at the end of summer: eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and fresh herbs. Serve it over rice or pair with crusty bread. Not only is summer stew colorful, it’s delicious!
Let the vegetables you have on hand inform the quantity you make and, if possible, plan on making enough to freeze a portion. Come winter, you will be so glad you did. As written, this recipe will fill a three quart dutch oven to the brim before everything cooks down.
Very roughly, this stew is one part eggplant, one part tomatoes, and one part zucchini and/or summer squash. It also has a good amount of onion, bell pepper, and garlic. This recipe calls for fresh basil and fresh thyme, a bay leaf, and a bit of dried oregano, but the herbs are fairly flexible. Fresh flat-leaf parsley would also be nice. If you don’t have fresh herbs, pick your two favorite dried herbs such as basil and oregano or a small-palm of herbs de Provence. Fresh thyme sprigs can be used whole and then removed at the end along with the bay leaf. While the fresh basil could be added at any time, I like to add it toward the end.
You’ll start by dicing and chopping all the vegetables and then adding them to the pot in this order: onions, pepper and garlic, herbs, eggplant and zucchini, and lastly, the tomatoes. You’ll cover and let things simmer and soften and then uncover so some water can evaporate. You can opt to simmer this for a shorter amount of time if you want to leave a little crunch in the zucchini. Allowing ample simmer time, though, will meld the flavors together. You will find this stew is even more flavorful the next day.
2-3 eggplants, cubed
3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2-3 zucchini or summer squash, halved and sliced in ½” pieces
1 bell pepper, diced or slivered
1 large onion, diced
5-7 cloves garlic, minced
Herbs and Oil
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
6 whole sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
Possible Herb Substitutions
½ cup flat-leaf parsley
herbs de Provence, small palm
Wash all the vegetables and give the fresh herbs a quick rinse.
Slice, chop and dice all the vegetables, using a serrated knife for the tomatoes.
If you’re wondering if your eggplant has passed its prime, you can read a little more about eggplants in the Veggie Gallery. It’s normal to have a little browning around the seeds and for the flesh to oxidize and brown when it’s exposed to air. For this recipe, I don’t find it necessary to salt the eggplant before using.
In a large heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium-low.
Add onion, peppers and garlic and sauté on medium-low heat until soft, about 3 minutes.
Rubbing between your palms, add any dried herbs you’re using, then the fresh thyme. Stir for a minute to release the aromas.
Add the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cover. Simmer on medium-low, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are as soft as you’d like.
Remove the lid and turn up the heat to medium-high. Add the fresh basil and simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow some of the water to evaporate.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
Serve while warm over rice or with crusty bread.