Ratatouille is so versatile. You can serve it as a side dish, as a pasta sauce, or just on it’s own with some crusty bread on the side. I’ve even served it as a pot pie. It takes a while to cook, but all the chopping and stirring can be very therapeutic in its own way.
Although I have always loved ratatouille, it took me years to make it for myself. When I finally decided to try, I turned to the wonderful Nigella Lawson for inspiration. Nigella’s first cookbook, ‘How To Eat, The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food’, doesn’t always get mentioned very much any more. It’s a shame because it is a brilliant book.
Published in 1998, How To Eat lacks the glossy finish and photography of Nigella’s later books, but what it lacks in beauty it makes up for in substance. (This is not to say that Nigella’s later books are not substantial; nothing could be further from the truth.) There’s an excellent ‘Basics’ chapter containing recipes that are just that – from how to roast a chicken and make gravy to making mayonnaise and béchamel sauce, as well as basic cake and pastry. This is followed by several chapters of the delicious recipes and common sense advice that have made Nigella famous. If you haven’t discovered Nigella’s very first cookbook yet, there is something missing from your bookshelf. I’m so evangelical about this book that if I find any of my friends don’t own it, I generally buy them a copy at the next available opportunity.
I was drawn to Nigella’s recipe for ratatouille as she does not salt and drain the aubergines (eggplant) or the zucchini (courgettes). I have never found these steps to be necessary, perhaps because I have been lucky enough never to meet a bitter aubergine, and also because I have a bit of an aversion to too much salt, having seen many of my family and friends being forced to eliminate it from their diets almost completely.
I also liked that Nigella’s version of this classic dish contains more zucchini than aubergine, a balance which I prefer. I did use yellow peppers as well as red ones, and I also eliminated the cilantro (coriander) Nigella calls for. My family don’t like it and it’s hard enough to get them to eat anything with chunks of tomato in it without putting a herb they don’t like in it as well. Instead I use a Herbs de Provence of or simply a mix of oregano, basil and thyme as well as lots of freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt.
Nigella says this will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days, but it has never lasted that long in our house! It does keep very well though. I’m not a fan of cold ratatouille but be sure to take it out of the refrigerator well before you use it if you are going to serve it cold. If, like me, you prefer your ratatouille warm, reheat over a low heat so that the ratatouille does not go ‘squishy’.
Printable Ratatouille Recipe
- 2 medium onions, peeled, halved and sliced in half moons
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 aubergine (eggplant), halved and sliced in half moons
- 5 small to medium courgettes (zucchini), cut in half inch rounds
- 2 large red peppers, de-seeded and sliced
- 1 large yellow pepper, de-seeded and sliced
- 1-400 gram (14 ounce) can drained tinned plum tomatoes
- 6 to 10 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (or ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon basil and ½ teaspoon thyme)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- fresh or dried basil or parsley to garnish
- Heat 6 tablespoons of olive oil in a thick bottomed wide pan with a lid (I use a round Le Creuset pan) over medium heat.
- Add the onions and sauté them until they are soft. Sprinkle with a little salt to prevent browning.
- Add the eggplant and cook for a minute or so.
- Add the zucchini, followed by the peppers.
- Grate in the garlic.
- If the vegetables absorb all the oil and you feel you need more, feel free to add it as you go along.
- Cover the pan, turn the heat back and cook gently over very low heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes and herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Stir through, cover and cook for another 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not mushy.
- Garnish with basil or parsley.
If you enjoyed this recipe you may also enjoy my Vegetarian Moussaka.