Ratatouille is a French vegetable stew made with fresh summer vegetables and flavoured with Mediterranean herbs. This traditional ratatouille recipe is a bright and colourful dish, packed with flavour and which immediately makes you think of the south of France.
Side dishes with a variety of vegetables often brings a lot of extra flavour and colour to the main meal. This South African chakalaka is another vegetable stew recipe that is bursting with delicious flavours.
What is ratatouille?
Ratatouille (pronounced rah-tah-too-ee) is a chunky vegetable stew originating from the Provence region in France and more specifically, from the city of Nice, hence the name ‘Ratatouille Niçoise’. The Provence is a beautiful, picturesque and very popular tourist location in the southeast of France on the Mediterranean sea. This classic ratatouille recipe is made with locally grown vegetables, flavoured with olive oil, garlic and ‘herbs de Provence’, like thyme, rosemary, oregano and basil.
It used to be a simple, hearty, filling and economical peasants dish made with freshly harvested summer vegetables. It was usually eaten with cheap rice, pasta or bread. However, Ratatouille gained fame through the Disney movie with the same name and is nowadays served in many fine dining restaurants.
Note: All the exact quantities of the ingredients can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Eggplant: Use a fresh eggplant with a smooth and shiny skin and which feels heavy for its size. A matured eggplant will taste bitter and won’t be pleasant to eat. No need to peel the skin.
- Zucchini or courgette: Use either a green, yellow or even a striped zucchini and again, no need to peel the skin.
- Bell peppers: Use a mix of green, red, orange or yellow peppers to brighten up this vegetable dish even more.
- Tomatoes: Use fresh and ripe tomatoes for the base of the sauce. You can use canned tomatoes, but the result will be better with fresh ones. Use any fresh tomatoes you have at home or use a combination.
- Garlic and onion: Provides the base flavour to the stew. Don’t hold back on the garlic cloves in order to bring out the best Mediterranean aroma.
- Olive oil: Traditionally ratatouille is only made with olive oil. As I love using olive oil in most of my recipes, that is what I will go for. But feel free to use any other cooking oil if you prefer.
- Mediterranean herbs: Classic ratatouille is made with herbs from the Provence region, also known as ‘herbs de Provence’. It includes aromatics like thyme, rosemary, oregano and basil. I have experimented with other Mediterranean flavours and added sage and bay leaves to this dish.
Tips to make the best ratatouille
- Chop all the vegetables in equal sizes. French ratatouille is a chunky vegetable stew, so the eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper can be roughly chopped. It is up to personal preference if you prefer to have small-sized cubes or larger chunks to make it more rustic, however, cut the vegetables in similar sized cubes for a better result. I prefer to cut the vegetables into 0.5 inches (or 1.5 cm) cubes when serving as a side dish and double the size when serving as a main.
- Don’t add all the vegetables to the pot at once. If you add all the ingredients at the same time you’ll end up with a soggy vegetable mush without much flavour. You’ll want to sauté the ingredients separately to give them as much flavour as possible before braising them together into a stew. On top of that, each vegetable requires a different cooking time which should be properly observed.
- Fry the eggplant separately. An eggplant is like a sponge, it will soak up all the oil at once making it soggy and greasy if not fried properly. I always fry eggplant separately to give it a nice caramelisation and to not let it soak up all the oil that’s required to cook the other vegetables. Make sure to fry the eggplant in only a bit of oil on high heat, preferably in a non stick pan, and to let all sides caramelise into a nice golden brown. The eggplant will soak up all the oil in an instant, but leave it at that and don’t add more oil or they’ll get soggy and greasy.
- Don’t peel the vegetables. I don’t recommend peeling the zucchini or the eggplant. They’ll still be quite firm after cooking with the peel. I also don’t recommend peeling the tomatoes nor the bell peppers either, but some people might want to so it’s according to personal preference.
- Don’t overcook the vegetables. When braising the vegetables, keep an eye on them in order to not overcook them. They need to be soft but still firm enough to hold their shape and to provide the required flavour.
How to make ratatouille?
- Cut the vegetables into similar sized cubes. Slice the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and bell pepper in to 0.5 inch (or 1.5 cm) cubes. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic.
- Fry the eggplant. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick pan or skillet on medium to high heat and sauté the eggplant chunks for a few minutes until golden brown on each side and just slightly softened. Set aside for later.
- Sauté the vegetables in sequences. Heat some more olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and bell peppers and continue to sauté for a few more minutes, stirring frequently. Add the zucchini and fry for another few minutes until they soften slightly.
- Combine, season and braise. Spoon the eggplant in to the pot of sautéd vegetables and add the chopped tomatoes together with the herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaves) salt and pepper. Mix well, then cover with a lid and leave to braise for a further 10-15 minutes on low heat until all the vegetables are soft and tender.
- Season and serve. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chopped fresh parsley or basil.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, ratatouille can be made in advance. In fact, this stew tastes even better the next day when all the flavours have had time to fully develop. After cooking, leave it to cool down and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Can ratatouille be frozen and reheated?
You can freeze ratatouille for up to 3 months. Leave to thaw overnight in the fridge or defrost in the microwave. Heat either in the microwave or in a pan on the stovetop on low heat to avoid overcooking the vegetables.
Do I need to peel the tomatoes?
You can peel the tomatoes but you don’t have to. I usually don’t. To peel the tomatoes, make a cross cut on the top and put them in a pot of boiling water for 20 seconds, then take them out and peel them.
Can I use canned tomatoes?
Ratatouille is traditionally a summer dish made when all the vegetables can be freshly harvested and have the best possible taste, so it’s preferable to use fresh, ripe and sweet tomatoes. However, even though fresh tomatoes have preference, it is perfectly possible to use a can of peeled tomatoes.
What to serve with ratatouille
This authentic ratatouille dish is quite filling so it can easily be served as a vegetarian or vegan main dish. Serve either with white or brown rice, pasta, couscous, or fresh crunchy bread to dip in the sauce. It works really well as a light meal during lunch and can be served warm or cold.
Ratatouille is also great as a tasty and colourful side dish when pairing with some protein such as grilled fish, beef, pork or chicken, like with these lemon and herb chicken skewers. Serve with cooked rice, pasta or bread.
Other ways to use ratatouille is as a topping for crostini or bruschetta, filling for an omelet, or as a vegetarian pasta sauce.
More vegetable stew recipes
Other favourite summer recipes
- Grilled Spanish Padrón peppers
- Spanish gazpacho or cold vegetable soup
- Greek tzatziki
- Shaved fennel salad
- Mango salsa
- Dill pickle potato salad
- Spanish chorizo in red wine
Easy ratatouille recipe
- 1 large eggplant diced into ½ inches (1.5 cm) cubes
- 1 large zucchini diced into ½ inces (1.5 cm) cubes
- 2 bell peppers (any colour) seeded and diced into ½ inches (1.5 cm)
- 2 onions finely chopped
- 4 large tomatoes diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 bay leaves
- 3 sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme or a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary or a sprig of fresh rosemary
- salt and pepper to taste
- fresh basil leaves roughly chopped
- fresh parsley roughly chopped
- To prepare the vegetables, dice the eggplant and the zucchini in half inch (or 1.5 cm) cubes then finely chop the onions and mince the garlic. Now remove the hard core of the tomato and cut in half inch (or 1.5 cm) cubes.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium to high heat. Add the cubed eggplant and sauté for 5 minutes until each side is golden and slightly softened. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Sauté the onions for 4 minutes until translucent. Add the bell pepper and garlic and continue to sauté for another 4 minutes. Add the zucchini to the pan and fry for a further 5 minutes until all the vegetables start to soften.
- Spoon the eggplant in to the pot with the vegetables and add the tomatoes, thyme, sage, rosemary, bay leaves, salt, pepper and mix well.
- Cover with a lid and leave to cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and tender. Make sure not to overcook them. Taste test and season with more salt and pepper if required.
- Serve with fresh parsley or basil.
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