Hey, Key Lime Coconutters! Allison here, stopping in to add another recipe which we used in our Lucky Pantry grocery delivery boxes this month. September is a perfect time for this ratatouille, while all of the vegetables are in season and being harvested. Tomato, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onion – that’s almost the whole garden!
Traditional ratatouille is super easy. The only change I have made is making the entire dish on the stove top, in one pan. To make the strictly traditional ratatouille, place all of the diced and sauteed vegetables into a casserole dish and bake. Cooking it either way, this is a wonderful recipe that you’ll want to make many times. I include instructions for both methods in the recipe below.
Ratatouille is so traditional and such an old (1870s) classic recipe in France that it’s been called “the Frenchest of all French recipes.” That’s pretty French! Like galettes, which I love, this recipe feels rustic, provincial, artisan – just good and old fashioned – you know, traditional!
For a few years, I puzzled over people slicing the vegetables and lining them up in a casserole like tian to make ratatouille (you know, like in the movie). While I was researching ratatouille recipes, I came across an article with a title that made me laugh. It perfectly explains where that movie version of ratatouille was created. The title of the Mediocre Chef blog post is “Ratatouille Two Ways: Traditional & Pixar-Style.” In the post, the authors explain that “up until the 1970s everyone made ratatouille the simple way. Then chef Michel Guérard showed everyone up and made Confit Byaldi,” also now known (at least in my house) as Pixar style ratatouille. Their article also includes the two versions of ratatouille.
The key to making ratatouille is sautéing the vegetables separately. The first time I made it, I added each vegetable into the sauté pan, on top of the previous vegetables. I could tell while I was cooking that it was harder to sauté each vegetable as the pan became more and more full (trying to keep those uncooked veggies on the bottom of the pan). Leaving the already sautéed veggies in the pan while the new ones saute makes for a longer cooking time for each vegetable, making them softer and sometimes too mushy. The flavor will be good, but the texture will be less desirable.
Once each vegetable is sautéed separately, you simply put all the vegetables together in the stove top pot to simmer, or put them into a casserole dish to bake. This will yield the very best, and most traditional, ratatouille.
In addition to sautéing each vegetable separately, my best ratatouille advice is: dice all of the vegetables before you begin cooking. This isn’t one of those recipes where you can prepare the next step while the rest is cooking. This is more like assembly line sautéing, so have those veggies ready!
Some people like to serve ratatouille the day after it’s cooked, to let the flavors blend fully. I think it tastes great the second day, but maybe the vegetables are slightly softer than the first day. If you want to save yours for the next day, remove the bay leaves, let the cooked ratatouille cool completely, then place, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.
To reheat on the stove top, place the ratatouille into a large soup pan or dutch oven and reheat on low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until heated through. To reheat the casserole in the oven, preheat your oven to 400° F (preheating reduces the time the food is baked – which is a good thing!). Cover the casserole dish and bake for 10 to 20 minutes, checking the center of the casserole half way through to see if it’s heated. We like to add noodles to our leftover ratatouille or serve it over rice.
We eat my mom’s Skillet Tomato Cornbread with our ratatouille and it’s a perfect pairing!
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