Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a bowl of summer’s bounty, elevated beyond the sum of its parts, through the magic of heat and time. Sadly, out of season ingredients, and bad preparations have left most people craving the Disney flick over the summer stew from Provence.

If you’ve ever had a good ratatouille though, it’s a memory that’s hard to forget. Large chunks of tender vegetables, impregnated with the ripe flavors of the summer sun. Juicy, but not watery, and with a rich savoriness that tastes more sinful than its virtuous ingredients indicate.

Ratatouille Vegetables

So what’s become of this French classic? Perhaps the biggest culprit is the use of poor quality ingredients. To paraphrase a computer nerd maxim: if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. The tomatoes in particular need to be grown in good quality soil and ripened by the summer sun, not some gas chamber in a distribution warehouse.

The olive oil is also important because in ratatouille, it’s not merely a lubricant to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan, it’s a seasoning. Use a bold cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil that tastes like the olives it comes from, not some cheap hack that misguidedly proclaims its “light taste”.

But most importantly, ratatouille needs time. Time for the garlic, onions and bell peppers to caramelize, making them sweet and developing the lip-smacking umami that seasons the rest of the stew. Time for the thick-cut vegetables to soften, and of course time to coax the essence from each ingredient, allowing them to mingle and reduce before being reabsorbed by the zucchini and eggplant.

Traditional preparations have you cook each vegetable in separate pots, tending to each vegetable’s needs before bringing them together at the end. While I’m sure there are some traditionalists reading this that are going to be shooting death rays from their eyes at the screen, that’s not how I make my ratatouille.

I use one pot to do everything. It’s not just that it’s easier, the results taste better because all the vegetables have plenty of time to get acquainted in the pot. I also don’t peel or seed the tomatoes. If you have time, you’re welcomed to peel them, but don’t remove the seeds. Contrary to traditional wisdom, the mucilaginous membranes around the seeds contain a high concentration of glutamic acids. By tossing the seeds, you’re also losing taste.

For my last bit of culinary blasphemy, I prefer using Asian eggplants such as Japanese or Chinese ones in ratatouille because they have less seeds and tend to be less bitter. They also make nice little rondelles because of their narrow diameter.

If for some odd reason you find yourself with leftovers, try poaching an egg in the ratatouille the next morning for breakfast. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Equipment you'll need:

Ratatouille
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Votes: 73
Rating: 3.37
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Eggplant and zucchini simmered with tomatoes, caramelized onions and garlic until tender and juicy, Ratatouille Niçoise is a classic Provençal stew.
Ratatouille
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Votes: 73
Rating: 3.37
You:
Rate this recipe!
Eggplant and zucchini simmered with tomatoes, caramelized onions and garlic until tender and juicy, Ratatouille Niçoise is a classic Provençal stew.
Prep Time
10minutes
Cook Time
120minutes
Prep Time
10minutes
Cook Time
120minutes
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 large cloves garlic (55 grams), roughly chopped
  • 2 large onions (500 grams), sliced
  • 2 medium bell peppers - red (120 grams), cored, seeded and sliced
  • 6 medium tomatoes (700 grams), cored and cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 medium Japanese eggplants (400 grams), cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 3 medium zucchini (700 grams), cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 1/4 packed cup flat leaf parsley roughly chopped
  • 1/4 packed cup basil roughly chopped
  • 6-8 sprigs thyme - fresh
  • 2 teaspoons salt to taste
Units:
Instructions
  1. Add the olive oil and garlic to a large heavy bottomed pot, like a Le Creuset and sauté over medium heat until the garlic starts to brown and becomes very fragrant. Garlic for RatatouilleTurn down the heat to low and then add the onions and bell peppers. Cover the pot with a lid and let the onions wilt, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove the lid and sauté the vegetables until all the water released has evaporated and the onions start to brown. Onions and Peppers for RatatouilleAdd the tomatoes, cover the pot with the lid, and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and have released a lot of liquid. Ratatouille with ripe tomatoesAdd the eggplants, zucchini, parsley, basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and then cover with a lid and allow the vegetables to cook until tender (30-40 minutes), stirring occasionally. Ratatouille with zucchini and eggplantWhen the vegetables are soft, remove the lid and let the ratatouille continue to simmer until the excess liquid has evaporated and the stew is nice and thick. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread. Ratatouille Niçoise

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  • http://kellysiewcooks.com/ Kelly Siew

    I became obsessed with Ratatouille because of the movie! My steps are identical to yours, and I shall try using the Asian eggplant next time. I actually do have all the ingredients in my fridge right now maybe I will make it tonight!

  • Marysue

    Ok…I’ve never had Ratatouille but have wanted to try it actually because OF the movie. But, I have looked at several recipes (because I didn’t write the ingredients or instructions down while watching it) and they don’t coincide with what I thought I remembered…namely, that the little guy put the ingredients in the pot ONE at a time and in a specific order, because of their individual cooking time. Am I crazy…imagined this, or did the movie actually do it that way but it’s really irrelevant ?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Marysue, in the movie, the dish Remy prepares is a modern take on ratatouille. Chef Thomas Keller from the French Laundry is often credited for creating the dish, but it’s probably been around a little longer. It’s now known as “confit byaldi ” if you’re looking for a recipe for the dish in the movie, I believe it’s in Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook.

  • Kathy

    Mark (Bittman) and Marc (Matsumoto) are my two favorite food writers.. I just made Mark’s ratatouille today which turned out very nicely, so next time I plan to try Marc’s :)

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  • Scott James

    Just to add to this… The kitchen in the movie was designed exactly the way the kitchen is at the real French Laundry is. My friend who was a sou chef at the French Laundry for 2 years
    said it was identical with the movies animation. Without the critters of course. Fun fact no?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Cool bit of trivia Scott, thanks for sharing!

  • sborosak

    I love ratatouille and have tried both cooking methods where you cook each vegetable separately and now I tried Marc’s recipe. It turned out fab and it is easy to make. So good!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  • http://www.eatwithjess.com/ Jessica Jann

    I love a GOOD ratatouille!! Now I know! :) Will try this out this week!

  • Stacey Dales

    I grow a ratatouille garden every year. Ichiban and Ping Tung Eggplants, Green Zebra, Pearson and Black Pineapple Tomatoes. California Wonder peppers. So this weekend is the perfect time. I do this every year so I can put up about 20 quarts of Ratatouille. It keeps me through the winter :)

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Sounds great!

    • Pat

      How do you preserve your 20 quarts, freezer, hot bath canning method or pressure cook canning method? I would
      Love to,do this I have all the ingredients.
      Thanks , pat

  • Teresa King

    Made this yesterday using regular eggplant, summer squash in place of zucchini, orange peppers instead of red, and oregano in place of parsley. Most of the ingredients came straight out of my garden. It was fantastic. My 14 year old son ate two huge bowls and declared it delicious. Thanks for the recipe. I really liked your approach to this classic dish. I’ll have to check out more of your recipes.

  • Cathy

    This is simmering right nw on my stove. Cannot wait til supper.

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  • Nicole Holland

    Made the ratatouille tonight and yummo it came out wonderful! I never follow recipes to a T per say which is why I like your rustic approach its what drew me to your blog! I made a few alterations; extra herbs all fresh prob about a 1/2-3/4 cups more, 1 small can of tomato paste, yellow peppers, regular eggplant, and two small red hot peppers for just the right amount of heat (everything else included) SUPERB!!! Thickened beautifully!

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  • Dominique

    Fairly close to an authentic recipe. But the black olives are missing! Mom grew up in Provence, and her family ALWAYS put in black olives. Give it a try. I usually add them in the last half hour, so that they keep most of their flavor, but still give the broth some too.

  • Jacki Payne

    Just made it w the help of My 6 year old sous chef. Great meal and great fun!

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  • Sia

    Can this ratatouille be frozen successfully?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      It doesn’t include anything that doesn’t freeze well, however you may find that the texture gets a little mushy after freezing and defrosting.

      • Sia

        Good to know. Thanks!

        • Aleksis

          I froze a bunch of portions of this dish and found that it had indeed gone a bit mushy when I defrosted one the other day (otherwise still delicious, though). Taking a cue from the Wikipedia entry on ratatouille, I’ll probably use up the rest as a filling in savoury crepes and omelets over the coming months. This would involve chopping the veg smaller which would probably make the mushy texture less critical. I’ll probably also separate the liquid and reduce it further in a saucepan before reintroducing it to the vegetables.

          I keep wanting to make savoury vegetarian crepes but don’t really know what to use as a filling besides the same old sauteed mushrooms (not bad in themselves, but a bit monotonous). Redefining my leftover frozen ratatouille as a crepe filling kills two birds with one stone.

  • zbver

    didn’t have thyme, but sure smells good and looks great! thanks for this easy ratatouille! and I love to freeze portions of ratatouille for my winter table. great way to use up the garden produce.

  • cupcake6

    Just made this, easy and really delicious !!

  • absolut_traveller

    This is thickening on my stove tight now. Added a little tomato paste too that I had in the fridge. Smells divine and can’t wait to try.

  • Cale T

    Hi marc,
    Do you think it’s possible to cook this with slow cooker?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      You’ll want to brown the onions and garlic in a pan over the stove first as a slow cooker doesn’t get hot enough to make the Maillard reaction happen. You’ll also probably want to reduce the tomatoes a bit over the stove to speed things up, but you can cook everything with the zucchini and eggplant in the slow cooker.

      • Cale T

        Thank you!

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  • laughing wolf

    ok one: the reason why one cooks each veg. ingredient separately is because you sear in the flavors of the veg. just like when you sear a piece of meat. that’s why that is done. two: just so others who can’t find the jap. eggplant if you salt the eggplant before you cook it and let it sit for ten minutes it cuts the bitterness you speak of.

    • armedjester

      Seconded. Both of laughing wolf’s points are absolutely valid. I tried it your way and I’m underwhelmed. I guess, in this I’ll stay with the traditional way

      • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

        Sorry to hear you were underwhelmed, but I disagree with laughing wolf in that “searing in flavors” is a myth ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Searing ). The reason for searing has to do with browning and the Maillard reaction which is achievable with this recipe if you cook it down long enough. Personally I like my ratatouille to be more stew like, but you if you want to go for over-the-top flavor, turn up the heat towards the end and let the liquid evaporate completely. This will allow the veggies to fry in the oil, encouraging browning and caramelization which should give you the oomph I think you’re looking for.

        • armedjester

          Of course, you are correct and science is on your side. The “longer cooking” however is not doing the zucchinis a favour and personally I dislike them “squishy”. I think, where we agree to disagree is the “stew”-bit. I prefer to have a mix of vegetables where you can taste the flavour of each kind of vegetable and they are not blended (this is some awkward phrasing, I’m attempting here, sorry!); so it’s about personal preference, I think. Next thing I’m attempting is your tea smoked lamb rack. I’ll post a comment if my apartment still exists after that one XD

  • Elena Zapassky

    Best Second place!

  • Carole

    Great recipe! We used the left overs to make a healthy spaghetti sauce. Boy did my kids love that!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Carole, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it and love the idea of turning the leftovers into pasta!— Sent from Mailbox for iPhone

  • marie

    I love your recipe for this dish! What would you say to adding a few olives next time I make it?

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks Marie! Olive sound like a great addition, I think Kalamata or Niçoise would work best.

  • marietmsn

    Hi Marc! I have another question. This dish always looks so beautiful to me before the tomato coats everything in red. Even though that tastes so delicious, I have been trying to think of a good way to maybe separate out the tomato stew part from the lovely peppers, zuchini and eggplant, and then to combine them again on the dish with the red sauce underneath the vegetables. Any ideas? Or would that just deprive those vegetables from “getting acquainted” too much? By the way, just read through your whole site and love your recipes and instructions: tonite poached salmon with salsa verde.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Marietmsn, it’s a good question, but unfortunately it just won’t taste the same. The other thing is that the colors look great when they’re raw, but when cooked (even without the tomato), the purples and greens fade. The only way I can think of that you could retain the color and still get everything tender would be deep fry the eggplant and zucchini in olive oil and then make a separate tomato sauce. This should taste pretty good and will look good as well, but you’re still not going to get the nice intermingling of flavors that you get from cooking them together.

      • marietmsn

        Thanks Marc. I decided to go for the great flavor. I made it last night, with olives added, and it was a great hit with everyone.

  • KatR87

    Just made this. I didn’t have eggplant on hand, so instead I added cucumber, carrots, extra yellow and orange bell peppers with some broccoli…. It is absolutely amazing.. Thank you for a delicious base recipe!!

  • Pamela Sistrom

    I have, already, a surplus of greens in my garden. Three kinds of kale, purple mustard greens, red, yellow and green chard. I’ve tried to find a recipe for Ratatouille WITH greens. Can’t find. So, I’m gonna cut the stems out and scissor cut an assortment of greens, sauté them, add a little broth. Then, use them as a bed for the Ratatouille and then, place poached eggs on top! I will get back to you!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Sounds like a great idea Pamela! Maybe brown some garlic before you add the greens?

      • Pamela Sistrom

        Mark,
        Notice Time Magazine, June 23d cover story, “Eat Butter. Scientists labeled fat the enemy. Why they were wrong.”
        Finally!
        Pam in Humboldt County, CA.

  • Pamela Sistrom

    Turned out great. The standard Ratatouille veg mix a little too much the same texture for me, but placing the mix on a bed of less cooked greens really made the experience less like a side dish as did the poached egg on top. I saw other recipes that called for canned tomatoes, but I followed your suggestion and bought some organic Roma tomatoes. They were unfortunately not ripe enough to provide enough liquid, so I added some chicken broth. Next time, both for texture and color, I would try to add the zucchini and summer squash later so they don’t lose shape. Most of the greens were colors of chard, spines removed and scissor cut into ribbons. Cooked in a little chicken broth til just tender. Your pictures and explanations are so helpful and interesting! Inspirational cooking!

  • Jem

    We are trying your recipe today. Your writing is divine. I’m so inspired by the magic of your words.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks! Hope you enjoyed it:-)

      • Jem

        We made it yesterday and it is super. The house smells like a country cottage. Even the children loved the aroma and were shocked vegetables could smell so wonderful.

  • Stu

    I thought heating extra virgin olive oil made it toxic!

  • Guest

    Hello Marc,

    I love your blog and I have some advice for you on this one. I’m from Nice, and my mum and my grand mother have taught me the secret to my ratatouille right: the vegetables need to release their water and to be seared before you cook them together, or they will mash in the pot. And a good ratatouille is not mashed at all. Every piece of vegetable must be perfectly shaped, even though its been cooking for hours. It must not be watery at all. On your picture, there’s a lot of sauce. This is way too watery.

    So the first thing to do is to cook your onions (cut in big pieces, not minced) in peanut oil. I know it’s strange, but we never use olive oil with fire in Nice, it’s only used raw. Plus ratatouille is a recent dish (we started eating tomatoes and bell peppers very recently in France! Ratatouille is only 200 years old), and we had other oil options than olive oil when it was created: peanut oil was used to cook it since the beginning, not olive oil.

    So, back to your onions: they have to cook on medium fire in a Le Creuset type pot, in peanut oil. Sprinkle some salt so they release water and so they don’t turn brown. Stir frequently.

    Then you have to cut the zucchini in thin slices (2-3 mm max) and fry them in a pan in peanut oil while the onions start to get softer. They zucchini slices have to get seared and take a nice colour. Sprinkle some salt to help them release water. After about 5 minutes, they should be nicely seared, without any water in the pan. If there’s water, it just means your zucchini is off-season. They’re always watery in the winter. Add them to the onions and lower the fire under the Le Creuset pot. Stir once, gently, to mix the onions and the zucchini slices.

    Repeat that operation for the bell peppers and for the eggplants cut in cubes, adding a little more oil for the eggplant because it’s a real sponge. When everything is mixed and slowly cooking, add the tomatoes. They should be peeled; you can then cut them in small pieces directly above the pot, so you don’t loose any juice.

    Stir once more, and let it cook uncovered for about 3 hours. When it’s cooked, it should be completely caramelised, but everything must still be in perfect shape, except the tomatoes that should have disappeared. They’re basically just the glossy, tasty coating of the other vegetables. Good ratatouille is never dry, never oily, never saucy or watery.

    In my family, we don’t add garlic, herbs or anything. It’s already saturated in flavours. We don’t eat it hot, but lukewarm. It’s of course better the next day. It’s not worth trying this recipe if you don’t have great vegetables. It’s best if you find small eggplants, trompette zucchini and very ripe tomatoes, the flavours are insane. There’s no need to add anything, except a little bit of back pepper at the end. You have to use the exact same volume of each vegetable (maybe a little less tomato).

    Hope you’ll try the family recipe, I would be honoured!

    And one last thing: Nice is not in Provence, it’s a very sensitive subject here. It’s like saying to a guy from Ukraine that he is Russian, or a Scot that he is English. The Comté de Nice and Provence are two very distinct places. The people of Provence have adopted this dish, but ratatouille was originally from Nice, and before that, it was from Italy. Ratatouille is just the French version of the same dish from Gênes called ratatuia.

  • Cami

    Hello Marc,

    I love your blog and I have some advice for you on this one. I’m from Nice, and my mum and my grand mother have taught me the secret to get my ratatouille right: the vegetables need to release their water and to be seared before you cook them together, or they will mash in the pot. And a good ratatouille is not mashed at all. Every piece of vegetable must be perfectly shaped, even though its been cooking for hours. It must not be watery at all. On your picture, there’s a lot of sauce. This is way too watery.

    So the first thing to do is to cook your onions (cut in big pieces, not minced) in peanut oil. I know it’s strange, but we never use olive oil with fire in Nice, it’s only used raw. Plus ratatouille is a recent dish (we started eating tomatoes and bell peppers very recently in France! Ratatouille is only 200 years old), and we had other oil options than olive oil when it was created: peanut oil was used to cook it since the beginning, not olive oil.

    So, back to your onions: they have to cook on medium fire in a Le Creuset type pot, in peanut oil. Sprinkle some salt so they release water and so they don’t turn brown. Stir frequently.

    Then you have to cut the zucchini in thin slices (2-3 mm max) and fry them in a pan in peanut oil while the onions start to get softer. They zucchini slices have to get seared and take a nice colour. Sprinkle some salt to help them release water. After about 5 minutes, they should be nicely seared, without any water in the pan. If there’s water, it just means your zucchini is off-season. They’re always watery in the winter. Add them to the onions and lower the fire under the Le Creuset pot. Stir once, gently, to mix the onions and the zucchini slices.

    Repeat that operation for the bell peppers and for the eggplants cut in cubes, adding a little more oil for the eggplant because it’s a real sponge. When everything is mixed and slowly cooking, add the tomatoes. They should be peeled; you can then cut them in small pieces directly above the pot, so you don’t loose any juice.

    Stir once more, and let it cook uncovered for about 3 hours. When it’s cooked, it should be completely caramelised, but everything must still be in perfect shape, except the tomatoes that should have disappeared. They’re basically just the glossy, tasty coating of the other vegetables. Good ratatouille is never dry, never oily, never saucy or watery.

    In my family, we don’t add garlic, herbs or anything. It’s already saturated in flavours. We don’t eat it hot, but lukewarm. It’s of course better the next day. It’s not worth trying this recipe if you don’t have great vegetables. It’s best if you find small eggplants, trompette zucchini and very ripe tomatoes, the flavours are insane. There’s no need to add anything, except a little bit of back pepper at the end. You have to use the exact same volume of each vegetable (maybe a little less tomato).

    Hope you’ll try the family recipe, I would be honoured!

    And one last thing: Nice is not in Provence, it’s a very sensitive subject here. It’s like saying to a guy from Ukraine that he is Russian, or a Scot that he is English. The Comté de Nice and Provence are two very distinct places. The people of Provence have adopted this dish, but ratatouille was originally from Nice, and before that, it was from Italy. Ratatouille is just the French version of the same dish from Gênes called ratatuia.

  • Lily

    I’m making ratatouille right now, but I really don’t like parsley that much and I don’t have any, so I’m using cilantro! so is turning into mexican ratatouille and smells good.

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