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What Is Ratatouille?
Ratatouille is a summer vegetable dish that uses silky tomato sauce as a foundation for onions, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, bell peppers, garlic, and a handful of aromatic herbs like marjoram, fresh basil, bay leaf, and fresh thyme. It’s a collision of all the best savory flavors of summertime, stewed down at the height of their season.
Tips for Making Ratatouille
There are two schools of thought when it comes time to making ratatouille: one that believes each ingredient should be cooked separately to maintain its identity within the finished dish, and the other that believes the spirit of ratatouille needn’t be so fussy.
- You can slice your vegetables thin with a mandolin, then layer them in alternating slices in a baking dish filled with tomato sauce (as seen, of course, in the Pixar movie of the same name)
- You can rough-chop the vegetables and cook and season each ingredient separately before sauteing them together at the end
- Or, cook all the vegetables in one pot, seasoning in stages.
Ratatouille is meant to be approachable and utilitarian, but in French cuisine, there’s always room for finesse.
An Easy Ratatouille Recipe
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium-sized yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 lb tomatoes, chopped (or one 12 oz. can of diced tomatoes)
- 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and set aside
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- Salt and black pepper
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan on medium-high. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook until translucent, with edges just beginning to turn golden brown. Add garlic, and cook a minute more until soft.
- Add eggplant, bell pepper, tomatoes, and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.
- Add thyme sprigs and bay leaf, turn heat to medium-low, and let simmer until vegetables have begun to soften, about 10 minutes. When vegetables have reached desired consistency, remove from heat and remove thyme sprigs.
- Garnish with chopped basil, and season once more to taste.
How to Make Ratatouille in a Crock Pot
If using a crock pot, sauté just the onions first until golden to ensure a deep flavor running through the stew.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed, until completely softened and light golden-brown, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the vegetables.
- Place prepped vegetables in the insert of a 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Finely chop the garlic and add.
- When the onions are ready, add ½ tbsp tomato paste to the pan and stir to coat. Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker, then add 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir to coat all the vegetables.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook until the vegetables are extremely soft and tender, 4 hours on high or 5 to 6 hours on low.
- Stir in the basil, and season to taste.
Can You Make Ratatouille in Advance?
Ratatouille only gets better the next day, when all of its flavors have mingled completely. It can be made in advance, and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container then brought to room temperature for creative meals throughout the week: take breakfast to the next level with a dollop of soft goat cheese, or toss with pasta for an easy sauce.