Worknight Dinner Recipe: Ratatouille with Basil & Parmesan Cheese

by Maris Callahan on September 12, 2010

When I first learned to cook there were about three recipes that I would make with fairly consistent regularity: whole-wheat beer bread, turkey chili and spinach artichoke dip. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when your skills are limited.

But what if I told you that there are so many things you can make if you have even the most basic kitchen skills? If you can make chili, which basically includes browning meat, chopping vegetables and simmering tomatoes with beans, you can also make trickier-sounding Italian Beef Stew or Eggplant Caponata.

Or, Ratatouille.

If you think that Ratatouille is a meal named after the Disney character then I’m going to take a wild guess that you have at least three pizza delivery numbers programmed into your cell phone. No judgment.

Ratatouille is actually a stewed vegetable dish with French Provencal origins. Key ingredients are tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini along with herbs and spices. Marjoram, Herbs de Provence are traditional but this version, which I adapted from the now defunct Gourmet, uses basil to add fresh flavor.

So, to recap: you chop, you saute and then you simmer. Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano and voila. Dinner. Doesn’t that sound easy?


Serves 8 to 10

What you need

2 1/2 lb tomatoes (4 large)
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large onions (1 1/2 lb total), quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
3 assorted bell peppers (green, red, and/or yellow; 1 1/2 lb total), cut into
1-inch pieces
4 medium zucchini (2 lb), quartered lengthwise and cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Garnish: Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings and fresh basil

What you do:

1. Cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch together in a 4-quart pot of boiling water 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.

2. Coarsely chop tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot with garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup oil. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

3. While sauce is simmering, toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes. This draws the liquid from the eggplant and helps it retain its texture and shape during cooking.

4. Meanwhile, cook onions in 3 tablespoons oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl, then add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook bell peppers with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer peppers with slotted spoon to bowl with onions. Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet and cook zucchini with 1/4 teaspoon salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer zucchini with slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.

5. While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Add remaining oil (about 1/4 cup) to skillet and cook eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes.

6. Add vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Camille September 12, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Healthy, delicious and simple. You got my attention with this one!


Daryl September 12, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Looks so good and very nutritious and being that I am starving right now, I am craving this after seeing the picture!


Joanne September 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I’ve been loving just throwing random summer veggies in a pot lately and letting them stew away. This looks like a perfect one to add to my list! Good for both the cooking inept and the more experienced cooks among us!


marla {family fresh cooking} September 15, 2010 at 10:50 pm

I love ratatouille and thank goodness I have no fast food pizza joints programmed into my speed dial. I would much rather this any day :)


Joie de vivre September 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Brava Maris! It’s been so long since I’ve visited. It’s wonderful to be back in the blogging world. :)


Carissa September 19, 2010 at 3:23 am

sounds amazing! lots of chopping and sauteing to be sure, but I bet it is sooo worth it! :)


Jackie September 20, 2010 at 11:20 pm

Funny – two or your three go-to dishes back in the day were the same as mine! The ratatouille looks delicious though, a great use of all those end of summer vegetables.


Carrie September 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm

How funny, but I just made this dish for the first time on Friday. I loved it. I decided to grill all my veggies, rather than saute, and the results were delish. I will most def make this again.


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