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Originating in Nice, France, ratatouille is a humble dish composed of various vegetables stirred and stewed together until they begin to melt into each other. While you may have seen a meticulously assembled variation of this dish made famous in the 2007 animated film Ratatouille known as confit bayaldi, our version here is less fussy and much more forgiving in terms of presentation.
The core vegetables you will need are tomato, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper, onions, garlic, and green herbs. There are two types of tomatoes in our version: canned crush tomatoes for a smooth, saucy texture, as well as fresh tomatoes for a bright sweetness not found in cans. However, if you can’t find good fresh tomatoes at this time of year, a 14-ounce can of diced will do just fine.
Once known as a “peasant dish,” ratatouille is a low-maintenance meal: The end goal is to have an almost creamy consistency as the vegetables break down gradually during the cooking process. Still though, the best way to ensure all of them are cooked to highlight each vegetable’s distinct textures and flavors is to cook them all separately at first, then bring them together at the very end for a final simmer.
It’s important to begin with the eggplant selection and preparation. Choose smaller eggplants because they tend to be more tender and less astringent; Chinese eggplants will yield the creamiest, silkiest texture once cooked. Avoid large Italian eggplants because they tend to be more bitter and tough. To help break down the eggplant, it’s crucial to toss the diced pieces with salt and let it sit for half an hour before patting them dry; this will extract some astringency, and season and soften the eggplant before they ever touch heat.
Once you’ve cooked a batch of ratatouille, you can serve with crusty bread like sourdough, serve alongside pasta, or spoon it over cooked rice. Let us know how you liked it by dropping a comment down below!
Editor's note: This recipe was redeveloped and updated on August 24, 2022 due to reader feedback. A video was also added.
medium eggplants (about 1 lb. total), cut into 1/2" cubes
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
large yellow onion, chopped
cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, chopped
small zucchinis (about 11 oz. total), cut into 1/2" cubes
chopped fresh rosemary
fresh thyme leaves
beefsteak tomato, diced
canned crushed tomatoes
fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
Crusty sourdough bread, for serving
- In a colander fitted over a large bowl, toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt. Let sit at least 30 minutes, then squeeze off excess moisture and pat dry with paper towels.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion and 2 chopped garlic cloves; season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions turn translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Transfer onion mixture to a large bowl.
- In same pot over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add zucchini, rosemary, and 2 chopped garlic cloves; season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until zucchini softens and turns golden, about 8 minutes. Transfer zucchini mixture to bowl with onion mixture.
- In same pot over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add eggplant, thyme, and 2 chopped garlic cloves. Cook, stirring often, until eggplant turns golden and translucent, about 8 minutes. Transfer eggplant mixture to bowl with onion mixture.
- In same pot over medium heat, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add diced tomatoes, granulated sugar, all remaining garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes begin to break down and caramelize, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, sliced basil, and all reserved cooked vegetables to pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetable textures begin to melt together, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Top with more basil. Serve with bread alongside.