Ratatouille (pronounced rat-a-TOO-ee) is a French vegetable stew, made of late summer’s bounty of tomatoes, zucchini, garlic, peppers and eggplant. It’s simple and healthy – a great use of vegetables – and once made, there’s a ton you can do with it.
Leftover ratatouille is pizza topping and sauce in one – use fresh dough, pitas or a prebaked crust – whatever you like to base your pizza on works. Spread the ratatouille (straight from the fridge, even) over the crust and top with cheese – crumbled goat cheese or feta makes a tasty addition to grated mozzarella – and bake until golden and bubbly.
Ratatouille works on pasta, too – if it’s too thick or chunky, whiz it into jarred tomato sauce to incorporate the flavorful cooked-down veggies to top spaghetti, or leave it chunky and spread a layer or two into your lasagna. It also makes great filling for homemade ravioli – use wonton wrappers; dip your finger into water and run it along two adjacent sides, fill with ratatouille and a dab of goat cheese, seal and freeze or boil in plenty of water.
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 large onion, halved and sliced
4-5 big garlic cloves, crushed
1 small eggplant, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 red, yellow or orange pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped into bite-sized pieces
3 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
a couple tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
a few sprigs of fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried (or Italian seasoning)
a handful of fresh spinach or basil, chopped (optional)
In a large skillet, heat a generous glug of oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to turn golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add the eggplant and cook for another 5 minutes, adding more oil if needed, until the eggplant is soft. Add the pepper and zucchini, season with salt and pepper and cook for about 10 minutes, until everything is nice and soft and you’re starting to get some golden edges. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and oregano and cook until everything is soft and the mixture is thick, with any excess moisture cooked off.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if you need to. If you’re adding fresh spinach or basil, stir it in and let it wilt. Serve immediately or refrigerate overnight and reheat as you need it, or use to top pizza. Serves 8 (or so).