A long time ago in a land far away, I was born in the month of January…in the year of the pig; just a few days shy of fulfilling my dream of being a rat chef.
Honestly, my idea of dinner is not really just vegetables. The only reason I thought it would be a good idea to make this dish is because my friend had not watched Ratatouille, even though it’s been 15 years since it was released (how time flies). But while I did love the movie and the presentation looked superb, I was not completely sold on the dish. Just like Ego, the critique in the movie and those around him, I truly did not have faith that this dish would be amazing (spoiler, it was). If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the finished product.
Now if you’re going to make Ratatouille from scratch, here’s a few things you should know:
Try to find similar sized vegetables. If you don’t like I didn’t, you may want to double or triple up your slices of the smaller vegetable with the ones with the bigger slices.
If you don’t have a mandolin, don’t sweat it, but… it will take a bit more time to slice all your vegetables thinly. You may not get as thin of a slice either, which is totally fine but something to think about. Get a friend or your sous chef to help you slice these while you prepare the other items.
If you are slicing with a knife and don’t have a handy extra pair of hands to help you out, try slicing ahead of time. You can store the sliced vegetables in the fridge if you’re planning to cook in the next day or so. Luckily I had some extra help.
When baking, place a large tray on a lower shelf to catch any overflow. You’ll thank me later when you don’t have to clean your oven from any spillage.
Mise en place: Get your ingredients together
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion (diced)
4 garlic cloves (minced)
2 bell peppers (diced, choose different colors)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
28oz crushed tomatoes (big can)
2 tbsp chopped basil
Vegetables (may vary depending on size):
3 medium eggplants
2 yellow squashes
2 tbsp chopped basil (or add 1 more tbsp for more basil flavor)
1 tsp chopped garlic (1-2 cloves of garlic)
2 tsp chopped thyme
2 tbsp chopped parsley
4-5 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
If you got a mandolin, get it out and start slicing. If you don’t have one yet, roll up your sleeves and get to work! You’ll be here a while. I’ll wait.
Once you got those vegetables sliced thinly (as thin as possible, the recipe asked for 1mm or 1/16 inch, but mine were closer to .5cm-1cm) set them to the side. Preheat the oven to 375F (190C). Start chopping your sauce ingredients: mince your garlic and chop your onions, bell peppers, and basil. Heat up your pan with the oil, and start cooking the onions, garlic, and bell peppers for about 10 minutes over medium-high heat until golden. They should feel soft as they will be part of your sauce. Add the canned crushed tomatoes and stir until everything is mixed. You can remove it from the heat and add your chopped basil to the mixture and also season with some salt and pepper.
I used a cast iron skillet for my sauce, and ultimately my oven cooking. Use your cast iron skillet (I used a 12 inch) or a baking Pyrex and lay your sauce at the bottom (about 1/2-1 inch depth). Start laying your sliced vegetables in rings. Choose your order, and stick to it. Once you’ve finished with the rings, prepare the herb sauce. Chop more basil, some parsley, thyme and add the minced garlic to a bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Once the herbs have been thoroughly mixed, drizzle onto the sliced vegetables.
Voilà! Your dish is ready to put in the oven. If your oven is heated, cover your pan or skillet with tinfoil and place in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Remove the tinfoil and bake for another 20 minutes. Your vegetables should be nice and soft.
Let cool a little before serving. Let me say this dish was delicious, and I would definitely devour again. It is a lot of work to prep this, but if you have friends who will you help you cook, and most importantly friends who will help you eat, what more could you ask for! Let me know if you decide to attempt this. It was definitely a challenge, but well worth it.
I did my best with the plating, with modicum success. I’d rate this dish 10/10. Just like the restaurant critic Ego in the movie (spoiler), I was blown away by the powerful flavor profile of this dish. The soft velvety vegetables accompanied with the herb and tomato sauces really brought the dish together. My only complaint, which may be a result of the large tomato slices or the fact I served it piping hot, was the tomato sauce was a little wet and runny. Some of the liquid did bubble and drip down the side of my skillet (thankfully the pan caught most of it).
It’s still summer, so head down to your local farmers market and grab some gourds and fresh tomatoes. Although it’s not the easiest dish to put together, it was really fun to “build” this colorful plate. As always, if you try it out, let me know!