Ratatouille is a classic and gorgeous French dish that traditionally takes several hours to make, but we’ve put our simplified spin on it to save time while still developing rich flavor. It still takes a couple hours, but it can be cooking away in the oven while you go about your day.
We can’t do without the beautifully-layered vegetables that gives it it’s iconic look, but the saucy base leaves some room for creativity. It’s not typically made with meat so feel free to make it as a vegetarian dish, but to ‘beef’ it up some, we’ve added a small amount to our sauce. Finally, we’ve substituted the process of developing a ‘piperade’ (a roasted tomato sauce that requires charring bell peppers, sautéing and blending vegetables and blanching tomatoes) with a jarred marinara that we fancied up a bit. The original is worth a try sometime, but this family-friendly version will be on the dinner table much faster and still earn you two-thumbs up.
1 Eggplant (Japanese or the slimmest you can find)
1 Yellow Squash Zuchinni
4 medium tomatoes
1/2 pound lean ground beef or Italian sausage
24-oz jar of marinara
1 cup of shredded mozzarella, parmesan or an Italian cheese blend
3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried Herbs De Province (or sub Italian Seasoning)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Few turns of olive oil
Cooked spaghetti to serve ratatouille over (optional)
Fresh basil (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat up a large pan that can (preferably) be used on the skillet and then later baked in the oven. Add a few turns of oil if using a very lean ground beef or Italian sausage. Otherwise, you can skip the oil.
Chop up your garlic and set aside. Add the ground beef to the pan and sauté until browned almost all the way through. Add your garlic to cook along with it for the last minute or so.
Add your marinara, followed by the Herbs De Provence, Salt and Pepper and your fresh basil. Reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer on low while you chop your vegetables.
In a perfect French world, all your vegetables would be the same width, but that’s rarely reality. Slice your zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and tomatoes thinly. Make little stacks of 4 (one of each), lining them up together on the top so that the uneven bottom will be the side that’s in the sauce.
Bring your sauce over on the counter with your vegetables (using a towel or potholder under the hot dish). Add your vegetables one after the other in order in a circle until they reach the middle. Brush the top with a little oil, herbs and salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour at 350.
Remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes to further cook the top.
Boil water, add salt and start cooking noodles.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with Italian cheese and bake for an additional 10 minutes to melt/brown the cheese.
Allow to cool and serve over spaghetti. Top with additional cheese and fresh basil if desired.
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