Aromatic herbs & beautiful fresh vegetables come together in this very hearty, super healthy Ratatouille which combines big flavour with simplicity. A perfect, quick & easy week night dinner!
Ratatouille is a traditional French vegetable stew that poor farmers would make to use up their excess vegetables. ‘Touiller’ in French means ‘to toss’ or ‘stir it up’ hence the name. I can assure you though, that when you eat this rich and hearty dish, you will feel anything but poor.
There are many different ways to cook Ratatouille and some of the more traditional ways take a little while to make. One way to do it is to cook every one of the vegetables individually then layer them up and bake in the oven. Whilst I am sure the finished result is delicious, I wanted to bring to you a quick version which would combines the big flavours of aromatic herbs and fresh vegetables with simplicity for an easy and very healthy week night meal.
Sometimes the simplest meals are the best and that is certainly the case with ratatouille. It is great with rice, pasta, quinoa, couscous, as a topping for a baked potato or simply with fresh, crusty bread. It can also be served as a side and keeps really well in the fridge for three to four days where the flavours just keep getting better. We always end up arguing over who gets the leftovers!
I like to keep my vegetables quite chunky but if you prefer them smaller then by all means cut them that way. Just bear in mind that they won’t take quite as long to cook so you will need to adjust the cooking time to suit.
Some people recommend salting and sweating eggplant before cooking. Whether or not this makes any difference at all is a controversial matter. Personally I don’t think that it makes a difference to flavour at all. Years ago eggplant did have a tendency to be bitter but they have evolved over the years and are now much mellower than they were. If you would prefer to sweat yours prior to getting started with this recipe then go for it but personally I think life is too short! (See recipe notes for how to make your eggplant sweat….Note it doesn’t involve putting it somewhere hot!)
My recipe combines the traditional eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, fresh tomatoes, onion and garlic but also has the addition of some rosemary and fennel. The rosemary adds just a very slight undertone but the fennel adds pops of delicious aniseed flavour to every bite. I am somebody who isn’t keen on strong aniseed flavours but trust me here as the fennel isn’t too strong and works extremely well with the other flavours. If you really are a fennel hater and won’t take my word for it, then feel free to omit it.
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Quick & Easy Ratatouille
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (optional, see recipe notes)
- 1 large onion , chopped
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic , chopped finely
- 1 large eggplant / aubergine , chopped into chunks
- 2 large zucchini , chopped into chunks
- 2 large bell peppers , any colour
- 900g | 4.5 cups chopped fresh tomato , you may substitute chopped canned tomatoes but the finished flavour won't be quite as good
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary , or fresh
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 large bay leaf
Make sure that all of the ingredients are chopped and ready to go.
In a large pan saute the onions in olive oil over a medium heat until translucent. If you wish to keep the recipe oil-free use a couple tablespoons of water for sautéing instead.
- Add the garlic and continue cooking until just starting to brown,
- Add all of the other ingredients and leave to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Give it a good gentle stir (you don't want to break the veggies up too much).
- Cook for a further 10 - 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the tomatoes have broken down.
- Serve & enjoy!
The use of olive oil for sautéing is optional. If you would prefer for this dish to be completely fat free then omit it and cook the onions & garlic in a good non stick pan (I love Ozeri's Stone Earth Pans as they are eco friendly & contain no harmful chemicals or toxins), or use a few drops of water if your pan isn't so good.
If you prefer to sweat your eggplant then cut into rounds, place in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave over a bowl or sit in the sink for at least half an hour (longer is fine). After this time blot each piece of aubergine with paper towel. Most of the salt will have run off. Now you can carry on with your recipe. I personally never bother to do this but I know some people like to.
This post has been linked to the Tinned Tomatoes Meat Free Mondays linky party