Confession: I never even knew what ratatouille was before I saw the Disney Pixar animated movie of the same name. I mean, I knew it was a dish, but I really didn’t know what exactly it WAS. Even after seeing the movie, I had to consult Uncle Google to find out that ratatouille is basically a dish comprised of eggplant, tomato, zucchini, and onion- that’s the easy explanation. I found recipes for ratatouille as a casserole, as a soup or a stew, served hot or cold, alone or with a side dish such as rice or bread. This was back in the day when I was the mom of several very small people, though, and taking the time to learn to cook what seemed to be a very complex and nuanced vegetable dish was NOT high on my list of priorities.
My four boys are much older now and open to trying dishes with actual recognizable veggies in them, as opposed to the toddler days when stealth-health (hiding vegetable purees in food they would actually eat) was the name of the game, and my take on this classic savory dish gets gobbled every time.
In cobbling together my own version of ratatouille, I found that I liked the stew versions over the layered-casserole versions for one major reason: it drove me CRAZY when I was not able to get an equal amount of equally-sized slices of the zucchini, eggplant, onion, and tomato. Yeah, I’m weird like that. My family probably wouldn’t have cared less if the eggplant slices were far bigger in circumference than the zucchini slices, but I cared. Deeply. So I gravitated more toward a cubed-veggie approach with this recipe. The veggies are baked in a savory, herbed tomato sauce, then are stirred into pasta. I prefer small pasta shells, but any shape pasta will work just fine. When I want to stretch the amount (no small feat when feeding four hungry boys and a husband), I might add a package of Beyond Meat Beefy Crumble that I’ve cooked in a skillet, and a great finisher for this dish is vegan mozzarella and fresh sliced basil.
I hope you enjoy this hearty, comforting Ratatouille Stew, or as my boys like to call it, Ratatouille-Stewie! I put my foot down at calling it Rat-Patooty.
- 1 large or 2 medium zucchini
- 1 large eggplant
- 4 large tomatoes
- 1 medium Vidalia onion (or any variety that you may have on hand)
- 2 cups of canned fire-roasted, crushed tomatoes, un-drained.
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- ¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil, sliced, plus extra for garnish (or about 2 tablespoons dried)
- ½ tsp each of dried thyme, oregano, and rosemary
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp flaked red chiles
- ½ tsp lemon juice OR apple cider vinegar
- 1 16 to 20 ounce package of pasta of your choice, prepared according to package instructions.
- 1) Preheat the oven to 350F, and lightly grease an 8x8-ish baking dish (or oval, round, whatever!)
- 2) Cut the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and onion into roughly 1-inch pieces and combine in a large bowl. I leave the skin on the eggplant because it gives the dish more color and contains nutrients, but you can certainly peel it if you wish.
- 3) In another bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes in their juices, lemon juice, and all herbs and seasonings. If you’re using fresh basil, be sure to set aside some for garnish.
- 4) Spread the tomato mixture evenly in the bottom of your prepared pan and top with the veggies. If desired, brush lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle on more herbs.
- 5) Bake at 350F for 1 hour, or until both the eggplant and zucchini are fork-tender. No stirring necessary!
- 6) Once you’ve cooked and drained your pasta, stir in the baked veggies and combine. Add meatless crumbles or vegan sausage, and vegan mozzarella if desired. Garnish with fresh basil.