If your only experience with ratatouille is an animated feature about a rodent with culinary ambition trying to ‘make it’ in this workaday world, then I suppose all that money we’re paying Netflix to funnel traffic here is working. Your movie will play after this short recipe.
Ratatouille represents the confluence of late-harvest bounty (picture a beatific Oprah posing with a giant basket of eggplant and zucchini) and hearty, fall flavors. A provincial stew originating in Provence, France (where, let’s face it, all the best things and/or rosé wines originate), ratatouille has seen its status elevated from peasant food to more gourmet fare in recent memory. We love it as catch-all for those beautiful farmer’s market finds, but also because it’s one of thew few meatless dishes in our repertoire that can satisfy even our most carnivorous critic (namely Kyle, who at this very moment is acting out the “What do you mean he don’t eat no meat?” scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding to the general delight of his brood of poodles).
Buttertooth’s spin on this veggie staple involves hauling out your mandolin for perfectly-sized circles to layer in your casserole dish, but a chunkier, more rustic presentation would surely bear out the same delicious flavors. We also prepare a béchamel sauce for the ratatouille’s bottom layer because we think it elevates the dish to something more substantial. Oh, and the potatoes—you mustn’t forget the potatoes, though many recipes do. We want to serve you a hearty, autumnal ode to seasonal vegetables (emphasis on hearty), and the tubers keep that tummy full.
Cover your dish with parchment once the veggies begin to brown as this recipe will not be rushed, and you want to achieve proper caramelization without burning your lid. I’m certain there’s a life lesson about patience tucked neatly into this caveat, but by the time anything’s been baking in my oven for over an hour, I’m too hungry to heed life lessons or warnings that the ratatouille is still hot and would you please put that spoon down before I thwop you?
If I were a rat in a chef’s hat, I would definitely serve this at my restaurant. I would also probably eat it off the counter when you’re not looking as a rodent’s palate is not nearly as sophisticated as Pixar would have you believe.
Or is it??
- 4 Roma tomatoes, or equivalent ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon dried herbs de provence
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup of whole milk, warmed
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- pinch of nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- 1 zucchini
- 1 yellow squash
- 1 eggplant
- 2 red bell peppers
- ½ small red onion
- 2-3 small red potatoes
- 1 tablespoon herbs de provence
- salt and pepper
- ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until they start to soften.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook for another minute, stirring frequently. Add the balsamic vinegar, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Let it simmer in the background while you prepare the vegetables.
- Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste a few minutes into this simmer. Leave the heat on low. You are looking for a chunky flavorful tomato sauce for your base. If most the liquid has evaporated, remove from heat and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, whisk the flour into the butter, cooking for one minute to create a roux. Slowly whisk in the warm milk, and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. It should coat the back of a spoon.
- Remove from heat, add the pinch of nutmeg and the salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Using a mandolin, slice the eggplant first on the ⅛th inch setting. Once sliced, lay on a paper-towel lined baking sheet individually, and sprinkle with salt to sweat out some of the liquid. While the eggplant sits, slice the zucchini, squash, and potatoes on the mandolin, leaving them in stacks. Slice the red onion and red bell peppers with a kitchen knife in the same width. Once ready to arrange, wipe some of the salt off of the eggplant.
- Spread the tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Then take the béchamel and drizzle it liberally over the top of the tomato sauce. Using one each of the vegetables, arrange the slices in stacks from the outside to the inside in a circular pattern. I recommend creating stacks of them in your hands instead of placing them individually one by one in the pan. Keep placing the stacks in the baking dish until full, making sure they are tightly arranged. Sprinkle the tops of the vegetables liberally with salt and pepper and about 1 tablespoon of herbs de provence.
- Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 375F. Check the dish periodically to make sure it isn’t browning too quickly. At the 30-minute mark, cover with parchment, foil, or the casserole dish cover, and continue to bake for 30-45 additional minutes, or until you can pull a potato out and it is soft.
- Uncover the casserole and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Broil for one minute or until bubbly. Let it sit out of the oven for 10 minutes before serving.