August 2023 View more

By Kelli Ra Anderson

Ingredients for ratatouille

We owe the frugal French a debt of gratitude. This time of year, as bumper crops of zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplant spill out of our gardens and flood farmers’ markets, one simple French dish makes delicious use of them all: ratatouille.

For many, ratatouille may conjure an image of the colorful presentation featured in Pixar’s 2007 Ratatouille (which, it turns out, is actually a confit byaldi). Or, conversely, we may think of watery vegetables boiled to an indiscernible mush. But when prepared well, this richly caramelized dish can easily be the star of any dinner, picnic, or even breakfast (think shakshuka). Regardless of the meal, the secret to ratatouille’s success remains the same: uniform cubes or slices and roasting or grilling each vegetable separately according to their unique cooking times. While this is admittedly time consuming, the intensely umami flavors that result happen to be even better eaten the next day, which makes the actual day it is served a more relaxed, unhurried experience.

Originating from countryside villages of Provence, this classic is often served hot but is also enjoyed at room temperature (perfect for a picnic). When prepared for dinner or lunch, it’s often accompanied by a dry, light, fruity wine and a rustic bread with a little textural crunch and paired with a simple side like garlic-roasted new potatoes. A traditional finale, such as a creamy goat cheese with fig preserves, often follows. It also makes a hearty breakfast, served on toast and topped with a fried or poached egg and basil. But no matter the meal, ratatouille celebrates the quintessential flavors of summertime.

Some ratatouille ingredients and measuring spoons

MAKES 4 servings


2 zucchini squash
2 yellow summer squash
4 small or 3 medium eggplants, peeled
3 medium onions
6 plum or Roma tomatoes
3 mixed sweet peppers (yellow, red, or green)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
2 bay leaves
1 lemon (optional)


Chopped ingredients for ratatouille


1. Preheat the oven to 400 and bring a medium pot of water to boil.

2. Cut a shallow X into the bottom of each tomato. Submerge them in boiling water for 60 seconds. Remove. Plunge into an ice water bath to cool and then drain. Peel the tomato skins. Cut the tomatoes in half and gently remove the gel and seeds. Cut into 1-inch pieces and place in a bowl with bay leaves, a clove of crushed garlic, and sugar.

3. Cut squash into ½-inch rounds.

4. Cut the peeled eggplant into 1-inch cubes.

5. Dice the onion into ½-inch segments.

6. Seed the peppers; cut into 1- or ½-inch strips.

Chopped vegetables on a baking sheet

7. Toss the onion with a tablespoon of olive oil and 3 crushed cloves of garlic in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper before spreading out on a roasting pan. Set aside.

8. In separate bowls, toss the peppers, squash, and eggplant, each with a tablespoon of olive oil, and 2 springs of rosemary. Place each on a separate sheet pan. Season.

9. Separately, roast the eggplant for 15 to 20 minutes, squash for 10 to 15 minutes, peppers for 20 to 30 minutes, and the onion for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn each vegetable halfway through the roasting process (goal: caramelization, not burning).

10. Combine vegetables in a large shallow baking dish (9 by 13 inches or bigger), adding tomatoes. Drizzle generously with about ¼ cup olive oil, ensuring that everything is coated, but not drowning. Season to taste.

11. Bake for at least 1 hour, gently stirring every 15 to 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender and the top is golden brown.


12. Gently tilt the pan to pour off juices. If totaling more than 1 cup, pour juice into a heated pan and reduce it to 1 cup.

13. Drizzle the jus reduction and a little more olive oil over the top. Enjoy immediately or store in the refrigerator for the next day’s use, served either warm or at room temperature.

PRO TIP: Use a meaty, firm tomato like a plum or Roma, which holds its shape and has fewer seeds and less water and more flavor than its slicing counterparts.


Grilling ingredients for ratatouille


When summer heat means avoiding a hot kitchen, roasting these vegetables on an outdoor grill is a smart alternative. On a well-oiled grate, roast each vegetable (seasoned) and a halved lemon to the desired doneness. Once each is caramelized, remove and toss together in a bowl. Squeeze the roasted lemon’s juice over the mix, add in a teaspoon (or to taste) of minced thyme and enough olive oil until the whole mixture glistens. Sprinkle with goat cheese and serve with slices of toasted rustic or French bread rubbed with garlic.

A glass of wine

Pour the Vin

Don’t forget a perfectly paired libation for this French feast. Ratatouille would hardly be complete without a good wine. “Ratatouille is a dish from the South of France so I recommend going with local wines–a dry rosé from Provence like Esprit Gassier,” says Mégane Lopes, wine manager at SixtyFour Wine Bar and Kitchen in Naperville. “My first pick is a Grenache or rosé from Provence or even a red blend, common to that region.”


Photos: Kellira Media; iStock (wine)