What better way to celebrate the birth of a new year than by baking layers of veggies and watching Pixar? For us, the first day of the new year was spent relaxing in jammies, and Ratatouille – the dish and the movie!
This is the first of my New Year’s resolutions to be completed.
I had never made or had “real” Ratatouille before, and assumed by the look of the dish in the Pixar movie that it was fancy schmancy. Little did I realize that it’s meant to be a simple peasant food, showing off not culinary skills but the quality of the fresh ingredients. It’s essentially a casserole – some recipes make it more like a stew, but the primary ingredients get pre-cooked individually before being arranged in a dish for baking.
I thought it was silly that I had never tried to make it before, so I added it to my list of things to make this Winter. With some time off for the holidays, I decided it would be the first dinner I made in the new year.
One of the recipes I took inspiration from added Gruyere cheese in layers. No other recipes or descriptions of the dish make any mention of cheese, so I’m guessing this was creative license. I opted to not layer it within the dish, only adding it on top with breadcrumbs as a finishing touch. I really enjoyed this addition, as it added a light and crispy cheesiness that doesn’t take away from the fresh veggies in the dish.
Speaking of fresh veggies… I can’t wait to try making this dish when tomatoes are in season. I know that this will make a huge difference in the results.
We really enjoyed this, but found that a LOT of liquid pooled in the casserole dish. Since most of the veggies were sautéed before baking, I thought that there wouldn’t be quite so much liquid. The culprit must have been the tomatoes. Some recipes instructed to lightly sauté the tomatoes first, and others transformed them into a sauce. I think I will try the sauce option next time, to see how it turns out. I would also like to try roasting the eggplant and zucchini in the oven, instead of cooking them on the stove.
Either way, this is a fun dish that I would love to perfect!
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 cups thinly sliced red onion
- 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 pound thickly sliced zucchini
- 2 large red bell peppers, sliced
- 1 pound eggplant, thickly sliced
- 1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- salt, to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- 1 cup grated gruyere cheese
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Place the rack in the middle of the oven.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a deep sauté pan, over medium heat. Cook onions until softened, then add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Layer in the bottom of a deep baking dish.
- For each of the vegetables (zucchini, eggplant and bell pepper), sauté in olive oil until softened. Layer in the baking dish and season with 1/3 of the thyme, salt, black pepper and cayenne.
- In between each vegetable layer, add a layer with 1/3 of the tomato, seasoned with 1/3 of the basil.
- Cover and bake for 45 minutes.
- Uncover, top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs, and bake for 10-20 minutes until a little bit crispy on top.