Ratatouille is one of the healthiest vegetable dishes commonly found in French dining rooms. After following several recipes from various sources over the years, I determined I could create my own version. Classic ratatouille involves cooking the vegetables separately in stages. Some recipes call for cooking in a large pot. Others, like this one, roast the vegetables arranged in a casserole. Lodge‘s enamel 2-quart oval casserole works perfectly for this approach to ratatouille (unfortunately, Lodge doesn’t make this model anymore). Any round casserole dish will work here. The end result for this dish takes time but is visually more appealing than typically stewed ratatouille.
For this version of ratatouille, the size of the vegetables matters. The eggplant, zucchini, onion, and peppers require roughly equal circumference. Shopping for the right size and shape vegetables for this dish can be challenging in some grocery stores. The produce section at the Viet Ho Food Market in the Memphis Crosstown neighborhood made shopping much easier. I purchased the slimmer Chinese eggplant, smaller red bell peppers, and large leeks for onions from Viet Ho. I also bought Roma tomatoes to make the sauce for this dish.
It’s not necessary to cut all your vegetables before you start cooking. The very first task is to begin cooking the tomato sauce which will simmer while you prepare the rest of the recipe. I added coriander for the first time to this ratatouille recipe based on a version of this dish recounted by Elizabeth David in French Provincial Cooking. I toasted the seeds in the sauce pot by themselves and then ground the seeds before doing anything else.
You could substitute a 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes for this recipe to save time (whole, diced or crushed – just be sure they are puréed), but Viet Ho didn’t sell canned tomatoes. Gently slice the bottom end of the tomatoes in a crosswise fashion. Place tomatoes into boiling water for about 1 minute until you see the skins begin to peel. Remove tomatoes from water to cool. Remove the skins with you hands when they cool enough to handle. Purée the tomatoes in a blender.
The sauce is very simple: olive oil, garlic, dried basil, a bay leaf, coriander and the tomatoes. The coriander really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes. After bringing the sauce to a boil, it should be left to simmer on the stove, stirring occasionally, until you can assemble the casserole.
After the sauce starts, immediately slice your eggplant and zucchini. Both vegetables contain moisture that will need to be extracted. Place slices on colanders or grease splatter screens and salt both sides. Cover the vegetables with paper towels to absorb moisture and weight them down with heavy plates or baking sheets to physically press the moisture out for at least 1 hour.
While the moistures drains from the eggplant and zucchini, slice your bell peppers and leeks. After slicing the peppers, remove and discard the soft cores and seeds from each slice. Then preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
When the eggplant and zucchini finish draining, pat them dry with paper towels. Pour and distribute the tomato sauce into the casserole dish until it completely covers the bottom surface. Layer the vegetables on their sides in sequence from the outer edge of the casserole dish so that they overlap like cards in a deck: zucchini, leek, eggplant and red pepper, repeat, etc. Work toward the center of the dish until the sauce is completely covered with vegetables. When layering the peppers, you can cut the ring and overlap the ends of the ring to conform to the circumference of the other vegetables if needed.
Keep layering in sequence until the casserole is filled completely. Drizzle the top of the vegetables with a few dashes of basil and the olive oil. Roast on the middle rack for 45 minutes. Let the casserole cool for 5 minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste. Ratatouille makes a satisfying entree or side dish. When serving as an entree, I like to serve ratatouille over polenta. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
- 6 Roma tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pod of whole coriander seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp dry basil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Chinese eggplant, sliced
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- 3 red bell peppers, sliced
- 2 leeks, sliced
- Dashes of dried basil
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Gently slice tomatoes on the bottom end in a crosswise fashion. Place tomatoes into boiling water for about 1 minutes until you see the skins begin to peel. Remove tomatoes from water to cool. Place all tomatoes in a blender and purée.
- Toast whole coriander in medium-sized pot to toast on high heat for about 5 minutes (until seeds begin to turn dark). Remove coriander from pot and allow pot to cool. Grind coriander with a mortar and pestle.
- After pot has cooled, add olive oil to pot and return to medium heat. Add garlic, salt and black pepper. When garlic has begun to soften, add tomatoes, basil, bay leaf and coriander. Stir thoroughly. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. The sauce will simmer on low heat until you are ready to assembly the casserole.
- Thinly slice eggplant and zucchini. Place on colander on pan screens (like those used to prevent grease splatter). Lightly salt on one side. Flip slices. Lightly salt the other sides. Place sheets of paper towels over the eggplant and zucchini and cover with cookie sheets. Weight cookie sheets with something heavy to press moisture out of vegetables for at least 1 hour.
- Slice peppers, then cut out soft cores and seeds. Slice the leeks from the bottom of the stalks to just inside the light green part of the stalk. If you find any dirt between the layers of the leek rings, gently rinse under cold running water until clean. Be careful to retain integrity of the rings so that they do not fall apart.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- When the eggplant and zucchini finish draining, pat them dry with paper towels. Remove tomato sauce from heat. Pour and distribute the tomato sauce in the casserole dish until it completely covers the bottom surface of the casserole.
- Starting at the outer edge of the casserole dish, layer the vegetables on their sides in sequence so that they overlap likes card in a deck: zucchini, leek, eggplant and red pepper, repeat, etc. Work toward the center of the dish until the sauce is completely covered with vegetables. Drizzle the vegetables with a few more dashes of dried basil and the olive oil. Roast on the middle rack of your preheated oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove casserole from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste.