This easy ratatouille recipe allows even the most time-strapped cooks to enjoy this healthy and delicious summer dish!
What is Ratatouille?
The name sounds fancy, but ratatouille is actually a simple French peasant stew. It’s hands-down my favorite summer dish, celebrating all the gorgeous and tasty veggies coming in from the farm and garden. I wait eagerly for the eggplants to start appearing at our CSA so I can start restocking the freezer with piles of delicious ratatouille to see us through the winter.
The critical components of ratatouille are eggplant, zucchini or summer squash, and tomatoes. You can add peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, or whatever other veggies suit your fancy. I sometimes just call this farmers’ market pasta, since I’m happy to throw whatever’s in season to the mix.
I love to enjoy this dish fresh in summer, either on its own with melted mozzarella or parmesan, or over pasta or spaghetti squash from the garden. I also carefully ration the servings I’ve stocked our freezer with and dig in to a little taste of summer on the coldest winter evenings. Makes me feel so much better when it’s -30 out!
You can eat ratatouille by itself or serve it with pasta, couscous, or your favorite grain. Ratatouille on its own is low-calorie and full of fiber, but it’s still super-satisfying. You can flavor it with your home-grown herbs for a lighter meal, or add cheese and pasta for something more filling.
Easy Ratatouille Recipe
This easy ratatouille recipe is for the humbler, chopped version meant to be served as a main course. And since I am — and write for readers who are — chronically short on time, this easy ratatouille recipe is pared down to reduce fuss and prep time.
In fact, if you’re really short on time but still want the ratatouille experience, you can just simmer some chopped veggies in your favorite jarred pasta sauce and it’s still quite tasty. (Check out Mamavation’s helpful post on choosing a healthy pasta sauce — a lot of common brands have added sugar and ingredients you’re better off without.)
If you have time to take the extra trouble, fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic and herbs make ratatouille sparkle with summer flavor. I tend to stick with zucchini, peppers, and eggplant, but you could also add mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, yellow squash, or whatever you have on hand, though you may want to call it something else to avoid offending ratatouille purists. 🙂
If you want to take the extra steps, this recipe from The Elliot Homestead looks like some extra effort could make an even tastier ratatouille. Someday perhaps I’ll have time to try it!
Some people salt their eggplant before cooking to drain off water and reduce bitterness, but I don’t find it necessary for this dish. If you’re using freshly-picked eggplant, you shouldn’t have any problem with flavor, and I like the saucier ratatouille that results from a little extra moisture.
If you’re concerned about bitterness, choose long Asian eggplants rather than the dark purple globe variety. They come in all sorts of beautiful colors. I’m partial to the white-and-purple speckled kinds, but they all taste pretty much the same when cooked.
Some cooks prefer to make an artfully arranged baked version as a vegetable side. Thanks to Early Morning Farm for this picture — be sure to check out the recipe!
Ratatouille freezes well, so make big batches and put some up to enjoy on cold nights in January. It’s a hearty and comforting dish I like to eat often through the frigid Minnesota winter, long after zucchini plants have succumbed to frost.
Be prepared for a lot of water to come out of your frozen ratatouille as it defrosts if you use plastic freezer bags. I cleaned up several leaky messes before I decided to stop trusting the bags and learned to put them on a plate to catch drainage. If you have the freezer space, you could use containers. Check out Whole Natural Life’s tips for freezing food in glass jars without breaking them.
Easy Ratatouille Recipe
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed (do this 10 minutes ahead to maximize the health benefits of garlic)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large paste tomatoes, like roma or Amish paste (you can also squeeze the seeds out of slicers if that’s what you’ve got or use a large can of diced tomatoes or jarred sauce)
2 medium zucchini, quartered and chopped into cubes
1 large eggplant or 3 medium Asian eggplants chopped into cubes
2 red, yellow, or green peppers, de-seeded and cut into cubes
1 cup fresh spinach or chard, roughly chopped (optional)
small handful fresh oregano, chopped fine (or ½ tsp dried)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 bay leaf (optional)
Salt to taste (you won’t need salt if you’re using canned tomatoes or sauce with salt added)
- Saute onion in olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes.
- Add garlic and saute one more minute.
- Add tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf if using, and basil if using dried. (Wait to add basil till very end if using fresh.) Cook another 3-5 minutes if using fresh tomatoes. You’re trying to cook down some of the liquid. No need for additional cooking if using canned.
- Add remaining vegetables and simmer till just tender, 5-10 minutes. If using greens, add in the last 2 minutes of cooking.
- Add basil in last minute or so of cooking or simply use as a garnish when serving.
Shortcut version: just dump the cubed zucchini and eggplant (or whatever veggies you’re using) into your sauce and cook till tender. Here’s a slow cooker version from The Kitchn as well.
Serve as a side dish or over pasta or your favorite grain and top with shredded parmesan or vegan cheese if preferred. I like to place some cubed fresh mozzarella on the pasta before topping with hot ratatouille, which melts it into gooey deliciousness.
Flavors will meld, so the ratatouille will taste better if you don’t serve it immediately. And it will be better still the following day and the day after that.
Ratatouille tastes like summer! Enjoy!
–> If you need an even easier go-to recipe for an easy and delicious seasonal supper, be sure to check out my nearly no-cook recipe for pasta with tomatoes, feta, and basil.
Pin this easy ratatouille recipe to save for later!
Photo credits: Bitten Word, Naotake Murayama, Nicki Dugan Pogue, and alpha via Flickr