When your garden is overflowing and your kitchen is packed with produce, there is ratatouille. This thick and silky French stew of eggplant, zucchini, sweet peppers, and ripe summer tomatoes will use up your extra vegetables in one fell swoop, making enough food to feed a crowd, pack for lunch, and still freeze for later.
One-Pot French Stew: Watch the Video
Making ratatouille is definitely a project for a weekend afternoon; it's easy, but fairly time-consuming. First there's getting all the vegetables washed, chopped, and ready. Then you need to cook them in batches — partly so they can brown instead of steam, and partly because the vegetables tend not to fit in a single pot until they've started breaking down a little.
Once this is all accomplished and the vegetables are simmering away on the back burner, there's the waiting. You can certainly eat your ratatouille as soon as all the vegetables are warmed through — that's a perfectly tasty and fresh meal — but the real magic of ratatouille happens after it's been bubbling away for an hour or more. The vegetables melt into each other, turning silky and completely tender, while the thyme and garlic infuse every corner of the pot. Stirring in the basil at the last minute is the pièce de résistance.
This recipe for ratatouille comes from my dad, a genuine Frenchman who learned to make the dish while growing up. It's filling, full of vegetables, and gets even better on the second and third day. I recommend serving it with plenty of crusty bread close at hand.
This is the quintessential vegetarian summer recipe — what else uses and celebrates so much of the bounty of the summer produce? Ratatouille is a great way to turn that bumper crop of summer squash or tomatoes into a tasty side dish or topping for crusty bread. We've simplified the recipe a bit and clarified the amounts you'll need. If you find yourself with even more produce than planned, you can easily double the recipe and freeze the extras for when you want a taste of summer.
- Christine, April 2018
Easy French Ratatouille
Makes about 2 quarts; serves 8
Prep time: 20 minutes ; cooking time: 1 hour 5 minutes to 2 hours 15 minutes
olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
1 1/2 pounds
eggplant (1 large), large dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds
zucchini or summer squash (3 to 4 medium squash), large dice
medium yellow onion, diced
tomatoes (3 to 4 medium), large dice
large bell pepper, large dice
loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the eggplant, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pot. Add the zucchini, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and bell peppers. Add the reserved eggplant and zucchini and gently stir to combine.
Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 1/2 hours. A shorter cooking time will leave the vegetables in larger, more distinct pieces; longer cooking times will break the vegetables down into a silky stew.
Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Just before serving, stir in the basil. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve, sprinkling each serving with more basil and drizzling with more olive oil.
Making a larger batch: This recipe can be doubled and adapted to use whatever vegetables you have.
Flavor extras: For something different, try adding a tablespoon of smoked paprika, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 1/4 cup of red wine, or a splash of vinegar to the ratatouille.
Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.