Ratatouille's Ratatouille

First things first: I must give credit where credit is due. This wonderful recipe came from one of my very favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I have made it many times and each time I love it more and more. Huge thanks also go to Joe, who actually assembled and prepared this meal for us to eat tonight. (He has these few weeks off work, and let me tell you, having a house-husband is awesome.)

It should come as no surprise, given my love of Pixar, rodents, and food, that Ratatouille is one of my favorite movies. I simply adore the scene towards the end where the titular rat prepares a beautiful dish of ratatouille -- not the traditional peasant style stew, but a gorgeous haute cuisine version (developed in real life by Thomas Keller). And the food critic is transported and has a revelation and all ends well, of course, since it is a children's movie.

This is pretty much that dish. I don't know if it's exactly how Mr. Keller himself would have prepared it, but it is so intensely flavorful with the fresh vegetables and the thyme and the garlic that I just don't know how it could possibly be any better.

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup canned tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small eggplant
  • 1 smallish zucchini
  • 1 smallish yellow squash
  • 1 longish red bell pepper
  • Few sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving
  • Orzo, couscous, polenta, crusty bread, or some other grain, for serving
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour tomato puree into bottom of a baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil, and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube. On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them. Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop orzo, polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.