This Ratatouille recipe comes together quickly for a fresh weeknight dinner. It’s a light and fresh dish that’s gluten free, vegan, and paleo. Plus, it freezes well – so go ahead and make a double batch! (Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Paleo, and Whole30 Compliant)
Granted, this might be the yuppiest thought to have ever been uttered, tied only with “OMG! They’re out of pumpkin spice lattes!” and “Ugh my premium high speed internet is totally only running at the speed of standard,” but can I just ask..what the heck we did before CSAs and farmers markets?
All over the country, small farmers are pulling insanely fresh, plump vegetables out of the ground and off of vines or trees or…wherever one finds vegetables ???? (See, this is why I leave the farming to the farmers.)Anyway, I only mention it because a CSA means you not only get to support these fabulous farmers, but receive, in return, a weekly box full of said freshly picked veggies (and, in some CSAs, fruits too), and do incredible-slash-incredibly-simple things with them, like make the best ratatouille.
Every week, I open my box with big eyes and a hopeful stomach, hoping for another round of the crisp zucchini and juicy cucumbers that were in last week’s box.
It seems like my CSA’s cucumber stock has been exhausted. (Damn. But don’t think I am not still making fridge pickles.) But they’ve wisely softened the blow by replacing them with plump tomatoes and long, smooth Japanese eggplants. Those, combined with the extra onions that went unused from this recipe, just screamed MAKE ME INTO RATATOUILLE!
What the Heck Is Ratatouille?
It’s not not the fancy, complicated dish that the name sounds like. Oh, and it’s not a cartoon Pixar mouse either, as it is probably primarily known in the United States or on Disney +. (As someone who, as a rule, detests cartoons, the degree to which I adore Remy is somewhat alarming. But that’s for another post. But seriously, how could you not love that face?)
It’s a simple and casual dish that originated in France, probably as peasant food. The heart of the dish is stewed summer vegetables, with very little else, so the flavors of the peak-season vegetables shine through.
How To Make Ratatouille
I’ve seen this dish in several forms, from the probably-original rustic peasant stew in which the veggies are roughly chopped and simmered or baked in a thick tomato-based sauce, to an overly fancy and (if you ask me) time consuming swirl, culminating in a flourish of some kind of flower pattern in the center.
But frankly, who has time for that?
Not me. In my opinion, the easiest way to do it is to quickly stir the sauce together and pour it into the bottom of the pan (you could even mix it in the pan if you wanted to) before layering the veggies on top.
I like to slice the veggies separately and then create an assembly line so you can grab them in order, shove them into the pan and then grab another set. That’s the easiest way to get this dish to look like you spent all day on it, but we’re really only talking about an extra 2-3 minutes of effort.
Don’t worry about perfection here. If you look closely at my version, you’ll notice that the pattern is spotty at best, betraying my limited attention span while I was putting this together (no matter how many times you watch Gilmore Girls through, it is always SO good, amiright?). But look, if you came to this site for perfection, you might be sorely disappointed. We do our best, but I’d rather have stellar flavor and an imperfect veggie pattern any day.
And, boy, does the flavor deliver on this. Great quality fresh vegetables have a beautiful flavor on their own, and I also used super high quality crushed tomatoes. (In this case, they were also from my CSA, but you can get good quality canned tomatoes at the store. Try San Marzanos, if you can find them. It’s worth the investment.)
So, the dish didn’t need much help, but I added a couple of flavor enhancements – fresh garlic and basil, and a spice mix called Herbs de Provence – just to take it over the top. Please don’t hate me for requiring you to buy a new spice for this dish. It is 100% worth it, and you can sprinkle it on chicken and potatoes for a quick, one pan weeknight dinner (or use it for these recipes). If you really don’t want to purchase Herbs de Provence, you can replace with 1/4 teaspoon each of dried or fresh rosemary, oregano, and thyme.
But wait, we haven’t finished discussing THIS quick one-pan weeknight dinner. It’s super healthy, quick, and filling, and all you need to make it a meal is your favorite protein. I picked up a rotisserie chicken to accompany this, then subsequently ate the leftovers cold with a runny egg on top for breakfast. But it can just as easily make for a wonderful addition to a dinner party menu.
And the leftovers! Oh my goodness. After a day or two in the fridge, the flavors mature and meld and I’m not committing to anything here, but there is a chance the leftovers might be better than the freshly made dish. So, all I’m saying is you should probably double the recipe…just to be safe.
Recipe FAQs: Tips for Ratatouille Success
Believe it or not, this Ratatouille recipe is the most popular recipe on this site! Why? Well, it has it all! It’s easy, healthy, and free of just about every allergen (except nightshades…sorry. Can’t win ’em all!). You can make it again and again, and so many readers have. If this is your first time making ratatouille, here are some of the tips and answers to questions that readers have found most helpful:
- Should I add more seasoning? The vegetables, including the crushed tomatoes, take center stage in this dish and there is relatively little in the ingredient list to season them, so flavor is very important. (Some recipes recommend adding red pepper flakes, a bay leaf, or oregano, but I find this is unnecessary.) Try to get the absolute best quality vegetables you can. It really is worth the splurge, and will take this dish from good to great.
- Can I substitute the eggplant? If you can’t get Japanese eggplant, you can use Italian eggplant (the fat, inky purple eggplant you commonly see in supermarkets). Try to cut it so that it is roughly the same size as the onions and tomatoes, even if that means cutting each slice into halves or quarters. That way, all of the vegetables will cook evenly.
- Can I replace any of the vegetables? If you must replace some of the vegetables, try to go with similarly summery vegetables with a high water content (again, for even cooking). Try things like a bell pepper or yellow squash or summer squash instead of zucchini, shallots instead of onions, or – like I mentioned above – Italian eggplant in place of Japanese eggplant.
- What if I can’t have lavender (in Herbs de Provence)? Some people have cautioned that Herbs de Provence contains a little bit of Lavender, so if you are especially sensitive to that flavor, replace the herbs de Provence with a heaping 1/4 teaspoon each dried or fresh herb: rosemary, oregano and thyme.
- Can I use Herbs de Provence in other recipes? Here are a few other recipes to help use up those Herbs de Provence.
- How many people does this serve? This may seem like a lot but is really enough for 2-3 people. If you’re feeding a family or a crowd, double the recipe and bake it in a 9″x12″ pan.
- What if I don’t have cooking spray? Optionally, you can finish the dish by drizzling it with a little bit of good quality olive oil.
- Is this a Whole30 recipe? As written, this recipe is gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo friendly, low in carbohydrates and Whole30 compliant.
- How can I upgrade this from a side dish to a main dish? To make a heartier entree, you can add vegan or dairy feta, goat cheese, or parmesan cheese on top, and/or serve over quinoa, mashed sweet or white potatoes, rice, chickpeas, couscous, or polenta. You can serve with gluten-free baguette or crusty bread and red wine.
- Will this keep until the next day? Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Can this be made ahead? Or, if you’d like to make this ahead for a future dinner, cool it completely and transfer it to an airtight container. It will keep in the freezer for up to three months. To prepare, bring to room temperature (just leave it in the fridge for a day or two) and then microwave until heated through.
Is it Ratatouille or Tian?
One last thing: French readers will say this is not, in fact, ratatouille. It’s Tian! I know, I’m perpetuating Ratatouille lies a little bit.
Traditional ratatouille is actually more of a Mediterranean vegetable stew of chopped vegetables (including green or red bell pepper, which I am not including here), all of which are cooked over medium heat in a large dutch oven. It’s a slightly less fussy dish.
Tian, the version that presents the vegetables neatly sliced in rows or a spiral, is more of a looker (and more fun to photograph, if I’m being honest) — but in America, is generally (though, admittedly, mistakenly) known as ratatouille. So, now that I’ve thoroughly insulted French culinary tradition and confused you all, let’s get cooking!
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- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, about 3-4 large leaves, sliced , plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence spice mix
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 medium sweet or red onion,, sliced
- 1-2 large zucchini, (about 1 1/2 cups slices, sliced)
- 1 large Japanese eggplant, (about 3 cups slices, sliced)
- 3 large fresh tomatoes, (roma is best; about 3 cups slices, sliced)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 6"x9" baking dish and set aside. (see notes for baking in an 8"x8" square pan)
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes, oil and vinegar. Stir in the garlic, basil, herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and chili powder.
- Pour the tomato mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth it into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
- Stack the veggie slices in alternating patters (e.g.: onion, zucchini, eggplant, tomato; repeat) and place them on their side in the pan, leaning against the edge of the pan. Repeat until you've formed a couple of rows of veggies, filled the pan, and used up all of the veggie slices.
- Optionally, spray or brush the exposed tops of the veggies with oil to encourage browning in the oven. This is more for appearance, so feel free to skip this step if you want.
- Bake for about an hour, until the tomato sauce at the bottom is bubbling and the veggies are tender.
- Garnish with additional chopped fresh basil before serving (optional). Serve hot or cold.
- If you'd like to bake this in an 8" x 8" square pan, you can. The bake time is about the same.
- The vegetables, including the crushed tomatoes, take center stage in this dish and there is relatively little in the ingredient list to season them, so flavor is very important. Try to get the absolute best quality vegetables you can. It really is worth the splurge, and will take this dish from good to great.
- If you can't get Japanese eggplant, you can use Italian eggplant (the fat, inky purple eggplant you commonly see in supermarkets). Try to cut it so that it is roughly the same size as the onions and tomatoes, even if that means cutting each slice into halves or quarters. That way, all of the vegetables will cook evenly.
- If you must replace some of the vegetables, try to go with similarly summery vegetables with a high water content (again, for even cooking). Try things like a bell pepper or yellow squash instead of zucchini, shallots instead of onions, or - like I mentioned above - Italian eggplant in place of Japanese eggplant.
- Some people have cautioned that Herbs de Provence contains a little bit of Lavender, so if you are especially sensitive to that flavor, replace the herbs de Provence with a heaping 1/4 teaspoon each: dried or fresh rosemary, oregano and thyme.
- Here are a few other recipes to help use up those Herbs de Provence.
- This may seem like a lot but is really enough for 2-3 people. If you're feeding a family or a crowd, double the recipe and bake it in a 9"x12" pan.
- Optionally, you can finish the dish by drizzling it with a little bit of good quality olive oil.
- As written, this recipe is gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo friendly, low carb and Whole30 compliant.
- To make it heartier, you can add vegan or dairy cheese on top, and/or serve over quinoa, mashed sweet or white potatoes, rice, or your grain of choice.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Or, if you'd like to make this ahead for a future dinner, cool it completely and transfer it to an airtight container. It will keep in the freezer for up to three months. To prepare, bring to room temperature (just leave it in the fridge for a day or two) and then microwave until heated through.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: g
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 109Sodium: 241mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 4gSugar: 11gProtein: 3g