Ratatouille is a classic vegetable dish from the Provence region of France. It highlights fresh spring and summer vegetables combined into a delicious casserole. There are many variations of ratatouille using the whole gamut of ingredients. Many recipes will include eggplant along with squash and zucchini. Others will include tomatoes, and some include the addition of spicy chili peppers. What is consistent, is that the vegetables featured should be fresh and in season. Choose what is available and suits your tastes.
Beyond that, the recipes can range from simply tossing the vegetables together with some olive oil and herbs and roasting to incredibly complex and lengthily recipes involving the individual cooking of each component of the dish. This recipe lies somewhere in between; it consists of three easy steps that yield a delectably, sumptuous vegetable dish that is deep and flavor and richly satisfying. Combine this with some freshly baked bread, a glass of good wine, and you have everything you need to go Provenciale!
For the ratatouille:
- Approximately 900 g (roughly 2 pounds or about six small) fresh zucchini
- Approximately 900 g (roughly 2 pounds or about three small-medium) fresh yellow squash
- 6 g (approximately 1 teaspoon) salt
- 3 g (approximately ½ teaspoon) fresh ground black pepper
For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red pepper, finely diced
- 500 g fresh crushed tomatoes
- 50 mL (approximately ¼ cup) white wine
- 175 mL (approximately ¾ of a cup) milk
- 50 mL (approximately ¼ of a cup) heavy cream
- ½ g (approximately 1/8 teaspoon) ground cloves
- 1 g (approximately ¼ teaspoon) ground allspice
For the herb topping:
- 50 mL (approximately ¼ cup) olive oil
- 15 g (approximately 1 tablespoon) Herbes de Provence
- 15 g (approximately 1 tablespoon) fresh parsley, chopped
- 10 g (approximately 2 teaspoons) fresh thyme, chopped
- 15 g (approximately 1 tablespoon) fresh basil, chopped
- 30 g (approximately 2 tablespoons) fresh grated Parmesan – optional
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Thinly slice the zucchini and squash into rounds, roughly ¼ inch or ½ centimeter, thick. Set aside. To make the roux, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the flour, and whisk together. The flour and butter will come together and form a light brown color and develop a light nutty aroma when the roux is ready. Remove immediately from the heat and set aside.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium sauté pan. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are softened. While the onions cook, heat the milk and cream over low heat in a small saucepan. Do not allow the onions to brown. Add the garlic, and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the pepper and tomatoes. Add the white wine and continue to cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Whilst this mixture cooks, whisk the roux into the milk and cream mixture. Continue to cook over low-medium heat until it just begins to thicken. Remove from the heat. Add the cloves and allspice to the vegetable mixture once the liquid has evaporated. Add the milk and cream mixture that is slightly thickened with the addition of the roux, to the sauce. Continue to cook over low medium heat until the sauce has thickened, easily coating the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat.
To make the herb topping combine the olive oil with the Herbes de Provence dried herb mixture, parsley, and thyme. Set aside.
To assemble the casserole, place a layer of the sauce on the bottom of your ovenproof baking dish. I recommend something approximately 8.5″ round by 2.5” deep (or roughly 21 cm round x 6 cm deep). Place a layer of the zucchini and squash rounds in an overlapping fashion. Add another layer of the sauce. Continue until you have a final layer at the top consisting of the zucchini and squash rounds. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the herb mixture over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake for another 20 minutes. To serve, garnish with the fresh basil and cheese if desired.