I have found that creative preparation is a simple way to increase the number of vegetables in my day-to-day meals. To give them a little extra love, beyond just steamed green beans or roasted broccoli.
Over the years I’ve built up a collection of vegetable side dish recipes that are so good I never want to stop eating them, and ratatouille is one of those dishes.
There are a thousand and one ways to prepare ratatouille, but my favorite way is to make it on the stove in the true style of a stew (no baking). It’s easy to put together, and it’s one of those dishes where the leftovers only get better and better.
You can make it as a side dish for dinner one night, then have the leftovers with eggs in the morning, eat some with crusty bread for an afternoon snack, or serve it for dinner the following night tossed with pasta. Each time I make it, I find new ways to eat it.
Ratatouille is a simple dish to make, though it can require a bit of time. Many of the recipes I’ve seen call for making a fresh tomato sauce by scoring, blanching, peeling, seeding, and chopping fresh tomatoes, then roasting them in the oven, and crushing them down into a sauce to stew the vegetables in.
This was always a bit more work than I was looking for to make a good ratatouille, and I’ve found a new way of shortcutting this process while still ending up with a fantastic dish.
I recently attended an event in NYC celebrating the launch of Prego Farmers’ Market, which is a new line of sauce made with tomatoes picked at their peak, herbs, and vegetables — the kind of ingredients you’d find at your local farmers’ market.
I ate a multicourse dinner in a 450 square foot life-size mason jar, and I was blown away by every dish I tasted.
For the true test, I brought a few jars of sauce home, popped open the lid and tasted some straight out of the jar with a spoon. I have to say, the sauce is outstanding.
Prego Farmers’ Market was created by a team of chefs who were looking for the authentic feel of homemade sauce. They visited farmers’ markets, and bought and tested different types of tomatoes to find the perfect crushed tomato texture, flavor and aroma.
I think they nailed it. And it’s perfect to use in place of making your own tomato sauce.
To get started with the ratatouille, you’re going to cut up your vegetables.
I like to use three colors of bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant and two colors of onion. This gives the dish tons of color and makes it feel like a bounty and celebration of fresh veggies.
You’ll also notice I like bigger pieces of vegetables for my ratatouille so that in every bite, you get that cohesive stew flavor, but you can also pick out the flavors of each vegetable separately. Cutting bigger pieces also cuts down on the knife work.
Now it’s time to cook all the vegetables!
I think it’s best to cook the vegetables in batches, then recombine them later on. This gives you more control over the dish, and ensures that you don’t have super soft zucchini and crunchy bell peppers in the same bite.
I don’t find it’s much trouble to take the vegetables out to a bowl after you cook each batch, and that way the pan never gets overcrowded.
First, add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a dutch oven or pot, and cook the eggplant with a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes, until soft.
Remove the eggplant to a bowl, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the pot, and cook the onions with a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes, until soft.
Now remove the onions to a bowl, and cook the peppers in a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt, for about 5 minutes, until slightly softened.
Take out the peppers, then cook the zucchini with a touch of olive oil and some salt, for about 5 minutes.
Once the zucchini have softened slightly, add all of the other cooked vegetables back to the pan. Look at all the colors!
Next, add a couple tablespoons of minced garlic.
Stir that in, then add one jar of Prego Farmers’ Market Tomato & Basil sauce.
Give this a stir to coat the vegetables in the tomato sauce.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook for at least 30 minutes, to further soften the vegetables and allow the flavors to meld together.
You can simmer the ratatouille for an hour if you want everything really soft, but I like the vegetables to retain some of their firmness. You can tweak the cooking time according to your preference.
The ratatouille can now be served, and leftovers can be kept for up to 5 days.
You can pick up a jar of new Prego Farmers’ Market at your nearest grocery store. If you try it, let me know what you think. Enjoy!
This Shortcut Ratatouille is a quicker and easier take on the classic French country vegetable stew.
- 7 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large eggplant, diced into 1” cubes (about 6 cups, from a 1.5lb eggplant)
- 2 large onions, diced
- 3 bell peppers, seeded and diced
- 3 zucchinis, diced (1lb)
- 5 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 (23.5 ounce) jar Prego Farmers’ Market™ Tomato & Basil
- Heat a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the eggplant, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 10 minutes, until softened. Remove the eggplant to a bowl.
- Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil to the pot, and add the onions. Season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 10 minutes, until soft. Remove the onions to a bowl (it can be the same bowl as the eggplant).
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pot, and add the bell peppers. Season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Remove the peppers to the vegetable bowl.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and add the zucchini. Season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly softened.
- Add the eggplant, onions, and peppers back into the pot with the zucchini, and add the garlic. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Pour in the Prego Farmers’ Market Tomato & Basil, and stir. Cook the mixture at a simmer for at least 30 minutes. If you want a softer texture, cook the mixture for one hour. Serve and enjoy!
Leftovers will keep for up to 5 days.
Disclosure: I worked with Prego to create this post. All opinions are my own. I truly love and recommend the Prego Farmers’ Market™ sauces and use them in my own kitchen.