Ratatouille

When I first saw the Disney Pixar movie of this name, I knew within the opening few scenes that it would become a long-time favorite. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I would also learn a recipe from it that I love almost as much as the movie.

Then there’s the life lesson – but we’ll get to that later.

In the epic climax of this tail, Remy the Little Chef, makes ratatouille for a food critic who is determined to shut down the restaurant, Gusteau’s. Anton Ego is quintessentially French and has no use for anything deemed less. Ratatouille, as Colette exclaims, is a peasant dish! Rustic veggies in delicious sauce surely won’t be enough to impress this determined critic!

Or will it?


Remy’s Ratatouille

First, you need a mandolin for this. A nice sharp knife is a wonderful thing, but to make all these thin slices and keep them uniform, the mandolin is a must have. Don’t be a hero, use the hand guard.

Second, make your own tomato sauce. It’s ok to use canned, crushed tomatoes to do it, but just don’t buy the sauce in a jar.

Third, slice all the veggies before you start assembling. You don’t want to have to pause and slice some more once you’re putting everything together.


Ingredients

The Tomato Sauce

  • 1 24 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • handful of basil leaves, sliced into a chiffonade (reserve some for garnish later)
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

The Béchamel

  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 cups of milk
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt
  • white pepper

The Veggies

  • 1 large zucchini, leave some stripes of the peel on
  • 3 – 4 medium graffiti eggplants
  • 3 medium golden beets, peeled
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled
  • 2 medium new potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 3 – 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • basil leaves, torn
  • salt and pepper
  • Also, shave some parmesan cheese for serving

Make the tomato sauce first so it can simmer a bit while you slice the veggies. The béchamel should be made immediately before you start assembling the ratatouille.


Method

The Tomato Sauce

In a large pan over medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add the garlic and cook till just softening. Then add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Add the crushed red pepper. Heat together until simmering and then add the basil. Season with salt and pepper. Let simmer while you slice the veggies, stirring frequently.

The Veggies

Using the mandolin, slice all the veggies (except the garlic) to about 1/4 inch thickness or thinner if you prefer. Slice the garlic thin using your favorite sharp knife.

When you get to the end of each veggie piece, leave about an inch and slice the remainder with your knife, as close as possible to the size of the mandolin slices. These pieces won’t be as pretty, but just use them on the bottom of the dish and no one will ever know.

The Béchamel

You are about ready to assemble, so go ahead and make the béchamel now.

Add the butter over medium high heat to a medium pan or skillet. Melt the butter and then add the flour. Whisk to combine and then stir to cook for at least 5 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Then whisk in the milk slowly. Once combined, season with the nutmeg, salt and white pepper.

So …. lemme ‘splain. I love fresh ground black pepper. I believe strongly in my pepper mill. I don’t even buy pre-ground black pepper. But in cream sauces like this I like the white pepper. It looks pretty. Sorry ‘bout it.

Put it together now

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put your tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish you’re using for the ratatouille. If splitting between two dishes, put half in each.

On top of the sauce sprinkle the sliced garlic and torn basil.

Then layer the béchamel on top of the tomato sauce, garlic and basil.

Start spiraling on the veggies in a regular pattern around the dish. Once the dish is full, drizzle on a good bit of olive oil over the veggies and season with salt and pepper.

Cover with aluminum foil or parchment paper and bake for 45 – 60 minutes (depending on the size and shape of your dish). Once the veggies are soft when pierced with a fork or knife, uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.

To serve, scoop the ratatouille onto a plate or wide bowl, spoon some of the sauce from the bottom of the dish around the outer edge of the veggies and top with more of the chiffonade of basil and shaved parmesan cheese.

This is awesome on it’s own for a light dinner or as a side dish to grilled and roasted meats. I took this to a ‘Girl’s Night In’ a couple of weeks ago and it was a huge hit.


Spoiler alert:

Remy’s Ratatouille was also a huge hit with Anton Ego. The rustic simplicity of the peasant dish remained, even though the presentation was elevated with the mandolin sliced veggies and beautiful sauces. It reminded Ego of his humble childhood, the love he felt in that ratatouille his mom used to make, but it also satisfied the food critic he’d become.

“In the past,” Ego said, “I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Bon appetit!

Anyone can cook.

Chef Auguste Gusteau (Ratatouille)

Published by Elizabeth Escalante

Freckles. Food. Travel. Dachshunds.

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