What Is Ratatouille?
A Memorable Movie and So Much More
-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian
Who didn't like "Ratatouille," the animated feature film produced by Pixar and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures? It tells the story of Remy, a rat living in Paris who wants to be a chef. Now if your child is like my inquisitive 11-year-old son, you may have also heard, “What is ratatouille?”
After a quick internet search we discovered that ratatouille is a French dish served as a meal (accompanied by rice, potatoes, pasta or French bread) or as a side dish. Tomatoes are the key ingredient, along with garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, and a variety of herbs. All the ingredients are sautéed in olive oil. Upon locating this information, my son quickly exploded with his next question, “Can we make it soon?”
I scanned my favorite cookbooks for ratatouille ideas, added eggplant to my grocery shopping list, and on Saturday afternoon my son and I were busily chopping and sautéing our veggies. Soon into the process, Nathan took ownership of the ratatouille. Realizing it was a vegetarian entrée (and his nana is vegetarian), he suggested we invite his nana and papa to the evening tasting. Nathan asked that we serve “his” ratatouille over his favorite tri-colored pasta. For individual taste preferences, we set out bowls of grated Parmesan cheese, shredded Mozzarella cheese, sliced black olives, and parsley. We washed green grapes, toasted French bread, and poured milk to complete the ratatouille meal.
Although my 16-year old daughter said that the ratatouille looked like slop, all six of the diners agreed that it was a delicious meal, rating it “2 thumbs up”, and designating it as a keeper. <pagebreak>
Below, Nathan proudly shares his ratatouille recipe. I hope your family adventure with ratatouille becomes as memorable as mine. Now…off to the movie!
Nathan's Two-Thumbs-Up Ratatouille
This veggie-packed dish makes six healthy and hearty servings.
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
- 1.5 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil OR 2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. chopped fresh marjoram, OR 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
- 2 summer squash, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes
- 12 ounces dry pasta, cooked according to package directions
- Optional ingredients: sliced black olives, fresh parsley, Parmesan cheese, Mozzarella cheese
- Sauté onion, garlic and bay leaf in olive oil for 5 minutes.
- Add eggplant, basil, rosemary, salt and marjoram.
- Cover and cook over medium heat.
- Stir occasionally until eggplant is soft, about 15-20 minutes.
- Add squash, sweet peppers and tomatoes.
- Simmer 10 minutes until tender.
- Remove the bay leaf carefully.
- Serve over hot, prepared pasta.
- Sprinkle with parsley, black olives, shredded Mozzarella cheese and/or grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.