In this traditional ratatouille recipe, thin layers of summer vegetables bake in a tomato cream sauce for a garden dinner sure to impress your favorite critic.
Ask me my favorite meal and the answer will vary depending on the time of year. Right now, it's ratatouille. I can’t think of a dish that better exemplifies the taste of summer.
When I eat this vegetable stew, I think back on the warm summer days I spent growing vegetables in my garden. Maybe that makes me a bit like Ego, the food critic in Ratatouille, the 2007 Pixar film that tells the story of how anyone (including a rat) can cook. When Ego takes a bite of Remy the rat’s ratatouille, he’s immediately transported to the happy days of his childhood and his mother’s cooking.
If you haven’t seen Ratatouille, it’s well worth a watch. The visual detail of the food is impressive and the story is thoughtful and amusing. You should probably make a pan of this ratatouille to enjoy while you watch.
I love this dish because it incorporates a number of prime summer vegetables that you can find at your farmers market or harvest from the garden right now. Tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, garlic, and onions are all part of it. I jump on the opportunity to incorporate so many items from the garden into one meal.
there's more than one way to make ratatouille
What’s nice about ratatouille is that you can make it simple or you can go fancy. It’s a classic French dish that has a variety of methods for preparation. You can go rustic and chop everything up to cook together on the stove. Or you can thinly slice each vegetable and layer them over a sauce and slowly cook the whole thing in the oven.
I’ve often taken the simple method of chopping and throwing it all in a pot, then cooking slowly to let it all meld together. Trust me, this is delicious, but unfortunately, it doesn’t make the most attractive presentation.
On the other hand, if that’s the route you want to go, you can just about skip a recipe. Simply sauté garlic and onions in olive oil in a large pot. Then chop the other vegetables and add them in as you have them ready. Cook over low heat until everything is tender and season with salt and herbs as you like.
what is confit byaldi?
But this time, I made the version of the traditional ratatouille from the film. I like how the vegetables are clearly distinguishable and can make for an impressive arrangement in the pan or serving on a plate. It turns out that this preparation of ratatouille is a variation called confit byaldi.
Thomas Keller of The French Laundry made this method popular in one of his cookbooks in the 1990s. And it turns out that Keller served as a food consultant on Ratatouille. The producer even spent a few days interning in Keller’s kitchen. You can tell that although it's an animated movie, they still wanted to have real attention to detail for the food. That's one of the many reasons why I love it.
Confit byaldi takes a little more time to prepare, though a mandolin will make the job easier. Slice the vegetables as thinly as you can, so as they cook they almost melt together. It also helps if your vegetables are all about the same size.
This recipe starts by layering the baking dish with two sauces — a tomato and a béchamel. That’s different from the tomato and pepper sauces that are often in ratatouille recipes. But I think it is a more appealing combination. You can use your favorite tomato sauce, whether that’s homemade or not, it doesn’t matter. The vegetables are the star here.
When it comes to layering the vegetable slices, I find the easiest approach is to arrange several pieces together in your hand then place them into the dish. Repeat with the same sequence of slices, creating a circular pattern (if using a round pan or rows if using a square or rectangle) and adjusting as you go to keep things neat. It doesn't have to be perfect!
common questions about traditional ratatouille
do you need to peel the vegetables?
Because you slice them so thinly, it's not necessary. It's one less step, too.
what do you serve ratatouille with?
Serve ratatouille over pasta, rice, couscous, or crusty bread. But my favorite is over a mound of cheesy, creamy polenta. Here's a good basic polenta recipe.
is ratatouille eaten hot or cold?
That's up to you. I prefer it hot, but I can see it being good at room temperature too.Print