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Last Friday, while packing up for a weekend away, I spotted a sea of peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes, blanketing my kitchen counter, and a familiar panic set in. We would be gone for four days, returning Tuesday, just in time for another farm share delivery (of peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes)—gah!
This overwhelming feeling transpires nearly every Monday this time of year—it’s hard, weekend away or not, to not let vegetables wither in the fridge. Rarely does Monday wrap up as envisioned: with the last green bean being gobbled up by one of the children, the last tomato tossed into the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink chopped salad. Nope. When life gets in the way, the vegetables pile up.
If you subscribe to a CSA or tend a prolific garden, you likely have a handful of fritter, pickle, and preserve recipes to help alleviate this situation. Here’s another one to add to your repertoire: Gena Hamshaw’s roasted ratatouille from Food52 Vegan.
In the notes, Gena writes: “Traditional ratatouille can be a little high maintenance: It simmers on the stovetop for an hour or longer and often requires adding specific vegetables at specific times.” With roasting, on the other hand, all of the vegetables and seasonings enter the pan at once. With the exception of a quick stir halfway through cooking, the process is hands off—there’s no sautéing, no (vigilant) monitoring, no staggering the entry of the vegetables. When the vegetables release their juices, and when those juices then reduce down into a thick, stewy mix, it’s done.
The roasted ratatouille tastes sweet with a subtle bite, thanks to the inclusion of balsamic vinegar, almost like a caponata though more mellow. It's irresistible warm, spread atop toasty, grilled bread, but it also makes, as Gena notes, “an excellent chunky pasta sauce.” Here, I’ve added basil and grated parmesan to the pasta, though it’s flavorful enough without these additions. Break out the pepper grinder, and call dinner (and your vegetable-culling efforts) done.
A Few Notes
Use the quantities as a guide: It’s best to use a balance of vegetables, but the roasting process is forgiving. For instance, I’ve made this with and without zucchini; I’ve used a mix of vegetables that leans heavy on the eggplant at times and heavy on the tomatoes at others. I’ve also made nearly a quadruple recipe, so don’t be afraid to load up a roasting pan. The key is to be patient with the roasting. Let the vegetables cook until the liquids reduce, and the mixture becomes thick and stewy.
Use a sturdy pasta. It’s pictured here with shells, but something like gemelli or penne—something more firm—is ideal to balance the soft texture of the ratatouille. Be sure, moreover, to cook the pasta al dente.
You’ll be cutting a lot of vegetables, so organize your work station: Set out a large bowl for all of the trimmings and peels—if you watched Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals in the early 2000’s, you may do this always. Have a bench scraper handy to quickly sweep scraps into the garbage bowl and vegetables into the roasting pan.
Freeze or refrigerate extra ratatouille for other uses: To spread atop grilled bread, to spoon over quinoa or couscous, to tuck into an omelet or serve aside scrambled eggs.
- 12 ounces eggplant, (about 1 small), chopped into 1-inch pieces, see notes above re quantities
- 1 1/4 pounds tomatoes, chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 12 ounces zucchini (about 2 small), chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 red bell (or other) peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 to 1/2 cups olive oil, see notes above
- 2 to 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I prefer white)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- freshly cracked pepper to taste
- 1/4 to 1/2 cups thinly sliced fresh basil and/or parsley
- 8 ounces penne or gemelli pasta (something firm)
- grated parmesan cheese to taste, optional