Every now and again, you happen on a dish that’s just perfect. This is that dish. It’s a positively delicious dish. It’s loaded with rich flavors and vivid colors. Though it’s absolutely best made when the garden is overflowing, it transcends seasons. And perhaps best of all, it goes together quickly and is even better made ahead and eaten at room temperature. I was going to make ratatouille, in the usual way, on top of the stove. But, it was a beautiful day and we wanted to go for a walk. I’ve heard rumors that one is supposed to exercise. Well, I still wanted to have ratatouille for dinner, so plan B. I decided to layer everything into a pan, then place it in the oven, set the oven to bake and turn off automatically while we were out. It worked wonderfully well. The day was so beautiful. We had a lovely stroll and when we returned, it was done perfectly. I wanted the top a bit more brown, so I slid the pan under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the tomatoes browned up nicely. Damn! It worked so well, I don’t think I’ll ever make it the more traditional way ever again.
This is truly simplicity itself—layers of eggplant, zucchini, red bell peppers, fennel bulb, onions and tomato slices. A sprinkle of herbs, salt and pepper and a good, significant drizzle of olive oil to top it all off. Then, into a 325°F oven for about 1 1/2 hours…and that’s all she wrote. If there’s any excess liquid in the bottom of the pan, pop the pan on the burner and reduce the liquid just until it evaporates. Remove the pan from the heat. Let the veggies cool to just barely room temperature. It really is best eaten that way, so you can make this ahead of time. It reheats really well, too.
I like to slice the vegetables, not quite 1/2-inch thick, then layer them in the pan on their sides. I like to mix them up a bit, and you don’t need to worry too much about how they’re going to look, as you’re going to place the tomato slices over the veggies. If you wish, sprinkle black olives and capers over the whole thing, just before you serve the dish. Coarsely chopped fresh basil can be the crowning glory!
This is a good side dish, and I had it for breakfast, with a couple of fried eggs over rice. And, it’s great for our vegetarian friends. Life is good and so is ratatouille!
Layered, Roasted Ratatouille
- 2 Asian eggplants, sliced at an angle
- 3 zucchini, sliced at an angle
- 1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced into 1-inch strips
- 1/2 large fennel bulb, cut into 1/2-inch wide slivers
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian herbs
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoons garlic granules
- 1/3-1/2 cup good olive oil
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil, in the bottom of an oven-to-table pan (I used a 14-inch in diameter pan). Place the slices of vegetables, except the tomato slices, on their side, alternating slices of the various vegetables. Sprinkle liberally salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the Italian herb mixture, the garlic granules and the red pepper flakes, if using. Lay the tomato slices over the top of the vegetables. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables. Bake at 325°F for about 1 1/2 hours or until the vegetables are tender. If you want the tomatoes to brown, slide the pan under the broiler. Broil for about 2 minutes. Remove from the oven. If there is too much liquid in the pan, place on the burner and cook until the liquid just evaporates. Cool to room temperature. You can make this several hours ahead or up to 24 hours ahead. Return to room temperature before serving for best results. Sprinkle with fresh, coarsely chopped basil, if desired.
NOTE: These are pretty much the quantities I used, but feel free to adapt the amounts to fit your pan. You can place sliced mushrooms on the bottom of the pan, then layer the vegetables on top and continue. I used an Italian herb blend that includes red pepper flakes, but you can use dried oregano and basil with red pepper flakes.
Layered Roasted Ratatouille Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2017. All rights reserved.
Sprinkling shredded or grated parmesan over the tomatoes before or after baking, is a nice addition, too. If you are wanting to serve this warmer than room temperature, toasted panko crumbs can add a nice crispy finish. This is a perfect buffet dish.