Traditional Ratatouille Recipe

4.75 from 166 votes
1 hour 15 minutes
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This French Provencal-inspired traditional ratatouille recipe has all the summer veggie goodness going on with eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet bell peppers simmered to perfection in a lively tomato sauce. It’s THE dish to make with your summer vegetable garden abundance after a trip to the farmer’s market or for a quick culinary escape to the south of France any time of year!

This is the best ratatouille recipe I have found! We love it!

Classic French Ratatouille in white Dutch oven with spoon on blue napkin.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper:

If ever there was a summer comfort food, this traditional French Ratatouille recipe has got to be it. I eagerly look forward to making it every summer when our garden goes into high gear. This easy ratatouille is a great way to use up garden produce, and it tastes better the next day!

In some ratatouille recipes, the vegetables are sautéed, browned, or roasted on baking sheets in stages, combined, then stewed in a pan in the oven or on the stovetop.

I prefer the stovetop method, which is the traditional ratatouille method. However, I only briefly simmer it on the stovetop because the vegetables retain more of their texture.

Ratatouille requires some knife work, but all the vegetables are cut into ½-inch or 1-inch pieces, which goes much faster than chopping or cutting them into fine dice.

Another reason Ratatouille rocks is that it’s so versatile! Enjoy it over brown rice, quinoa, and couscous or with crusty, toasted, or grilled French bread. It can be served hot, at room temperature, or even cold. It’s vegan and gluten-free, so it’s perfect for anyone to enjoy!

One serving of Classic French Ratatouille in white bowl with fork.

Is Ratatouille French?

Original Ratatouille is a rustic southern French vegetable stew from Nice made with the best summer vegetables: eggplant, bell peppers, zucchini, summer squash, onions, and tomatoes.  In some versions, the vegetables are combined and cooked together for a long period of time until they practically melt.

Traditionally, it was considered a peasant dish because it was made with leftover vegetables, sometimes even vegetable scraps, and the “rough cut” vegetable preparation style. It could be eaten with low-cost items like rice, pasta, or bread.

In the 2007 Pixar film Ratatouille, the dish the chef served to the restaurant critic is not Ratatouille but a vegetable tian that uses some or all of the same ingredients. A tian is arranged and layered in a casserole and baked. Again, traditional Ratatouille is a vegetable stew, not an arranged dish.

How to Make a Traditional Ratatouille Recipe:

Ratatouille Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this traditional Ratatouille recipe. The exact quantities are in the recipe card below.

Ingredients for Classic French Ratatouille in glass bowls.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Eggplant:  Eggplant is one of the main ingredients in traditional French Ratatouille. It’s commonly believed that eggplant must always be salted before cooking to draw out the bitterness. However, eggplant characteristically has a mild but pleasing bitterness, so salting is a personal preference. It develops a pronounced bitter flavor when an eggplant gets large and seedy. I salt the eggplant for this dish because it won’t absorb as much oil when cooked. Extracting liquid from the eggplant makes it less spongy, resulting in less oil absorption. After draining and before cooking, pat dry with paper towels to remove the excess moisture and salt.
  • Bell Peppers:  Use any sweet bell pepper or combination:  Red, Yellow or Orange.
  • Dry White Wine: Always use a wine you would enjoy drinking. I like to use a Chardonnay in cooking because it goes with so many things. Alcohol Substitute: If you don’t wish to use alcohol, use vegetable broth or even water then add 1 to 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Use canned crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes that you crush yourself or a fresh tomato sauce such as my Parma-Style Tomato Sauce.
  • Seasonings:  Even though Ratatouille is all about summer freshness, I use dried oregano because the flavor is concentrated and is released as the stew simmers.  Fresh herbs are always best added near the end of the cooking process, but I didn’t want fresh oregano and fresh basil competing with one another.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and measure all the ingredients.  The French call this mise en place or “everything in its place,” which refers to the preparation and set-up before cooking.
  • Cube the eggplant first, place it in a colander, then generously salt it with a teaspoon or so of salt.
  • Let it drain while prepping the remaining vegetables.
Cubed eggplant in white colander.
  • Chop the remaining vegetables while the eggplant drains.
Vegetables cut up for ratatouille on dark wood cutting board.
  • Pat the eggplant dry with a paper towel.
  • Heat some of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant, reduce to medium heat, and brown the eggplant.  Transfer it to a bowl.
Eggplant being cooked in white Dutch oven.
  • Refresh the oil if needed, then add the zucchini and yellow squash. Cook until they begin to brown and soften a bit.
  • Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant.
Zucchini and yellow squash being cooked in white Dutch oven.
  • Refresh the oil again if needed.
  • Toss in the onion and cook until it begins to soften.
  • Then add the bell peppers.  Cook until they soften up then add the garlic and give it a stir until it’s fragrant.
  • Add the white wine, bring to a boil, and let that reduce for 1 to 2 minutes.
Onions and peppers being cooked in white Dutch oven.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, dried oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Tomato sauce added to Dutch oven with peppers.
  • Return the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash to the pot and simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes.
Eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash added back to Dutch oven.
  • Season with salt and pepper and toss in the fresh basil.
  • Delish!
  • MAKE AHEAD:  Make the ratatouille as directed to the point of adding the fresh basil.  Cool, then refrigerate for 1 to 2 days for best quality.  (The ratatouille will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days in an airtight container.)  When ready to serve, add 1/2 cup water, stir, and gently reheat over medium-low heat.  Add the fresh basil when ready to serve.
Classic French Ratatouille in white Dutch oven garnished with fresh basil.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • The eggplant needs approximately 20 to 30 minutes to drain in the colander, so you’ll want to do that before chopping anything else. That amount of time gives you time to prep the remaining vegetables. 
  • After browning, remove the eggplant, yellow squash, and zucchini as quickly as possible. When left to sit in the oil even for a short while, they can absorb oil.
  • Rub dried herbs such as the oregano in this dish between your fingers as you sprinkle it into the pot.  This helps to “wake up” the flavor of dried herbs and spices.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the difference between ratatouille and caponata?

Ratatouille is a dish from the Provence region of France made with eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic, and herbs simmered in olive oil.  Caponata has Sicilian roots and is made with eggplant, onions, tomatoes, anchovies, olives, pine nuts, capers, and vinegar, all cooked together in olive oil. It often contains something sweet like raisins or a touch of sugar for a sweet-sour flavor.

Should eggplant be peeled?

Peeling eggplant is optional. I prefer not to peel it because that deep purple skin contains powerful antioxidants and it’s simply pretty in the ratatouille. Here’s more information on eggplant nutrition from WebMD.

Can I use a yellow onion instead of a red onion?

Yes, absolutely.  I like to use red onion because it adds to the visual appeal. It’s milder and sweeter than yellow onion, which allows the delicate flavor of the eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, and yellow squash to shine through.

Can I make traditional French Ratatouille ahead of time?

Traditional French Ratatouille is a great make-ahead dish that’s even better the next day.  Make the ratatouille recipe as directed to the point of adding the fresh basil.  Cool, then refrigerate for 1 to 2 days for best quality.  When needed, add ½ cup water, stir, and gently reheat over medium-low heat.  Add the fresh basil when ready to serve.

What meat goes with traditional ratatouille?

Almost any! If you wish to serve ratatouille as a side dish, serve it alongside simply prepared roasted or grilled chicken, fish, beef, or pork.

Two servings of Classic French Ratatouille in white bowls garnished with fresh basil.

What to serve with ratatouille:

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Classic French Ratatouille in white Dutch oven garnished with fresh basil.

Traditional French Ratatouille Recipe

4.75 from 166 votes

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
This French Provencal-inspired traditional ratatouille recipe has all the summer veggie goodness going on with eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet bell peppers simmered to perfection in a lively tomato sauce. It's THE dish to make with your summer vegetable garden abundance after a trip to the farmer’s market or for a quick culinary escape to the south of France any time of year!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Vegetarian / Vegan Entrees
Cuisine French
Servings 4
Calories 249 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 medium eggplant - cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt - plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup olive oil - or as needed, divided
  • 1 medium red onion - cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers - or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium zucchini - cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium yellow squash - cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 large plum tomatoes - seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 can (15-ounce) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper - to taste
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

Instructions
 

  • Place eggplant in a colander, sprinkle with salt and let drain in the sink or over a bowl while prepping the remaining vegetables.
  • Pat the eggplant dry with a paper towel.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven. Add the eggplant, reduce to medium heat and cook 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften and is lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Refresh oil as needed. Add zucchini and yellow squash and cook 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften and is lightly browned. Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant.
  • Refresh oil if needed. Add the onion and cook 4-5 minutes or until the onions begin to soften, adjusting the heat as necessary so the onions don't burn.
  • Add the red bell peppers and continue cooking another 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and garlic and cook 1-2 minutes.
  • Add wine, bring to a boil and cook 1-2 minutes.
  • Add crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, oregano and crushed red pepper flakes.
  • Return eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash to the pot, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove bay leaf. Stir in basil.

Notes

Rub the dried herbs between your fingers as you sprinkle them in to “awaken” the flavor.
MAKE AHEAD:  Make as directed to the point of adding the fresh basil.  Cool, then refrigerate for 1-2 days for best quality.  (The ratatouille will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.)  When needed, add 1/2 cup water, stir and gently reheat over medium-low heat.  Add the fresh basil when ready to serve.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:  Make as directed, cool and store in the freezer in an airtight container or in individual containers for 2-3 months.  Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Nutrition

Calories: 249kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Sodium: 606mg | Potassium: 1098mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 2829IU | Vitamin C: 122mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 2mg

These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

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4.75 from 166 votes (139 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




77 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was so good! My friend made it, and it looked tasty, so I tried it out. I used 5 plum tomatoes. I froze two quart bags and had 3 servings as well. I served it with polenta. I’d definitely make this again especially if I had a ton of summer veggies.

  2. 5 stars
    I have been making ratatouille for 40 years as it is one of my favorite dishes. I have never added wine before but the subtle flavor that it added is amazing. This is the best recipe that I have ever used and is definitely a keeper.

  3. Can you make this without the wine? We don’t drink so I never have it on hand. Don’t want to by it for just this!

    1. Hi, Nina, Thanks so much for your question. Yes, you absolutely can. In the post under “Ingredient Notes,” I have: Alcohol Substitute: If you don’t wish to use alcohol, use vegetable broth or even water. Add 1-2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar. Thanks so much and hope you enjoy!

  4. 5 stars
    This is a delicious recipe! I altered it slightly by adding extra chili flakes plus dried basil, onion, and garlic with the crushed tomatoes. I will definitely make this again.

  5. 5 stars
    This is the most flavorful veggie dish I’ve ever had! I didn’t grow up eating eggplant so when I was gifted one I came across your recipe and viola! It’s now one of my favorites!

    1. Hi, Kathryn, Thank you SOOO very much and so happy you love this dish! I didn’t eat eggplant either as a kid but it’s now one of my favorites, too! Thanks again so much!

    1. Thanks so very much and so happy you love this recipe! We just got our garden in and this dish always goes into the summer rotation for us. Thanks again!

    1. Hi, Karen, Thanks so very much and so happy you love this recipe! Can’t wait for summer veggies to make it again myself! Thanks again!

  6. 5 stars
    Great recipe but if you want your onions, squash, zucchini & eggplant to start to caramelize then it’s about 15 minutes on the heat while stirring — not 3-4 minutes

      1. 5 stars
        Agree with Garrett. The flavor was amazing but the veg…all but the eggplant…were a bit too firm. Will use this recipe again and cook the veg longer. Adding the basil at the end is a must.

      2. Hi, Patti, Thanks so much and happy you enjoyed! I do mention in Step #10 “or until vegetables are tender” so you can definitely cook them longer if you like. Thanks again!

  7. 5 stars
    If you don’t like big chunks of eggplant skin try “scratching” it with a julienne-peeler. Don’t use pressure. This way you get intact cubes of eggplant with their skin already pre-cut into tiny rectangles.