One of my first experiences while working as a line cook at the age of 15 at one of my favorite restaurants in St. Louis was making risotto and ratatouille. They were the staple side items that we often served up to accompany main entrees on the menu. I remember everything from prepping the zucchini, squash and eggplant to the sautéing of the vegetables and then finishing it off with herbs and cheese and sending it out the door to dining room guests. I’ll forever cherish those foundational moments of my culinary journey.
While my first restaurant experience opened the door to cooking for me, I honed those skills after culinary school at a French restaurant named Malmaison, where it does not get anymore classic than ratatouille. There I thinly sliced vegetables and layered them over crushed tomatoes and herbs de Provence for the most amazing simple flavors. My version for this classic ratatouille recipe was inspired by my time at Malmaison. The owners taught us to respect every part of the cooking process no matter if the continual slicing seemed tedious. It was at Malmaison where I really began to appreciate every aspect of cooking, from prep all the way to clean-up.
Ratatouille is such a simple dish comprised of few simple ingredients that – when cooked together – give off the most comforting flavors. Obviously, any classic ratatouille recipe starts with fresh produce, and summertime means it’s peak season for everything that goes into ratatouille. Since we rehabbed our kitchen and loaded it up with Franke products, washing fruits and vegetables has become much easier – thanks to the Franke Roller Mat and faucet with hose extender. Not only are the deep farmhouse sink and faucet one of the highlights of our kitchen, but they’re incredibly functional – making every day cooking a joy.
Once you’ve washed your vegetables, it’s now time to sharpen up those knife skills because it will require some very thin slicing. If for some reason it seems like a bit too much, you can absolutely pull out your friend, the mandolin and allow it to be your guide. I occasionally use my mandolin, but when slicing delicate vegetables such as eggplant and tomatoes, I find the mandolin can be a bit too harsh and can make things break apart and mush together.
Once the vegetables are all sliced up, I like to lay them next to each other on a sheet tray for easy access to layer everything up. On the bottom of a casserole dish or cast iron skillet, pour in some crushed tomatoes and then season the top of it with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. From there you want to layer on the vegetables. It’s sort of like stacking them up like cards and placing them into the skillet around the outside – making sure to pack them in tight. Make sure you watch the video for this part as my words may not do this justice. Once you are layered up around the outside, you then want to work your way to the center, so another layer is in store.
I did zucchini, squash, eggplant and then rotated with either tomatoes or red peppers and then added onion every so often. My wife’s not a big fan of onion, so I try to use it sparingly. Now that you’ve got this beautiful layered ratatouille, you’re probably wondering about the gap in the center of the skillet. I made a zucchini and squash rose by layering them alternately out on a cutting board and then rolling them up. I know, I know it looks intimidating, but with the help of a mandolin, this age-old garnish trick could not be easier. Be sure to season the top of your veggies very well with salt, pepper and more fresh thyme, and then it’s off to the oven!
Ratatouille takes about 45 minutes at 375° for the vegetables to become crisp on the outside and al dente in the inside, which for me is perfect. Once it’s cooked, place it on your Franke Roller Mat to make sure you don’t damage your tabletop surface. You can garnish with herbs and parmesan cheese, but the most important part is enjoying this classic ratatouille recipe.
- 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
- 2 thinly sliced zucchini
- 2 thinly sliced yellow squashes
- 2 thinly sliced egg plants
- 2 thinly sliced tomatoes
- 2 seeded red bell peppers cut into 1” squares
- 1 peeled and thinly sliced red onion
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- chopped fresh parsley and shredded parmesan cheese for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375°.
- Pour the tomatoes to the bottom of a pan and season well with salt, pepper and 1 tablespoons of fresh thyme.
- Next, alternately layer the vegetable slices around the outside of 12” cast iron skillet packing them in tight. Do the same to the inside of the skillet and then place a zucchini and squash rose in the center. See the video for details
- Season the top of the vegetables with salt and pepper, and 1 tablespoons of thyme and bake at 375° for 40 to 45 minutes or until crispy brown on top and cooked throughout.
- Garnish with chopped parsley and shredded parmesan cheese.