Ratatouille is a peasant dish from the south of France, where it’s traditionally made in late summer with the glut of aubergine, courgette and capsicum.

There are two main versions of ratatouille: one, the farmhouse-style put-everything-in-a-pot-and-mix, and two, the more elegant cook-everything-separately-and-combine.

I’ll cover both versions here, but with more focus on the easier farmhouse style. It takes 30-60 minutes, depending on your pace and the version you choose.


  • Approximately equal quantities of aubergine/eggplant, courgette/zucchini and capsicum/bell pepper. The bell pepper’s colour doesn’t really matter, but red is most traditional
  • Tinned diced tomatoes (fresh also works, if they’re in season)
  • One medium onion
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Tomato paste
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Thyme (fresh is best, dried also works)
  • Chilli, fresh or dried (optional) 


This dish is both cheaper and better-tasting in late summer. It also benefits being made in large batches, as like many stews it improves on the second day. You can also eat it cold on a hot day, and it freezes well.

Chop the eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers into approximately equal cubes (1-2cm dice). A finer dice will cook more quickly and result in a more restaurant-style dish. The eggplant can be slightly larger as it will shrink more than the other ingredients when cooked.
Heat several tablespoons of good olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the eggplant and fry until golden-brown, about 4-7 minutes. Note that if using slimmer Asian eggplant they will cook and soften much more quickly than the larger western eggplant. Season well – add a pinch of salt after adding each ingredient.

Remove the eggplant, add more olive oil and fry capsicum, onion and garlic for another 5 minutes. If you’re adding chilli, do so now. Add zucchini and fry for a final couple of minutes. Add a tablespoon of tomato paste and fry off for a minute before adding tinned tomatoes. One tin is generally enough, but use your judgment. You want a stew, not a soup.

Return eggplant to the pot with thyme. Bring to the boil and simmer for about ten minutes or until reduced to your liking. Taste for seasoning and stir through torn fresh basil. Adjust to your taste with sugar, black pepper, MSG or a tiny splash of red wine vinegar. Serve with fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil.

More refined method

This version will give you cleaner, more distinct flavours and keep some stovetop space free, but uses your oven. This method is more often used in restaurants as it lets you produce a larger batch, assemble to order and highlight each ingredient’s flavour.

Dice eggplant, capsicum, zucchini and onion; mince garlic. Put a finer dice on the onion. Toss each ingredient separately with olive oil, salt and black pepper (be particularly generous with the oil on eggplant). You can toss the capsicum, onion and garlic together; they cook at similar rates.

Spread each ingredient out on a baking sheet and bake in a 200C/400F oven. I find it’s easier to add all three trays at once and pull them when done, but you could also add them in reverse order to have them all finish at the same time. The eggplant will need about 20-30 minutes, capsicum 15 minutes and zucchini 5-10 minutes. You want each ingredient lightly browned and almost cooked.

Meanwhile, in a large pot or pan fry tomato paste in a little olive oil, then add diced tomatoes (fresh or tinned), chilli and thyme. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning (does it need sugar? salt?). Add cooked ingredients from baking trays, stir through basil and drizzle more olive oil. If your pan isn’t large enough, you can do this in batches or in your largest mixing bowl. If you use a mixing bowl, be sure all ingredients are fully cooked to your liking as it won’t cook further.

Serve, and enjoy your taste of summer.

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