Ratatouille is usually served as a side dish, but it can be served as a meal with pasta or rice. In this case, it is an entrée served with really fat rigatoni, making it a perfect meal for Meatless Monday. Eggplant (Aubergine) is a wonderful meat substitute, filled with fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, and potassium.
The flavors of onion, garlic, red bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs originated in the Provence region of France, but there are similar dishes in Nice and southern Italy. Since ratatouille has had so many interpretations, there are no right or wrong ways to make it.
One of the criticisms I have of many eggplant recipes is that they overload the eggplant with oil to cook it. Eggplant is very similar to mushrooms in that they tend to act as sponges and absorb the fat they are cooked in. For that reason, I used very little fat in this dish and, instead, allowed the eggplant to saute in a light amount of olive oil and then steam to tenderness. While salting, rinsing, then draining the slices of eggplant will also reduce the amount of fat absorbed, it’s more time-consuming than I wanted for this dish.
When tender, eggplant develops a very rich flavour; this is what makes it a great meat substitute. Also, while the thin skin of the eggplant is edible, I peeled it for this dish. The reason I did that is that, peeled, the cooked eggplant more easily passes as meat. Mr. Saucy had no idea that there was no meat in this dish. :::tricksey:::
I used crushed tomatoes for this version because I was also using a very fat rigatoni, and I really wanted it to be more saucy than if I had used diced tomatoes. I wanted that sauce to slide into the pasta, thoroughly coating it inside and out. It worked beautifully.
Another of the joys of this dish is that it is even better warmed up the next day for lunch or a repeat dinner. I hope you’ll add it to your menu.
- 12 ounces rigatoni, cooked al dente
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
- 1 medium zucchini, halved length-wise and sliced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced (largish to match the size of the eggplant cubes)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (you could use an Italian seasoning blend too)
- 1 shake crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
- In a large skillet with a lid, over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and allow it to heat (about 2 minutes)
- Add the eggplant, zucchini, onion and red bell pepper and saute for about 5 minutes (it will appear dry, but you want this...the eggplant has just absorbed the oil)
- Add the garlic and herbs and continue to saute for about 1 minute.
- Lower the temperature to medium, cover with the lid (this will steam the ingredients to tenderness) and continue to cook for about 15 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and wine.
- Stir to combine and continue to simmer and thicken (about another 10 minutes).
- Remove from heat.
- Toss in the cooked pasta, sprinkle with the cheese and stir to combine.
- Serve in warmed pasta bowls or on plates.