Momma R either always made ratatouille or the times when it was made were extremely memorable for me. I remember the thick stew of vegetables perfuming the house before being plonked down in front of us, usually matched with a slice of bread. Though, on occasion... if we were so lucky, thick slabs of mozzarella were melted into the top. Lovely and decadent. And so good for you!
I don't think I have ever made Momma R's ratatouille but I haven't been able to get it out my head lately, so I decided to embark on my own ratatouille attempt.
1 small red pepper
1/2 small onion
1 small zucchini
1 small/medium eggplant
1 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
2 teaspoons of herbs (par for the course and especially apt for this recipe, I used my herbes de provence)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
100g (roughly 5 thick slices) pancetta
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper, as needed
** These are the ingredients that I chose... partially based on my memory, personal tastes and what looked good at the market that day. You should definitely think about tweaking the veg to satisfy your idea of ratatouille, rather than just blindly following my path.
My handy Le Creuset French oven was my pot of choice here but you could easily enlist a decently sized stock pot or deep pan for this endeavour.
Heat your pot to medium. Roughly chop your pancetta and add to your pot. You want to brown the pancetta and begin to melt the fat... this will add such lovely flavour to your stew. While the pancetta is slowly browning and melting, chop up all of your vegetables. I like small-ish cubes that are reasonably uniform in size and shape (to ensure consistent cooking)... but it's entirely up to you!
Once you have a bit of colour on your pancetta and some fat in the pot, add in your onion and allow that to soften. (If there isn't much fat in your pot, you can always add a scant drizzle of olive oil to help.)
Next, pour in your wine (or a slog from your own glass). Use this liquid to deglaze and scrape up any of the crusty pancetta brown bits from the bottom of the pot. That is instant flavour!
Toss in your red pepper and eggplant now.
Give that a minute to come together, then add in your zucchini, finely chopped garlic, herbs and red pepper flakes (add more or less depending on your personal heat threshold).
Again, stir together. Now, it's tomato time! I just dump the entire can of whole tomatoes into the pot, then using the back of my wooden spoon, I smush them into smaller pieces. Stir and smush, stir and smush (highly technical cooking skill employed here :P).
Put on your lid and let everything cook together. Taste for seasoning and add any additional salt or pepper as needed. Really, once the ratatouille is heated through, you can dish it up and enjoy. Or you can treat yourself with mozzarella slices and a few minutes under the broiler. It's just like any other stew... the more time that it has to just mix and mingle on its own, the more developed the flavours will become.
I ladled my ratatouille into my beautiful new mini Le Creuset ovens, then plopped them into a 350 F oven for about 30 minutes. When everything was piping piping hot and happy together, I removed the mini ovens from the big oven, ditched the lids and served the ratatouille with slices of cool creamy goat's cheese and garlic-buttered toast fingers. It was a dream.
And as I dished up a bowlful for Momma R's discerning palette, I hoped that I had managed to concoct something equally worthy of nostalgic reflection... thankfully, Momma R approves.