Yep, like the Disney movie about the cute little rat chef who teaches the struggling sous chef how to cook. Not only is the movie so cute, but it put this classic French Provincial dish on the radar for people all over the world. What I love about this dish is that little hands can help with almost every step of the way (I say almost because using a mandolin is not for pint-sized chefs in training… or full grown chefs named Wes whose experience with a mandolin landed us in our first ever Christmas Eve emergency room visit last year.) Anyway, I’m all about a recipe that allows little chefs to feel like big chefs. Autonomy is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children and the kitchen is such an easy place to do so. Not to mention this makes for a PERFECT family movie night! Make the dish, pop it in the oven, start the movie. By the time your ratatouille is ready you’ll be around the part of the movie where Ratatouille (the rat) has made ratatouille (the food) and you’ll be able to eat and enjoy! (*Pro tip! When we do dinner during a movie for family movie night we lay a table cloth on the floor of the living room and go picnic style. This makes the kids happy to be doing something different but also helps OCD mama keep her sanity. *high five*)
Ratatouille is a classic French country dish which incorporates summer vegetables. As such it is generally regarded as a summer dish. However, another thing I love about this dish is how versatile it is. We made this dish in the middle of a chilly January and I was able to make it a little more comforting by making the tomato sauce creamy and subbing the eggplant for potatoes. You could also tweak the vegetables to your liking. My household loves bell peppers but my extended family does not, so we omitted them this time around. Skim through the ingredients list, keep what you like, omit what you don’t, and add whatever you want! I highly recommend using all organic produce. Happy cooking!
- 4 zucchini
- 4 yellow squash
- 2 medium eggplants (we subbed for potatoes in the dish pictured)
- 5 Roma tomatoes
- 1tsp thyme
- 2tbs basil
- 2tbs oregano
- 1tsp salt
- 3 roma tomatoes (or one 6oz can of organic tomato paste)
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (omit for a lighter, summer dish)
- 1/2tsp basil
- 1/2tsp thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2tsp salt
- 1tbs olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Using a mandolin, slice your vegetables about 1/8 of an inch thick. If you don’t have a mandolin a large knife will work but be more time consuming.
- As you slice your veggies, sort them into separate piles on your counter top instead of mixing them all together.
- Once your veggies are sliced your little one can start helping you! In a large baking dish (round is the classic way to go!) have your tiny chef arrange the veggies in an alternating pattern. (Do I even need to tell you how good this is for their little growing brains??)
- Once your veggies are placed in the pretty pattern in your baking dish, sprinkle them with the mixture of all the dry herbs.
- Bake your veggies for about 45 minutes or until the eggplant or potatoes are tender.
For the sauce:
*Safety measures: If cooking with little ones always use caution when using a stove. Have your child stand on a stool so they’re not tugging or climbing on anything to get a good view. Also have them use cooking utensils with long handles so they can be farther from the heat. Last, never leave your child’s side while they are at the stove.
- Using a food processor or immersion blender, puree your tomatoes. If using canned tomato paste you can skip this step. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan saute the garlic and olive oil on medium heat until the garlic begins to darken.
- Add your tomatoes (pureed or paste), basil, thyme and salt and stir gently until the tomato sauce has reached a deep red color.
- Add red wine and stir for another 3-5 minutes.
- Some may choose to add 1tbs of flour to thicken the sauce. This is totally up to you. If you choose to do so, use a whisk to stir the flour in.
- If you are going for a creamy sauce, add the greek yogurt.
- If your veggies are baked and tender, remove them from the oven and pour this tomato sauce evenly over them.
- Place back in oven for additional 10 minutes.
- Let cool, serve and enjoy!
Whew! I know, that’s much more labor-intensive than pasta night, but I promise it will be worth it. Not to mention it is a great lesson for your kids to see the great efforts that go into making good, wholesome food. We hope you love this recipe! Let us know what you think in the comments below!