Does the Disney film Ratatouille ring the bell? In the movie, the unlikely dish of baked Provencal vegetables, or tian, won over the French food critic. Yes, it is a cartoon movie with rats being the main characters, not the usual blockbuster of sorts. I love the way how the film vividly portrays the passion for food and cooking. A tian is a casserole dish filled with thinly sliced vegetables of zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes, baked in a shallow earthenware. I made the tian and couldn’t get it out of my head. However, tian requires a fair amount of fussing, like arranging the vegetables in a tight concentric circle in the baking dish. On the other hand, this roasted ratatouille has none of the fuss but all the flavors. It is a dish I’ll go to again and again for everyday eating – for its deliciousness and streamlined preparation.
The roasted ratatouille with polenta recipe shows up prominently on the front page of the Barefoot Contessa website. I knew instantly I was going to make it. The ingredients list may seem long. But it’s everything I’d put into my shopping cart. At this time of the year, the farmers’ markets are filled to the brim with shiny, perfect, and newly harvested zucchini, eggplants, bell peppers and tomatoes. This dish successfully orchestrate all these fall vegetables in one ensemble. After roasting them in the oven for about 50 minutes, the flavor melds magically together.
Quick tips in making the dish:
- Dice all the vegetables, except the onion, in the same 1-inch cubes so they’ll cook evenly.
- Coat the diced vegetables with generous amounts of olive oil and minced garlic.
- Add the dried oregano and seasoning. Put them in two shallow sheet pans.
- Finally, into a 450°oven they go. The temperature is higher than what I normally use for roasting vegetables, but it works. The cherry tomatoes go in the last 15 minutes of roasting at 425°F.
That’s what I mean by streamlined operation. One sheet pan cooking, or two with the full recipe, one-step roasting and no extra pots to wash. Voila!
I thought I’d make this roasted ratatouille with polenta recipe without the polenta. That’d have been incomplete if you intend to put together a well-constructed and coherent meal on the table without a base layer. Since Ina Garten is the IHCC’s new featured chef and this is my first attempt at her recipes, I wanted to follow through with the full intent of the dish.
The only polenta ingredients I left out were the copious and just-can’t-get-myself-to-do-it amount of the Parmesan cheese and crème fraîche for a lighter and healthier fare. You may even leave out the butter, if you like, to make the dish entirely vegan. An amazing and nutritious alternative to polenta that I’d have preferred is: quinoa, the whole grain related to beets and a complete source of protein.
The polenta works well with the roasted ratatouille. At the same time, I got a chance to use up the coarse cornmeal (which I was not too keen on) that was languishing in the freezer. Once cooked, the coarse cornmeal turns into a smooth creamy luscious backdrop for the roasted vegetables in the ratatouille to shine. The whole dish is elevated with the polenta as a base. Even better and more wholesome, in my view, would be anchoring the roasted ratatouille with the super food quinoa.
Roasted Ratatouille with PolentaPrint Recipe
- 1½ pounds zucchini (6 to 8 inches long), ends trimmed and 1-inch-diced
- 1 pound eggplant, unpeeled and 1-inch-diced
- 1 Holland red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and 1-inch-diced
- 1 Holland yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and 1-inch-diced
- 1 red onion, halved and sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
- 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ cup good olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 15 cherry, grape, or small pear tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup julienned fresh basil leaves
- Creamy Parmesan Polenta:
- 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 1 cup stone-ground whole-grain cornmeal
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cups freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese
- 4 tablespoons crème fraîche
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
Roasting the ratatouille:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, onion, garlic, oregano, olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1½ teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl and toss to combine. Pour the vegetables onto two sheet pans (if you put them on one pan, they will steam instead of roast!). Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and begin to brown.
Lower the oven to 425 degrees, add the tomatoes to the pans, and roast for another 12 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender. Add the basil and toss. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot over the polenta.
Cooking the polenta:
Combine the chicken stock and garlic in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and very slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps. Switch to a wooden spoon, add 1½ tablespoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper, and simmer over very low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring almost constantly, until thick.
(The timing will depend on the cornmeal that you choose.) Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan thoroughly while you’re stirring. (Optional: Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, crème fraîche.) Stir in the butter. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa website https://barefootcontessa.com/inas-world/roasted-ratatouille-with-polenta