Ratatouille with Cochiglie Rigate - Dinner last night !

(Inspired by the cute promos of the Pixar movie - Ratatouille (Rat-a-too-ee) in the papers. This movie releases in India on August 24)

We all have a slight hesitation when it comes to cooking foreign foods in our kitchen especially because of the unavailability of some ingredients and also doubting its acceptance by the people we are cooking for. But there are some dishes like Ratatouille that can be tried in any world kitchen due to its simple ingredients and procedure.

It is a traditional French Provencal stewed vegetable dish that originated in Nice. You can either have it as a meal by itself or serve it with simple bread, rice or mashed potatoes. I've discovered that using it as a chunky hearty sauce with your favourite pasta will make it an unforgettable meal. The people you serve this to, will want to kiss your hands for the rest of their lives. So be careful, whom you serve it to!!

Ratatouille with pasta
Category: French-Italian fusion
Time Taken: 30 minutes
Serves: 3 or two really hungry people
Source: Adapted from Sara Moulton's recipe

1-2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic – peeled, smashed and chopped
1 large onion - thinly sliced

1 cup diced eggplant (Use the big sized roasting variety eggplant)
1 large bell pepper, cut into short strips
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 ½ cups chopped tomatoes (with seeds)
1 loosely packed cup finely shredded spinach

200 ml tomato puree (unsalted)
1 tsp red chilli powder /chilli flakes
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed coriander seeds
1/4 tsp crushed fennel seeds
½ tsp dried thyme
½ cup basil leaves
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper powder

For pasta
Take 1 ½ cups of your favourite pasta (short variety like penne, spirals, conchiglie )
A large pot of salted boiling water
Cook pasta according to pack instructions, drain and keep aside.

For Ratatouille
In a large soup pot / saucepan, heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. Start with the smashed, chopped garlic, saute for a few seconds. Do not brown. Add the sliced onions with a fat pinch of salt and stir it on a low flame for 3-4 minutes till soft.

Put it in the diced eggplant and bell pepper strips. Stir this occasionally until they are half done. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Next, add the zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes. Season with chilli powder, remaining salt and cook for 5 minutes till vegetables are cooked. Lastly throw in shredded spinach, stir for 2 minutes until the leaves wilt and blend with the rest of the vegetables. Add spices and dried herbs, torn basil leaves, black pepper powder and give it a good stir.

Add the cooked pasta and combine well with ratatouille. Serve hot garnished with some more shredded fresh basil.

  1. It is not necessary to chop all vegetables before you place the pot on the stove. Just keeping the garlic and onions chopped, the remaining vegetables can be chopped and thrown while the previous ingredients in the pan are cooking.
  2. The red chilli powder is added to give it more flavour as it is combined with bland pasta.
  3. You can substitute the oregano and thyme with herbs de Provence if you have it on hand.
  4. It is a very good idea to double / triple the recipe and freeze the extra portions. You will be rewarded for the extra effort, on a day you come back home late and you have this splendid meal waiting for you in the freezer.
  5. This is a great way to use up any leftover vegetables in your fridge as you can add almost any non-starchy veggie into the pot.
  6. Eggplant with pasta may seem like a crazy idea, but do try it once. You will be fascinated by the amalgamation of flavours and I can guarantee that the plates will be licked clean.

Let me add that this was the best pasta meal we've ever had (yes, hubby agreed with me too) and we had to give it a equally grand finale like a shot of the golden Remy Martin XO!

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