“Anyone Can Cook” (healthily!)

Ratatouille. It’s a dish many of us have heard of (thank you Disney), but the vast majority of us have neither tasted nor prepared. But why not? This French stew-like dish is packed full of awesome veggies and fresh herbs that taste and smell delicious. Consisting mostly of vegetables–namely eggplant, tomatoes, yellow squashes and zucchinis–this recipe makes a dish that is high in fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Ratatouille is the name of a Disney movie centered around a rat that can cook, and one of the sayings of the movie is “Anyone can cook.” With these words encouraging me, my roommate and I daringly decided to cook the movie’s star dish, and of course we had to pair our delicious meal with the film itself. As college students with a limited budget and kitchen, we were a little daunted by the hefty list of ingredients in the recipe, some of which I had never bought or prepared before (eggplant and yellow squash). But after purchasing the necessary ingredients, I found that we hadn’t spent very much money because most of what we had bought was fresh produce (and less expensive than ingredients like meat or pre-made items).

One of the more tedious parts of the preparation was all of the vegetable chopping on our tiny kitchen counter space–if you own or can borrow a mandolin I would definitely recommend using one to save time and energy. After all of the veggie-chopping prep is done, the sauce cooks quickly (about 15 minutes), and then you just need to arrange the vegetables inside the same pan that you cooked the sauce in (the sauce is the base of the meal and the veggies are stacked on top). Waiting for the veggies-and-sauce pot to cook in the oven may have been the most difficult part: cook time is an hour.

The whole recipe, which seemed so complex to prepare in the movie, was much easier than I expected, but that may have been because I had a friend to help. Our food was so delicious that our third roommate decided to dig in with us–he of course did the dishes as a thank-you.

After successfully preparing the central meal from my favorite movie, I was inspired to share my experience with the world. To prove how simple and easy the recipe was to prepare, here’s two novice chefs’ dish compared to the dish in the movie:

During prep:

Ours:

The movie’s:

 

Finished product:

Ours:

The movie’s:

 

In addition to the ratatouille, we made some spaghetti on the side. I recommend using whole-wheat spaghetti, which adds a high amount of fiber to an already nutritious dish.

Below you will find the recipe we used. Although we cut the recipe in half, it still provided enough for three people to eat dinner and have a bit of leftovers. Without the addition of spaghetti, I’d say half the recipe on its own will serve two people. The full recipe should feed 4-6 people.

Start off with the veggies:

  • 2 eggplants (2.5 g of fiber per cup)
  • 6 roma tomatoes (a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber)
  • 2 yellow squashes (a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium)
  • 2 zucchinis (a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium, ).

To make the SAUCE:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, from 8-10 leaves

To make the HERB SEASONING:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, from 8-10 leaves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven for 375˚F (190˚C).
  2. Slice the eggplant, tomatoes, squash and zucchini into approximately ¹⁄₁₆-inch (1-mm) rounds, then set aside.
  3. Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch (30-cm) oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic and bell peppers until soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add the crushed tomatoes. Stir until the ingredients are fully incorporated. Remove from heat, then add the basil. Stir once more, then smooth the surface of the sauce with a spatula.
  4. Arrange the sliced veggies in alternating patterns, (for example, eggplant, tomato, squash, zucchini) on top of the sauce from the outer edge to the middle of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover, then bake for another 20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
  5. Mix herb seasoning ingredients and pour over the cooked ratatouille.
  6. Serve while hot as a main dish or side. The ratatouille is also excellent the next day–cover with foil and reheat in a 350˚F (180˚C) oven for 15 minutes, or simply microwave to desired temperature.
  7. Enjoy!

We found this recipe here. At this site, you will also find a video on how to prepare the recipe.

To learn more about the nutrition facts of the ingredients in this recipe, visit the USDA website: https://www.usda.gov/


Blog post written by Rachel Digiambattista. June 4, 2019.

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