This Ratatouille Recipe with Fresh Basil Cream is a visually stunning twist on a classic dish.
It’s also a fantastic way to deal with a garden that decides to put out more vegetables than you can possibly eat in one meal.
Ratatouille Recipe Starring Fresh Vegetables!
We got an early start on the planting season this year thanks to a mild and brief winter. So, although lovely picking fresh spinach and lettuce in the garden in early March, that meant other things peaked two months early, too.
Ordinarily, I can count on August’s heat to keep my zucchini, pepper, tomato, and eggplant bushes going strong. Sometimes, it’s all I can do to keep up!
Not this year, though. I was harvesting in early June, and by mid-August, the weather had cooled so much that my plants stopped putting out blossoms.
Fortunately, the last tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant came in just as the lone bell pepper was ready to pick. Seriously, I usually have so many of those that I start giving them — along with extra zucchini and baskets of Zucchini Muffins with Sugar Crumb Topping — to neighbors until they beg me to stop.
This year, I got one bell pepper. One! It was a beauty, though.
Meanwhile, my herb plants are going crazy. We’ve taken to calling that part of my garden The Herb Jungle because the thyme is running rampant and almost looks like a lawn at the base of the basil and parsley plants.
I’d planted lots of herbs to attract bees, and they are loving it!
What is Ratatouille?
It Started as a Stove-Top Dish
The traditional Ratatouille recipe originates from Nice, France where it was made as a simple, one-pot stew on the stove and flavored with herbs de Provence.
There’s some food history indicating its name comes from the French slang “rata,” meaning chunky, and the word “touiller,” which means “to stir up.” And that would correctly describe traditional ratatouille which looks like a big pot of chunky vegetable stew.
You Can Make Ratatouille in the Oven
In the Age of Pinterest, the rustic origins of classic dishes are giving way to prettified variations. Ratatouille is no exception. So, for this Ratatouille Recipe topped with Fresh Basil Cream, I opted to bake it in the oven.
Oven-Baked Ratatouille Recipe
First, I sliced the vegetables thinly — a task made much easier with a mandoline slicer.
Once you’ve sliced the vegetables, spread the seasoned tomato sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish and alternate the vegetable slices as you tuck them in.
Drizzle the whole thing with high-quality olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme leaves. Put a layer of parchment paper on top of the vegetables while they bake to keep them looking vibrant.
Don’t fret if you run out of vegetables before filling your dish. I solved that problem by coring a tomato and inserting thyme sprigs. It added a lovely visual accent and, wow, it tasted great, too!
Fresh Basil Cream Sauce
While the ratatouille recipe bakes, make a roux in a small saucepan and cook it for 1-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in some heavy cream and freshly minced basil leaves. Simmer this until it starts to thicken a bit, season with salt to taste, and remove it from the heat.
Spoon half the sauce over the ratatouille when it comes out of the oven and use the rest to top individual servings. Garnish each plate with a basil leaf for a gorgeous presentation that makes eating your vegetables feel gourmet.
Storing Leftover Ratatouille
If you have any leftovers of this Ratatouille recipe, they’ll store well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and can be served warm or cold.
Not a fan of reheated leftovers? Try these twists:
- Add it to a turkey sandwich with a slice of Munster cheese.
- Blend it with some Greek yogurt for a vegetable dip or cracker spread.
- Tuck it into an omelet like this easy baked omelet roll.
Ratatouille with Fresh Basil Cream
- Mandoline (optional)
- Sauce pan
- Casserole dish
- Parchment paper
- 4 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil divided
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 cup yellow onion chopped
- 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes drained
- 1 large zucchini sliced thinly
- 1 large eggplant sliced thinly
- 3 large tomatoes cored, sliced thinly
- 1 large yellow bell pepper cored, seeds removed, sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 3 tbsp fresh basil leaves minced (measure after mincing)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/ 177C / gas mark 4
Make the seasoned tomato sauce
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in the bottom of a sauce pan. Add the onions and cook, frequently stirring, until they begin to turn translucent. (About 5 minutes.)
- Add the garlic and cook 1 minute then add the diced tomatoes, and continue cooking 10 minutes, frequently stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down. (Use the back of a wooden spoon to speed this up if you want.)
- Remove from heat and pour the sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Wipe out the pan and set it aside.
Assemble the ratatouille
- To the casserole dish, add the pepper, tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant in alternating, vertical layers. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the fresh thyme leaves.
- Cover loosely with parchment paper and bake at 350°F/ 177C / gas mark 4 for 30 minutes.
Make the Fresh Basil Cream
- While the ratatouille bakes, return the saucepan to medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt but not brown. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute then slowly whisk in the cream until fully incorporated.
- Add the basil and simmer, frequently stirring, until thickened — about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Remove from heat.
- Remove the ratatouille from the oven and discard the parchment. Spoon half of the fresh basil cream over the top. Carefully transfer individual servings to plates and top with remaining cream if desired.
This post first appeared in August 2012. It has been re-photographed and revised.