Ratatuia always had the flavor of summer to me.
I remember my grandmother who every year, in summer, had to deal with overflowing boxes of vegetables that the farmer used to bring her from the lands of Albenga. On the table, then, on top of parmigiana eggplants, green beans with tomatoes, peperonata and Genoese minestrone, there were often little mountains of ratatuia.
Over the years I discovered that whatever the mix of vegetables you choose to put in your ratatuia it always has, invariably, the same dominant note that characterizes it.
I like to think that this unique and recurrent flavor, alchemy of summer vegetables, is actually the taste of the hot Italian Riviera sun under which they grew.
Ratatuia is said to have been born in Provence as a poor dish (the “ratatouille”), prepared in peasant families where, without thinking too much, everything that the land offered in the summer was thrown into the pot. But it is a very popular dish also in the western part of Liguria, where cross-border contamination has always been spontaneous and rich, and for this reason it has always been a very common dish on our summer table.
Ratatuia can be served as a side dish, for example with meat, or as a main dish, especially if accompanied by a simple, excellent, boiled rice.
This last version is my favorite because the abundant sauce of the ratatuia – where actually the unique taste of the sun resides – impregnates and season marvelously the rice.
Ratatuia and rice, then, are an excellent combination even cold, for example for a lunch break in office or – more happily – at the beach. So do as I do, always prepare a little more and enjoy it for a couple of days.
Below my family recipe . My granny loved combining many different vegetables together. However nothing prevents you from having fun inventing new combinations, for example by eliminating potatoes (for a lighter and more similar to the Provencal version) or carrots and celery (to have a less sweet taste). In any case, the four vegetables in my opinion “fundamental” need to be present: red onions, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
And now have fun and happy summer!
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion
- 4 carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- 2 small peppers (preferably one yellow and one red)
- 1 medium eggplant (or two small)
- 6 cherry tomatoes
- 4 zucchini
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1/2 bunch of basil (ab 25 leaves)
- Cut all the vegetables into cubes of the same size and keep them separate.
- In a large frying pan, brown the onion, carrots and celery for 2/3 minutes or until the onion is golden brown (to avoid the onion roasting, add two tablespoons of water).
- Add the peppers and the eggplants. Cook for 5 minutes or until the peppers and eggplants have given their water.
- Then I add the tomatoes, peel and seeds removed (to peel them quickly, you can cut a cross on the peel and immerse them in boiling water for one minute. The skin will come off practically on its own). Let all the veggies cook for 10 minutes.
- Finally, add the zucchini and the potatoes. Add a ladle of hot water, season with pepper and salt and sprinkle with basil leaves. Cover the pan and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.
- Serve both hot and cold, always accompanied by additional fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
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