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!
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