Layered ratatouille vegetables on a bed of skillet polenta and tomato sauce. This ratatouille recipe is a delicious way to use summer garden vegetables like zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and bell peppers in a comforting vegetarian meal.
Summer is winding down and our kids have gone back to school. It was a bittersweet week for us. Aside from a few tears at drop-off, the kids did great with going back to school. Transitioning from kindergarten to the “big kid” part of school is a big change and the school day is longer. But for the first time ever, I have only one pick-up time, which has been amazing. We rise early, but thrive with more routine.
I neglected my garden a bit toward the end of summer break, as I was out and about with the kids. Yesterday I went out to check on it and couldn’t believe how enormous the squash had gotten – oops! Summer squash should be picked before getting too large or the centers become too mealy and filled with seeds. As anyone who has grown zucchini knows, there’s no shortage of squash with one plant in the backyard. I love the challenge of coming up with ways to use my homegrown produce. There’s zoodles
, zucchini fries
, and zucchini bread, of course. Perhaps the most comforting zucchini recipe of all though, is ratatouille. I’ve loved ratatouille ever since I saw the Disney movie Ratatouille for the first time. The little mouse Remy wins over the cold restaurant critic, Ego, with his version of ratatouille. The dish takes Ego back to his childhood in France, where his mother would make the simple vegetable dish. Ratatouille is a traditional French recipe using some of summer’s most abundant veggies: zucchini, yellow squash, bell pepper, and eggplant. It’s served as a side dish, or as a meal when served with pasta or bread. Ratatouille in the movie is pure, beautiful comfort food. And though I don’t usually think of zucchini as comfort food, this polenta ratatouille felt warm and cozy. I fancied this ratatouille up a bit by making rosettes and layering the veggies, but feel free to go with the chop and dump method if you’re in a hurry.
If you’ve never cooked fresh polenta (known as grits in the south U.S.) before it is ridiculously easy. Polenta is a staple in simple Italian home cooking. Although ratatouille with polenta is not particularly traditional, the two go together very nicely and I love the idea of marrying these French and Italian staples together in one dish.
This ratatouille is such a fun dish to serve right out of the skillet.
Here’s what I did:
Step 1: Cook the polenta in the skillet until just thickened
Step 2: Cover with tomato sauce, herbs, and either goat cheese or a non-dairy cheese like Kite Hill (my favorite!)
Step 3: Saute the sliced veggies until just tender
*Time to get real. I started out making these lovely rosettes with the veggies because I’m still having a moment with flower shaped food. Hello avocado roses
. But honestly, all that rolling was too time consuming for a simple family dinner. So I switched to a simple layering technique.
Just as pretty, right? I’ve written the recipe up using the rounds, but if you would like to try the rosettes, just slice thinly lengthwise rather than into rounds and roll up. These summer veggies go so wonderfully together, I can’t think of a more delicious way to use them.
Kids always keep us on our toes. I thought for sure the kids would love the polenta and push the veggies aside. I was wrong. Although my kids normally don’t love summer squash, they really liked it here coated with tomato sauce. Yummy Hubby and I loved this dinner. The only thing I would have done differently was to pack in more veggies. Next time I will arrange them in on top of the polenta in a more vertical fashion than pictured here.
Oh summer, don’t go yet – I need to make ratatouille once or five times more.
If you would like to serve this ratatouille in a fancier casserole dish, simply transfer the polenta to the dish once it begins to thicken and proceed with the recipe. This ratatouille with polenta would be a great dish to bring to a friend too – just skip the final baking until it’s dinnertime.
Ratatouille with Polenta
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Ratatouille with polenta is a delicious way to use summer squash, eggplant, and peppers.
- 3 cups water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup polenta corn grits
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 2 zucchini, sliced into ¼” thick rounds
- 2 yellow squash, sliced into ¼” thick rounds
- 2 Chinese eggplant, sliced into ¼” thick rounds
- 8 oz. canned tomato sauce
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese or kite hill vegan ricotta (optional)
- 3 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a cast iron skillet, bring water to a simmer. Slowly stir in salt and polenta. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir until polenta has thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- In another skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Season zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant with a pinch of salt and pepper and sauté until just tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Pour tomato sauce over the polenta in the skillet and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle with the leaves from the thyme, oregano, and pepper flakes. Top with crumbled cheese. Arrange the vegetables in a layered, overlapping fashion. Start at the outer edge of the skillet and work your way in to the middle.
- Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the sauce is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle parsley over the top and serve warm.
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 15 mins.
Cook time: 25 mins.
Total time: 40 mins.
Tags: ratatouille, polenta, vegetarian