Going to the farmers' markets on summer weekends is something I look forward to all year round. There is nothing like the fresh earthiness that comes from bringing home herbs, fruits and vegetables that have literally just been harvested.
One of my favorite ways to use up as many vegetables as possible is by making ratatouille. Ratatouille is a classic French stew made of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers and herbs. But, instead of making a stew, I like to incorporate the vegetables into a delicious rustic pasta dish.
This earthy bowl of pasta is the perfect meal to sit down to on a quiet Sunday afternoon on the patio with a glass of pinot noir. The whole experience was very reminiscent of our trips to Italy, where we'd enjoy a dish of pasta outside at little trattoria. So unassuming, yet so delicious.
I like to use trumpet pasta for this recipe but you could definitely use any type of pasta you prefer. Trumpet (or horn) shaped past, once cooked look like mini lasagna noodles (as you'll see in pics below) and are just the right shape to capture the flavors and textures in the ratatouille.
I think it's important to chop the vegetables on the thicker side so that they caramelize but still retain their shape and stay slightly firm.
In order to get the vegetables to brown properly, I cook the eggplant separately from the rest. This gives the eggplant some room to get crispy and caramelized, which really makes a difference in the overall flavor.
I remove the eggplant from the pan and add in the onions and a splash of wine. This helps to break up some of the brown bits at the bottom of the pan from the eggplant. Once the onions and alcohol have cooked down, I add the zucchini, peppers and cherry tomatoes (on a side note: in these shots I forgot to add the tomatoes but you get the idea), without moving them around too much so they also have a chance to brown.
One of the keys to a really good pasta dish is to add the pasta directly to the pan with the cooked vegetables. This way all those glorious brown bits will meld together with the juice from the vegetables, wine, oil and salted pasta water to make a delicious, light sauce. At that point, I toss in the fresh chopped basil.
I rarely can resist parmesan cheese on my pasta, but you can keep it completely plant-based by not adding any cheese or by using vegan cheese.
It's a meal the entire family will enjoy!
- 1 lb trumpet pasta or pasta of choice
- ½ cup reserved salted pasta water
- ¼ cup white drinking wine
- 1 large zucchini or 2 small/medium quartered lengthwise then chopped into one inch sliced pieces
- 1 large eggplant or 2 small/medium quartered lengthwise then chopped into one inch sliced pieces
- 1 pepper chopped
- 1 onion chopped
- ¾ cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- fresh basil chopped
- coarse salt
- fresh pepper
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + more for drizzling
- Cook pasta in boiling, salted water according to package instructions.
- Before draining the pasta reserve ½ cup of pasta water.
- While waiting for water to boil, in a separate large saute pan, heat half the olive on medium high heat.
- Add the eggplant and saute until golden brown about 5-8 min.
- Remove eggplant and set aside in a bowl.
- Heat the remaining olive oil in the saute pan.
- Add the onions, garlic, dried herbs and red pepper flakes and saute for 2-3 min.
- Add the zucchini, peppers, cherry tomatoes and wine and generously season with salt.
- Stir veggies occasionally, allowing the wine to evaporate and the veggies to soften and caramelize (about 8-10 min). *you don't want mushy veggies, so undercooking is better than overcooking them.
- Combine the drained, cooked pasta along with the eggplant to the pan with cooked veggies.
- Add the reserved pasta water and toss, allowing all the flavors to meld together.
- Top with fresh basil and cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if desired.