James Beard

Author and Educator

Ratatouille is a specialty of France’s Provence region, especially around the city of Nice. It provides a delicious way to use up the huge quantities of eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes in our own gardens and farmers’ markets at the end of summer. This vegetable ragout makes an excellent accompaniment to grilled meat or fish, or a filling for omelets and other egg dishes, or can even be a meal in itself, topped with parmesan cheese, gratinéed under a broiler, and served with a crusty French baguette. In France it is often presented as an appetizer, with the addition of a little olive oil and vinegar and chopped parsley.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups green or red peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups eggplant, unpeeled and coarsely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
  • Dash of cayenne pepper or Tabasco (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped or canned Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped


Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven and very gently sauté the garlic; do not let it brown. Move the garlic to a cool part of the pot. Add the onions and cook slowly, letting them soften before combining with the garlic. Add the peppers, eggplant, and zucchini.

Blend these vegetables together well by mixing them with a wooden spatula and shaking the pan. Then add the seasonings, including the cayenne pepper or Tabasco.

Cook for about 10 minutes over very brisk heat, stirring almost constantly, then add the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes blend in, and cook the ratatouille down to the consistency you like. Some want their ratatouille extremely crisp and chunky, and others prefer it cooked to a thick, soft mixture. If you feel it is too dry, you can add a little additional liquid, such as tomato juice, water, or broth, and let it blend and cook down. Check the seasoning before serving and add more if necessary.


6 servings