This is actually a combination of two recipes from Real Simple magazine, along with my own personal twist. Ratatouille is usually thought of as a summer dish, given the use of produce such as eggplant, bell pepper, tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash. It also works well as an end-of-the-season dish, when the last of the summer produce arrives at the grocery store or farmer’s markets. For the past two weeks, my local grocery store has had the biggest, most beautiful zucchini, so I wanted to seize what it probably my last chance of the season to enjoy them!
Ratatouille is traditionally a meatless dish, comprised of vegetables and fresh herbs. One of the Real Simple recipes combined this dish with Italian sausage, which is a favorite in our house. It seemed like a winning combination, so I created this recipe for some dinner guests and received rave reviews. To complete the meal, I served this over warm egg noodles tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh basil.
Tip: Cut the eggplant first and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and allow to set while you prepare the rest of the vegetables. Rinse and pat dry before adding to saute. This will remove most of the bitter flavor and improve the texture of the eggplant (prevents it from getting overly soggy and mushy).
Look for eggplants that heavy for their size. This indicates ripeness and also improves the texture and flavor of the dish.
Ratatouille w/ Italian Sausages
adapted from Real Simple
4 Italian sausages, 1 lb, halved if desired
1 sweet yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large eggplant, about 1 lb, cubed
1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes, do not drain
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400F and coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.
In a large skillet, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil. Brown sausages on both sides, about 3 minutes per side (sausages do not need to be cooked through). Arrange in a single layer in prepared baking dish and set aside.
In the same skillet, add onion and garlic. Sprinkle with sea salt and saute 2-3 minutes. Add eggplant, dried oregano and red pepper flakes. If pan begins to dry out, add a little more olive oil. Saute 3 minutes and add zucchini and bell pepper. Saute an additional 3 minutes, then add tomatoes with liquid and chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil and stir in chopped basil. Season to taste with black pepper.
Pour vegetable mixture over sausages in prepared baking dish. Turn sausages to coat (if desired, cut sausage in half). Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, until sausages are cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before serving.
As the dish cooks, the vegetables should start to release liqiud and create a sauce in the pan. If the pan dries out, though, just add a little more chicken stock.