My oldest two nephews love the movie Ratatouille. I doubt the yonger two have a preference, considering they're 6 months and 12 months, respectively, though I like to think if they could follow a plot line, they'd love the movie, too. We watched it at Thanksgiving (or more accurately, it was on while the adults were talking and drinking homemade Sangria). I'd forgotten how cute the movie actually is. It made me hungry for ratatouille.
Fastforward 4 months. It feels like summer here. March is normally our snowiest month of the year, but I was sitting on my deck wearing a tank top and capri pants. Now, as much as I know this weather isn't normal and in all probability shouldn't be happening right now, I can't help but love it. It really puts me in the mood to make the things I normally make in the summer when I can get fresh, local produce (often from my back yard or the Farmer's Market at my office).
This time I decided to take it one step further and make traditionally ratatouille even more delicious - add ravioli, top it with cheese, and bake it. It was a revelation. Now if only I could be guaranteed it won't drop below freezing for the rest of the year so I can get started planting my garden.
Ratatouille Pasta Bake
2-3 TBSP olive oil
1 eggplant, peeled chopped (about 2 cups)
2 zucchini, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can diced tomato
1 (28 oz) can tomato puree
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 TBSP fresh basil, chiffonade
3 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
2 packages fresh ravioli (we like the 4-cheese kind from Trader Joe's)
1 cup Mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit out for about an hour. You'll probably notice a lot of moisture on the eggplant. After about an hour, rinse the eggplant thoroughly, and then pat it dry. This process will help coax out the bitterness in the eggplant and help collapse the air pockets, so your eggplant doesn't absorb as much oil.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven. Let it get very hot, but not smoking. If your oil isn't hot enough, the eggplant will absorb it and it. Cook until the eggplant has begun to soften and is a little brown, stirring occasionally. It should take around 5. Add the zucchini and cook until it starts to soften, again about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the bell pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic, and again cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the diced tomato, tomato puree, salt, pepper, basil, and parsley and simmer for about 20 minutes, again, stirring occasionally.
In a bit pot, bring some salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and cook until al dente. Set aside if the 20 minutes isn't up yet, or to the ratatouille, if it is. Stir to combine.
Add the ratatouille with ravioli to a casserole dish and cover with mozzarella cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly.