This Is What's Really In Ratatouille

Fans of Pixar'sĀ Ratatouille might recall the climax of the Disney animated film, when the unlikely protagonist, a rat packing some serious culinary skills, cooks the eponymous dish for one of France's toughest food critics. In the movie, ratatouille is considered a peculiar choice to serve in a fine-dining restaurant because of its humble origins, which holds true in real life as well. According to the The Guardian, ratatouille has always given the "impression of being an ancient peasant dish," also noting that its name comes from the French word "touiller," meaning "to stir," which first popped up in 1877.

But what exactly is ratatouille? The New York Times describes it as a classic dish from the region of Provence in southern France ā€” a "soft, harmonious stew" made with summer vegetables, such as peppers, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini, which are drenched in olive oil, and then roasted both separately and all together.

There's more than one ratatouille

The recipe for ratatouille actually varies greatly as many different versions and techniques exist. Serious Eats notes that the dish may include yellow squash or other types of squash and garlic, as well. The jury is still out on which herbs should or should not be in ratatouille, but basil, parsley, and thyme are typical choices.

Alain Ducasse, the celebrated French chef whom many culinary experts have named as one of the world's greatest, as seen in Forbes, has his own take on ratatouille. Food Republic posted the acclaimed chef's recipe, which recommends cooking the ingredients separately to allow them to "stay crispy, keep their color, and retain their vitamins," and serving it hot or cold as an accompaniment to meat, fish, or scrambled eggs.

Ducasse's version includes three different bell peppers ā€” yellow, green and red ā€” along with onions, eggplants, zucchini, vine tomatoes, and garlic, cooked in a deep skillet or frying pan with olive oil. The chef seasons his ratatouille with just basil, salt, and pepper.

Whatever variation you decide on, learning how to cook ratatouille appears to be a must for those who love to cook. The New York Times named it one of the 10 definitive dishes every modern cook should master.