Ratatouille Lasagna

Ratatouille is French for recipe that uses up everything from summer produce.

Zucchini- check

Eggplant- check

Peppers- check

Tomatoes- check

Basil- check

It’s very versatile too.  We can make it, like the famous Pixar movie, into a gratin.  We can use it as a jazzed up spaghetti sauce.  A calzone.  A quiche.  An omelet (very French).  Wrapped up like a cigar in crepes (very, very French).  You get the idea.

Today we’re making a Ratatouille Lasagna because in an attempt to clear out my pantry, I noticed that I have 3 1/2  boxes of lasagna noodles.

Wanna print this recipe and get on with the cooking? Ratatouille Lasagna

This recipe is a Choose Your Own Adventure style based on 4 key components: noodles, sauce, cheese, and yumminess (veggies, meat, leftovers, you get the idea).  I’m gonna give you options at each step, except for the yumminess part because I’m a control-freak, and this is a Ratatouille Lasagna

Part 1: Noodles.  You can (A) save yourself about 1/2 hour by going with the no-boil which means 10 seconds of opening a box or (B) neurotically obsess over whether the noodles are just under al dente as you boil them in preparation.  We’ll need 9 noodles.  Choose wisely my friends.

Part 2: Sauce.  Since ratatouille is tomato-based, we’re sticking to tradition.  You can (A) save yourself 2-3 hours of work by opening a jar of your favorite tomato-sauce (or the one that was on sale this past week) or (B) neurotically obsess over the thickness of Homemade Tomato Sauce from the avalanche of tomatoes your garden has bequeathed you.  I will be the first to admit that some days you want to go all Anne-of-Green-Gables and do things from scratch and some days you just want to open that jar of tomato sauce and call it a day.  No judgement here.  We’ll need 2 to 2 1/2 cups of sauce.

Part 3: Cheese.  You can (A) use 1 cup of cottage cheese or (B) 1 cup of ricotta.  Mix it in a small bowl with 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of salt.  The egg helps thing to bind.  Set this aside until layering time.

Mixin’ it up.

You will also need some grated mozzarella, about 1/2 of an 8-ounce package.

And about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  If you are a cheese-nut (not to be confused with a cheese-head Packers’ fan) feel free to add more grated cheese.

Part 4: The Ratatouille Yumminess.  All adventures lead here.

First we’ve got the classic summer vegetables.  Forgive me for not photographing the diced onion.

We’re going to saute the onions and peppers over medium-high heat in a little olive oil (1 tablespoon) to give the house a mouth-watering aroma.  Be sure to beat off stray husbands who wander in with a wooden spoon.

Next add the eggplant and 1 more tablespoon of olive oil.  If I had remembered to take a picture, you’d see that I’ve got half of a large one chopped into 1-inch pieces.  When eggplants cook their color changes to a brilliant yellow and they turn sweet.  They need a little more oil to help them along in the cooking process.  As little sponges, the eggplant will soak up the extra olive oil you add to the pan.

Saute about 4-5 minutes, occasionally stirring to avoid burning.  But don’t get obsessive, we do want some edges to caramelize.

Add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and the zucchini.  The eggplant should look halfway softened and sweeten even more as the zucchini cooks, another 4-5 minutes.

(Side note: if you’re using store-bought tomato sauce you’ll need to add some flavor: oregano, basil, thyme, marjoram, a couple of minced garlic cloves, whatever suits your mood for the day.  You could also just buy one of those all-in-one Provencal spice mixes and use that.  Choose your own Ratatouille adventure.)

Now the layering process.  My theory is this: first, it needs to start with a little cooking spray and sauce on the bottom to prevent sticking; two, it needs at least 3 layers of noodles to be called a lasagna, and finally 3, it needs to end with sauce and cheese on top.  Everything else in the middle really doesn’t matter as long as these 3 requirements are met, so below is just a suggestion for layering.

Start with a light spray of cooking spray (extra prevention against sticking) and 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 7 1/2″ by 11″ baking dish.  (Requirement #1 met)

Layer 3 lasagna noodles.

Top those noodles with about a third of the remaining sauce and half of the ratatouille vegetables.

Make sure you have everything around you, assembly line style.

3 more noodle layers.  Try to mix up how you layer the noodles.

Plop on half of the riccotta-egg-salt mixture.

Isn’t that graceful?  Spread it around as best you can.  I doubt it will cover everything, don’t worry it’ll melt and spread out in the oven.

Top this with half your mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and another third of the sauce.

Also spread around the rest of the ratatouille vegetables.  Realize you’re reaching the top of the pan and need to somehow cram the rest of the ingredients in; this is an expected situation when making lasagna.  Remember, it all bakes down.

Cover with 3 more noodles.  I had to reach for another box (remember I have 3 other boxes of noodles) which is why 2 of these noodles look like they don’t belong.  (Requirement #2 met, 3 layers of noodles).

Now finish it off with the rest of your sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella/Parmesan mix.  (Requirement #3 met: end with cheese.)

Cover with foil (quick hint: spray the foil with cooking spray to prevent half of your cheese topping from coming off when you remove the foil).

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook for another 10-15 minutes until your cheese is browned to perfection.

Merci l’été.

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