Ratatouille, Simplified and Just as Satisfying

Breaking from Julia Child isn’t easy — except when it comes to ratatouille.

For most other French classics, I’ll do whatever Julia, the doyenne of French cuisine, commands, down to blanching, peeling and seeding that very last tomato.

But after spending one too many August afternoons glued to the stove, patiently ministering to each separate pan of eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onion and tomatoes, I finally tried an easier approach to the dish. A chic Parisian told me about sheet-pan ratatouille, a streamlined take that many French cooks have embraced.

Just as in the classic stovetop version, the vegetables cook on a sheet pan, softening and gracefully absorbing generous amounts of olive oil while their juices mingle, turning fragrant and complex. In the oven, there’s an added layer of caramelization and browning that’s just not possible in a high-sided pot.

[For more on how to make ratatouille, see our How to Make Ratatouille guide.]

Even better, although the recipe still takes some time to cook, I don’t have to stand there tending it, allowing me to leave the kitchen for cooler, more air-conditioned rooms.

I often serve ratatouille with some sharp cheese or olives as contrasts to the sweet silkiness of the vegetables. In this recipe, I took those same ingredients and threw them into the pan. This gives the cheese a chance to melt and lets the olives bathe in all the oily vegetable juices, becoming plumper and tangier as they heat up.

You can use any kinds of olives and cheese here. I chose creamy goat cheese and herbal, saline Castelvetrano olives. I’ve made this with chunks of fresh mozzarella and inky black Kalamata olives, and it’s equally wonderful. There’s a sheet-pan ratatouille topped with a thick, stretchy cap of grated Cheddar in my very near future. I might even broil it for a minute or two, until the Cheddar singes and crisps.

I love pairing ratatouille with a fresh green salad, some baguette and plenty of chilled rosé. In the thick heat of summer, that’s all I need to make a meal.

If you’re looking for something more substantial, serve it with grilled or roasted meat or fish. Or take advantage of the running oven to roast a cut-up chicken along with the vegetables. It makes for a meal that’s both practical and extremely tasty — something Julia Child could always get behind.

Recipe: Sheet-Pan Ratatouille With Goat Cheese and Olives

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Melissa Clark has been a columnist for the Food section since 2007. She reports on food trends, creates recipes and appears in cooking videos linked to her column, A Good Appetite. She has also written dozens of cookbooks. @MelissaClark Facebook

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