All the delicious flavours of ratatouille are sneaked into this simple pasta dish. Hidden Vegetable Ratatouille Pasta is perfect for getting vitamins into little fusspots or for when you fancy a more flavoursome tomato pasta sauce.
So this year our family holiday was to the South of France, to Aix-en-Provence to be precise. 30 minutes north of Marseille, this gorgeous little town is known as the Paris of the South of France and well and truly deserves this reputation…It’s old town is beautiful, terribly chic and is an amazing place just to potter and soak up the atmosphere, eat in amazing restaurants and generally enjoy the fountains (there are reputed to be 100 of them), the architecture, the culture (the likes of Cezanne and Zola used to live here) and the people watching. Plus Aix is a great town to use as a base to discover Provence – we made several day trips to places such as Arles, Marseilles and Bandol.
One of the things Aix is particularly known for is its markets – they are incredible – so much gorgeous Provencal produce taking up large chunks of the town centre on most days of the week. For a foodie like me it was heaven.
We were self-catering in Aix (in a gorgeous, bijoux, little apartment right in the old town) and although we ate out in restaurants most days, either for lunch or dinner, I usually cooked at least one meal a day while we were there. Well, I say cooked, quite a few of the meals were of the cheese/ham/salad/bread variety – I just love those type of meals – especially with delicious fresh produce! But probably our most memorable meal (of our ‘eat in’ meals, at least!) was the day I cooked entirely from our market finds.
I made a fantastic ratatouille served with gorgeous little roast new potatoes and super fresh sea bass – all from the market – it was all good, but the ratatouille was incredible…can you imagine ratatouille made with sunshine-filled, Provencal produce and actual real Herbes de Provence from Provence? Unbelievable!! And we had it on the roof terrace of our little apartment – perfect. Total foodie (and Francophile!) heaven 🙂
Well, I may one day recreate that meal on the blog, but while I was eating that delicious ratatouille, a lovely idea entered my head – ratatouille would make a great hidden vegetable pasta sauce…the flavours are totally delicious and cramming all that delicious veg in, makes for a very nutritious pasta sauce.
You will notice from the pictures and the recipe below that I choose to cook the aubergine and courgette in a separate pan first, before adding it in with the rest of the sauce, this is partly for speed, but mostly for flavour. Almost every recipe I read for ratatouille on holiday insisted that all the veg was cooked separately first before being combined in the sauce. (Yes I am the sad sort who sneakily reads cookery books in shops on holiday.) And that is exactly what I did for that rather memorable meal on holiday and it really did make a massive difference. The recipe here is a sort of compromise on that idea – maximising flavour, but without the faff of cooking absolutely everything separately.
Of course you don’t have to whizz up the veggies into a puree, if you don’t want to – you could absolutely keep this chunky, but if you are cooking for little (or big!) fusspots or you just fancy a more flavoursome and nutritious take on tomato pasta sauce – this could be a winner.
What’s more, this is a fab sauce to make a double or even triple batch of and freeze the rest – whizzing the sauce up first means it takes up less freezer space and you can freeze it in single portions – perfect for if you need a quick supper or fabulous as a basis for a super speedy bolognese – either with beef or quorn mince.
I can’t think of a more perfect partner for this wine than a Cotes de Provence Rose, but if red is more your thing, then I suggest a Coteaux d’Aix Red would be perfect or failing that a Grenache/Syrah blend from the South of France – a Cotes du Rhone or Cotes du Roussillon would be lovely.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 aubergine, chopped into 1cm cubes
- 1 courgette, chopped into 1cm cubes
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 pepper, chopped into bitesize chunks
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
- 300g pasta (I used penne)
- 50g grated cheddar (or emmental or gruyere)
- Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the aubergine and courgette. Fry on a high heat for 3-5 minutes until brown all over, stirring frequently.
- In a wide, deep sauce pan place the other tablespoon of olive oil along with the onion and red pepper and fry on a gentle heat for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured.
- Add the aubergines and courgette to the onions/peppers pan and add the garlic. Fry for 1 more minute on a gentle heat.
- Add the tins of tomatoes, salt and pepper, Herbes de Provence and bring to the boil. Turn down low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile cook your pasta according to packet instructions / your own preferences.
- When the sauce is ready, use a stick blender to whizz the sauce up to a smooth consistency (or transfer to a regular blender).
- Transfer half the sauce into a box (or boxes) to keep in the fridge or freezer until needed. Tip the pasta into the rest of the sauce and bring back to the boil.
- Serve the pasta in bowls with a little grated cheese.
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