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For some people, the first time they heard the word “Ratatouille” was thanks to a 2007 animated movie about a rat living in Paris who loves good food and doesn’t want to eat garbage. As nutrition therapists, we can relate!
If you’re not familiar with ratatouille (pronounced RAT-a-TOO-ee), it’s a delicious French dish of stewed vegetables, mainly tomato, garlic, onion, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper and herbs. Let’s dive into the nutritional benefits of the nightshade trifecta found in ratatouille: tomato, eggplant and bell pepper.
Why we love it
Tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants, particularly the carotenoid lycopene. Lycopene has shown to be beneficial for preventing prostate cancer, tackling cardiovascular disease, and managing diabetes through its anticancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic properties.
TIP: Cooked tomatoes are especially beneficial – when cooked with a source of fat (like olive oil or coconut oil), the carotenoid antioxidant called lycopene becomes even more available!
Eggplant contains a somewhat rare, but extremely beneficial antioxidant called nasunin, a type of anthocyanin antioxidant. Nasunin is widely studied for its benefits for cardiovascular health, likely related to the protective activity against lipid peroxidation.
TIP: Most of the nasunin present is found in the purple skin, so it’s recommended to consume the entire eggplant! Although this Ratatouille recipe prompts to remove strips of the eggplant peel, you are welcome to keep it intact.
Raw bell peppers are a fantastic source of vitamin C – 1 cup contains more vitamin C than an orange! With their high vitamin C and beta-carotene A content, bell peppers are a great food to support the immune system.
TIP: Vitamin C and antioxidant activity decrease after roasting green and red bell peppers, whereas other compounds (such as total phenolics and flavonoids) increase. Make sure you consume bell peppers both raw and cooked!
3 zucchinis, cut into 1-inch bias slices
1 eggplant, cut into large dice
1 onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lb blanched tomatoes (canned may be used if necessary)
4-6 tbsp olive oil, or more as needed
8 oz. tomato sauce
½ chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tbsp fresh thyme)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh marjoram (or fresh oregano)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 can (1 ½ cups) cooked garbanzo beans (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Prepare the vegetables: cut the zucchini into 1-inch bias (diagonal) slices – these will shrink when cooked. Remove strips of the eggplant peel and cut into large dice. Slice the onions. Remove the cores and seeds of the bell peppers and cut into 1-inch dice.
- Place the zucchini, eggplant, onions and peppers in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Place vegetables on a large baking sheet and roast until browned, about 30 minutes. Overlap of the vegetables is fine.
- Meanwhile, mince the garlic and blanch the tomatoes. Peel and seed the blanched tomatoes and cut into large dice. If using canned tomatoes, cut into large dice.
- Combine all vegetables, tomato sauce, herbs, spices and beans in a large baking pan.
- Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Cover the vegetables with foil and cook for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender and flavors are well blended. You can increase the cooking time for a deeper flavor!
- If the vegetables are too juicy, cook uncovered on a range top for a few minutes to reduce (transfer the vegetables to stovetop-safe cookware if needed). Be careful not to scorch the vegetables on the bottom.
- Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot or cold.
Adapted from Professional Cooking
Want to learn how to create and prepare recipes like this?
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About the author: Daina Rasutis is a graduate of NTI’s Nutrition Therapist Master Program. Her background in Environmental Engineering has allowed her to combine the best of science with a love for nutrition, the environment & delicious food. Follow Daina’s cooking creations and lifestyle tips on her website: www.tabletocrave.com
Image use permission given by Table to Crave
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