A twist on ratatouille

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October is a strange time of year if you eat seasonally. It’s easy to want the best of both worlds — the taste of summer to go along with the sort of warm comfort food that sounds so fantastic when a chill comes to the air.

Luckily, there are quite a few dishes that bridge the gap between summer and fall quite well. One of them being the famous French stewed vegetable dish ratatouille. It’s an entree that highlights summer vegetables (tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash) all the while being warm in a way that would be perfect in the dead of winter.

Local cookbook author/food maven Nancy O’Connor takes ratatouille one step further in the direction of a cold weather dish with a recipe from her “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” that combines the deliciousness of ratatouille with the extreme comfort food quotient of a baked pasta dish. The results are a bridge of beauty.

My hubby liked this so much, in fact, that he wants to try the same sort of method with other seasonal vegetables when the weather really does turn. So keep your eyes peeled for a “winter ratatouille bake” later on.

Ratatouille Bake

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cups eggplant, peeled and diced

2 cups zucchini (or other summer squash), chopped

1 large green or red pepper, diced

2 to 3 medium tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8- to 10-ounce package frozen cheese-filled pasta (ravioli or tortellini)

4 ounces Mozzarella cheese, grated

Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and eggplant and saute for several minutes, stirring constantly. Add zucchini, pepper, tomatoes, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook over medium heat several minutes more.
Reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook until vegetables are tender and flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes.
While vegetables are simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. Lightly oil a large casserole and line bottom with cooked pasta. Cover with hot vegetables (ratatouille). Top with grated cheese. Broil until nicely brown on top. Serves 6.

• Recipe from “Rolling Prairie Cookbook” by Nancy O’Connor