Frugal Family Feast: Ratatouille

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Even if you’re cost-conscious and regularly cook at home, eating takes a big bite out of your budget. According to the USDA, the average family of four spends up to $1,243 a month on food at home.

Money Talks News is here to help. Our latest feature, Frugal Family Feast, is the answer for fresh, nutritious meals to feed a family of four for less than $15. We’ll regularly serve up recipes for delectable dishes as Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson teams up with talented chefs to show you how to prepare these budget-conscious bites.

On today’s agenda: ratatouille, a traditional French casserole filled with veggies such as eggplant, tomato, zucchini, onion, and bell pepper stewed together and bursting with flavor. You can serve it alone, or as a great side dish. Check out the video below as Stacy Johnson and chef Lenore Nolan-Ryan prepare this scrumptious dish and serve it with roasted chicken. Then read on for the recipe.

Not bad for a total cost of less than $15. While the overall price obviously varies depending on your location and the stockpile of spices and other ingredients you already have at home, there are additional ways to save money. Chef Lenore Nolan-Ryan suggests planning your menus according to grocery store sales and using farmers markets as often as you can for more affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

Ratatouille – courtesy of Lenore Nolan-Ryan


1 large eggplant

4 medium zucchini cut into 1 inch cubes

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped thyme

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

6 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes

2 bell peppers (1 red and 1 yellow)

4 garlic cloves finely chopped

2 medium onions halved and cut into half moons

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

Flat leaf parsley


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss together the eggplant zucchini, ½ cup oil, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast tossing occasionally until vegetables are golden…about 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. Cut a small shallow X in the stem end of each tomato, blanch tomatoes until skins begin to loosen about 30 seconds. Immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to the ice-water bath.

Drain tomatoes. Remove the skins, cut tomatoes into quarters discarding seeds.

Place one bell pepper at a time on the trivet of a gas stove burner on high heat, roast turning occasionally with tongs until black all over. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let steam in bowl cool enough to handle about 10 minutes.

Remove skins from peppers. Discard tops and seeds, cut peppers lengthwise into ½ inch thick strips.

When eggplant and zucchini are done roasting, heat remaining 2 tablespoon oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and onions, cook until soft about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and peppers, cook until tomatoes are soft about 7 minutes.

Add eggplant and zucchini, ¼ cup basil and remaining tablespoon thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low simmer, stirring occasionally until vegetables are very soft about 30 minutes. Stir in parsley and remaining ¼ cup basil. Cook until heated through about 1 minute. Enjoy!

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