France and Italy are two different countries with their own distinct culture.
The Italian culture is steeped in the arts, family, architecture, music, and food. And then there is France—known for its fashion, art, cinema and, of course, food.
Though the people of these two countries greet one another with the requisite kisses on the cheek, there are differences—the Italians are noisy and food-loving; the French, snobbish and wine-loving.
The cooking is quite different too. Typically rich with butter, creams, and herbs, French cooking is sophisticated and requires patience and practice to master every aspect of it.
Italian food, on the other hand, is characterized by its simplicity, with many dishes having only two to four main ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation.
I’ve chosen to mash up these two cultures in this flavorful ratatouille fettucine.
Ratatouille is a French dish of stewed vegetables, originating in Nice. Recipes and cooking times vary, but common ingredients include tomato, garlic, onion, zucchini, eggplant, and red bell pepper with some leafy greens thrown in.
Fettucine literally means “little ribbons.” It is a type of pasta popular in Roman and Tuscan cuisine. It is a flat, thick pasta traditionally made of egg and flour. The most traditional dish made with this pasta is fettucine Alfredo, a pasta covered with a rich cream sauce.
But this dish is vegan, so we’ll bypass the cream sauce and allow the flavorful ratatouille to be our saucy flavor delight.
How about the fettucine—is it vegan? No need to be too concerned. Most mass-produced, boxed, dried pastas don’t contain any animal products. They usually only contain two ingredients: flour and semolina, which is just a courser flour made with durum wheat. If you like gluten-free cooking, you’ll be able to find fettucine brands that are gluten-free. I recently found one made of red lentils.
Now, remember, my cooking mantra is easy. But let me add quick to that. Here’s the great news. This is easy and you can have it on the table—start to finish—in 30 minutes. Honest.
Okay, let’s do this:
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 good-sized zucchini, diced
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 red bell, diced
½ to 1 small bunch red or rainbow chard, cut into bite-sized pieces
(You can use other greens here to replace the chard—spinach, beet greens, kale—use what you have.)
15 ounces can diced tomatoes: one
1-1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2-1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped or sliced
6 to 8 ounces fettucine
Salt and pepper to taste
Here’s what you do
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant, and red bell. Cook for a few minutes on high to brown everything just a little. Add the can of tomatoes, water, vinegar, and fettucine. (Hint: I like to break my pasta into 2 to 3-inch lengths for quick cooking and easy eating.)
2. Bring all this to a boil then turn your heat down and simmer for about 10 minutes. Check the pasta to make sure it is cooked, and the sauce to make sure it has thickened. Stir in the chard and cook for about 2 more minutes.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the nutritional yeast to give it a slightly cheesy taste. Finally, stir the basil in right before you serve it up.
4. I like to sprinkle just one more tiny bit of basil onto each individual serving to “pretty it up.”
5. A bottle of good red wine and a green salad makes for a meal perfect for impressing company. I love a good malbec. It originates from Argentina so you won’t offend by choosing either an Italian or French label. Equal representation, you know. If you’re just treating yourself, no need to bother with the salad.
Bon appetit! Or should I say Buon appetite?
Well anyway, enjoy your meal.