With an outburst of fresh summer flavor and a kaleidoscope of colors, this bonfire ratatouille captures the fun and liveliness of summer camping. It is a simple dish with an impressive presentation, lots of seasonal vegetables and can be combined with pretty much everything on your menu.
One of the things we love most about summer is the great abundance of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Of course, you can find most of these vegetables year-round at your local megamart, but everything just tastes so much better in the summer! And one of the best dishes to showcase this bounty is ratatouille.
Do not be fooled by the very photogenic presentation – ratatouille is actually a very simple meal, uses basic ingredients and has a virtually foolproof cooking method. But like many things that seem effortless in life, the devil is in the preparatory work.
This is a good recipe for practicing your knife skills, because it requires a lot of chopping. Nothing fancy, just a bunch of thin slices. But once it’s out of the way, assembly and cooking is super easy.
Ratatouille is a great meal to make at a campsite because it can be combined with many other things. Serve it over pasta, rice, polenta. Perfect for a little grilled chicken or steak, or bonfire garlic bread. There are plenty of options to choose from!
So what are we waiting for, let’s make campfire ratatouille!
Why we love it:
- Captures the fresh pulse of summer. Bright colors, seasonally produced products, fun and exciting.
- None of the products “need” to be refrigerated, freeing up a lot of space in yours cooler.
- Show stop presentation. Very high Instagram barability.
- After all the meticulous assembly work is over, it is a very low maintenance, low and slow meal to actually make.
- Can be combined with rice, pasta, crispy bread, polenta, grilled meat. Basically it goes with everything!
Onion: Small onions in small cubes, or half of large onion. We did not bother to brown it until we added the crushed tomatoes, for this recipe is picky enough without an extra step. They will cook fine in the sauce. But if you want to fry lightly before starting, you are welcome to.
crushed tomatoes: This will be the bottom of your sauce. Crushed San Marzano tomatoes are the best if you can find them.
Chinese eggplant: Unlike the dark-skinned and onion-shaped Globe eggplant, the Chinese eggplant has a violet color and a long, slim profile (Japanese eggplant will also work). Although there is not much difference in taste in this dish, the thinner diameter is more suitable for zucchini and squash.
Zucchini and yellow summer squash: You are looking for zucchini and squash that have roughly the same diameter. They do not have to be exactly the same. It will just make mounting easier.
Roma tomatoes: Roma are widely available, do not cost a fortune, and most importantly, have the right dimensions! If you can find heirloom tomatoes in the right size and would like to use them instead, go for it!
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder: These are the only three “spices” we have used for this dish. We often do not camp with a full spice rack, so it is nice to just call in to the essentials.
10 ”Cast iron pot: We used ours 10 ”Lodge cast iron pot to this recipe, which turned out to be plentiful for four servings. Cast iron is what you want to use over a campfire as it does a good job of keeping warm and does not have plastic components that can melt.
Aluminum foil (or lid): To simulate baking, cover the pan while standing over the fire. If you have a lid (without plastic), you can use it. Otherwise, you can use a small sheet of aluminum foil, as we did.
Heat resistant gloves: Although cast iron is great for holding in heat, it is not very good at conducting heat evenly. Which means you will periodically rotate the frying pan to ensure that you do not develop a hot spot in one place. These heat-resistant gloves are amazing at this. They make it easy and safe to move cast iron and adjust the grill grate.
How to make bonfire ratouille
The first step is to get your campfire or propane grill ready. For a campfire, aim to cook over medium-low heat. Ideal over hot coals of charcoal. Then take steps to get your bonfire ready. For more suggestions on how to cook over a campfire, see our article here.
Step one is to chop a small onion (or a half large onion) finely. In a lightly oiled cast iron pan, distribute the onion in an evenly single layer. If you want, you can spend a few minutes browning them a little over the campfire to lure their sweetness forward. Or just skip it. The onions will boil in the sauce.
Then open your can of crushed tomatoes and spread it evenly over the onions. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, a few cracked peppers and stir around. Put 4-5 leaves of basil in the crushed tomatoes.
You are now ready to start chopping. Use a sharp knife to cut your eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes into thin slices into rings that are about 1/4 ″ wide. (A serrated knife is best for the tomatoes).
You can now start assembling your conga line of products. Changing colors and trying to match slices of the same size with slices of the same size, place your vegetable slices on the edge around the outside of your frying pan. When the outer ring is finished, you can fill in the middle.
Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 garlic powder and a few cracked peppers in a small bowl or ramekin. Then add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Using a silicone brush, mix the oil and spices together until combined, then start brushing the mixture on your vegetables. Try your best to get in between the slices. Be sure to use this whole mixture.
Now cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it on the grill grate over the fire. You are looking for medium low indirect heat, preferably over hot embers. Depending on your specific circumstances, the cooking time should take about an hour. Be sure to keep the fire going to the side so you can refill the embers as they begin to die out.
The dish is ready when all the vegetables are soft and fork tender, but not yet mushy. Top with sliced fresh basil and serve!
- 1 small onion,, or ½ large
- 14 oz kan crushed tomatoes
- 1½ teaspoonful sea salt,, divided
- 1 teaspoonful garlic powder,, divided
- ¼ teaspoonful black pepper,, divided
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves,, divided
- 2 zucchini
- 2 gule squash
- 1 Chinese eggplant
- 6 roma tomatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil
Avoid getting your screen dark
Finely chop the onion. Line the bottom of a 10 “frying pan with olive oil, then transfer the onion to the frying pan.
Add the crushed tomatoes + their juice to the pan, followed by a teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a few cracked peppers, and stir. Put 4-5 leaves of basil in the crushed tomatoes.
Use a sharp knife to cut your eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes into thin slices into rings about ¼ “thick.
Gather the vegetables in the pan. Changing colors and trying to match slices of the same size with slices of the same size, place your vegetable slices on the edge around the outside of your frying pan. When the outer ring is finished, you can fill in the middle.
Add 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder and a few cracked peppers in a small bowl or ramekin. Then add ¼ cup of olive oil. Using a silicone brush, mix the oil and spices together until combined and brush the mixture over the vegetables.
Cover the pan with a lid or a piece of aluminum foil and place it on your campfire grill, on medium low indirect heat, preferably over hot embers. Depending on your specific circumstances, the cooking time should take about an hour. Be sure to keep the fire going to the side so you can refill the embers as they begin to die out
The ratatouille is done when the vegetables are well done and tender but not mushy. Serve with pasta, rice, bread or with grilled meat. Enjoy!
Calories: 285kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 16g
* Nutrition is an estimate based on information from a third party nutrition calculator