Submitted by Scott D. Haseltine, Aurora, Ohio
Some families’ go-to wintertime dishes are a hearty stew or a pot of chili or the like. At our house when I was growing up, Mom’s Sausage Ratatouille was always guaranteed to take the chill off the worst winter weather Northeast Ohio had to offer. Much like a good stew or chili, it actually tasted better heated over on the second or third day. Plus, since it survived so well in the freezer, a big batch made in December could see a welcome return in January or February.
Furthermore, it was marvelously adaptable. She might serve it alone (like a stew), with rice (like a gumbo), or over pasta (like a ragout). As I grew more accustomed to spicy flavors, adding hot sauce fit like a hand in a glove.
It was with this dish I learned the value of what Mom called “Operation Dump,” having all the meat and vegetables chopped, the cans opened, and the herbs and spices measured before even turning on the stove. The first time I made it myself, I tried to prep as I went (and failed miserably). I’ll never make that mistake again.
Another benefit to this dish is the fact that, by itself, it is very low in carbs and calories. By using a chicken or turkey sausage, you can reduce the fat and calories even further. I also have an acquaintance who substituted eggplant for the sausage, making it a completely vegetarian dish. My daughter, Emily, reminded me that the vegetarian version using eggplant is the “original” ratatouille recipe. Mom didn’t like eggplant, so she never made it that way.
Plus, since the main ingredients are zucchini and yellow squash, it’s a perfect excuse to empty the garden at the end of the season. My sister Heathe pointed out that when we moved from an inner-ring suburb to a more rural area, Mom planted a garden featuring zucchini and they grew to the length of baseball bats (and twice as big around). Needless to say, Mom’s ratatouille production grew exponentially after that. By the way, if you have to use large vegetables because small ones are unavailable, be sure to scoop out the seed-laden cores before chopping.
Perhaps one of the best features of this recipe is the fact that it’s a great way to get kids to eat their vegetables. All you have to do is tell them it tastes like spaghetti (because it does).
In 50-plus years, and all the friends and neighbors who’ve tried Mom’s Sausage Ratatouille, I’ve never heard a single complaint. Rather, many of them have requested the recipe and made it one of their own family’s favorites.
A funny coincidence happened in 1996 when my daughter competed in the Scripps-Howard Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. The night before the children’s Bee, there was a parent’s Bee. One of the words my team was asked to spell was “ratatouille.” I don’t know who laughed harder, my daughter or myself. Today, she makes it at least as well and as often as I do. (I got it right, by the way.)
Jean Perkins’ Sausage Ratatouille
Best practice: Complete all slicing, chopping, can-opening, measuring, etc. before starting to cook. Have all ingredients prepped for what Mom called “Operation Dump.”
Makes 10 to 12 “mugs-of-stew” servings
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 28 ounces skinless sausage or kielbasa (sliced into bite-size pieces)
- 1 large yellow onion (chopped)
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 3 to 4 small zucchini (sliced into bite-size pieces)
- 3 small yellow squash (sliced into bite-size pieces)
- 2 (28-ounce) cans petite diced tomato (without “extra” flavors)
- 2 (14-ounce) cans tomato sauce
- 4 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
- 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon basil
- Sea salt (to taste)
- Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
- Shredded Asiago cheese (as garnish)
In a large pot, heat vegetable oil to medium.
Lightly brown sausage and remove from pot. Spread sausage slices on brown paper for best drainage.
SWEAT onions and garlic. Do NOT brown.
Add zucchini and squash. Cook on medium till soft (approx. 10 to 15 minutes).
Return sausage to pot.
EXCEPT CHEESE, add all ingredients to pot.
Simmer 1 hour (minimum), stirring occasionally.
Serve in soup bowls or mugs. Garnish with cheese individually.
Best served with garlic bread, rolls or baguettes, etc. May be served over rice or pasta, if so desired. The adventuresome may add hot sauce (to taste).
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