Ratatouille is one of my favorite backpacking meals. While it can be eaten as a meal on its own, we use it as a hearty, flavorful tomato sauce over pasta.
There are many different ways to make delicious ratatouille, so if you have a favorite recipe, feel free to make that and skip to the dehydrating steps at the bottom. The recipe I use is a simpler version from some of the more traditional variations, with a few key differences for backpacking. While it can be eaten as a stand-alone dinner on the trail, I prefer to use it as a vegetable-rich pasta sauce. As such, this recipe is heavier on the tomatoes than ratatouille is traditionally prepared.
As the meal is going to be dehydrated,the vegetables are chopped for drying, not for beauty. This is not a fanned blend of eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes by a rat controlling a chef under his hat, but rather a jumbled stew that tastes oh so flavorful when rehydrated after backpacking all day.
Part 1: Cook the Ratatouille
First take two Italian eggplants and slice into discs. Place on a drying rack on a cookie sheet and liberally salt both sides of the eggplant. Allow to rest for about an hour.
While the eggplant is resting, gather and prep the rest of the ingredients.
After the eggplant has rested for about an hour, chop the discs into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces.
When eggplant is ready, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet or dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic, stir occasionally until the onion is softened. Then add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil, turning the heat to medium-high. Add the eggplant and cook for 8 or so minutes, until the eggplant is softened. Then add zucchini and bell pepper, cooking for approximately 12 minutes.
Add a 32oz can of tomatoes and cook the mixtures for about 10 minutes. Then add oregano, thyme, fennel then salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook for one minute while stirring. Add the basil and combine the mixture well. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully.
Part Two: Dehydrate the Ratatouille
After the ratatouille has had a chance to fully cool, spread the mixture on parchment paper on the dehydrating panels. Set the temperature to 135 degrees and allow to dry for 8 hours. At 8 hours, rotate the panels and allow to dry for another 8 hours. Dry time will vary greatly among different dehydrators but when finished, it should be a flexible, bark like substance.
Allow to cool fully and store in an air-tight container. We freeze all of our dehydrated meals in ziploc containers, as I cook with oil and oil is the enemy of dehydrating. If you would like to make it shelf stable, reduce the oil in the recipe by half.
Part Three: Prepare and Eat on the Trail
Preparing on the trail is super easy! Mix equal parts ratatouille and water (ex, 1 cup ratatouille and 1 cup water). Allow to sit for about 5 minutes, then bring to a boil and let boil for 1 minute. Alternatively, if you are cooking pasta, cook the pasta then remove the pasta from the bowl, reserving the water. Dump enough water until you have about a 1-1 water to dried ratatouille ratio, add the ratatouille and boil for 1 minute. Then turn off your stove, cover the pot and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
Enjoy on its own, over cous cous or our favorite, ravioli!