Oh Rats! A Fun Foodie Movie – (with Organic Ratatouille Pasta Recipe)

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From Lisa Barnes

I rarely get to the movies, and when I do it’s now to take my almost 4 year old. His first trip to the cinema was to see Cars. He loved it as did my husband and I. Since we saw Cars, last year, I’ve been secretly waiting to see the next Pixar movie …”Ratatouille“.

I do not like rats. I don’t really like anything that scurries. That even includes squirrels. But a rat with taste, who wants to be a chef and lives in Paris? I thought it was a clever premise and wanted to give an animated rodent a chance. Although I didn’t want my son to like him too much and ask me for a pet rat.

As the movie’s opening became closer I read articles about the painstaking process of getting food to look appetizing in animation. The article in the San Francisco Chronicle outlines our obsession (especially the Bay Area’s) with food and years of training the Pixar team went through. Not computer or graphics training, but culinary training. And not just by anyone – but Chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry. To me this sounded like a great job perk. The team also traveled to France to see how a true Michelin star restaurant kitchen was set up. I really wanted to see the movie now.

I was so eager to see the movie, we went the first week it opened. My son hadn’t even heard of it, but when I said we could go to the “big movie theater”, he was ready. But it wasn’t just families with children in the audience. There was a large contingency of adults without children. And while these people may have been Pixar fans, I think they were mostly foodies. Even the teaser before the movie included a new movie entitled “No Reservations” (remake of Germany’s “Mostly Martha”) which stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart as chefs.

As far as I was concerned, all the animation and food training paid off. I loved the movie. I even loved Remy the rat. Any rodent who decides to walk upright because he doesn’t want his paws to get dirty so he can taste good food, is o.k. with me. The story was sometimes above my son’s head. But it was his second trip ever to the “really big screen” and he enjoyed it. Actually, he liked Collette, the motorcycle riding woman chef (played by Janeane Garofalo).

I wonder how many of us who were in the theater are now recipe testing ratatouille dishes that can compare to the way Thomas Keller created it to be animated for the movie. Those lovely, steaming stacks of well placed vegetables… I’m just afraid it won’t live up to the beauty and perfection of computer animation. Please share if you’ve discovered the great noveau ratatouille recipe. In the meantime, here’s a ratatouille pasta recipe from my book:

Organic Ratatouille Pasta

Traditional ratatouille is a French recipe of stewed eggplant and tomatoes. This version adds a few other vegetables and serves as a chunky sauce for kids’ favorite pasta.

1/2 medium organic eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 2 cups

1 medium organic zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 1 cup

1 cup (6 ounces) sliced organic mushrooms

1 medium organic red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 pound favorite pasta shape (penne, wagon wheels, rotelle)

Sauce:

½ cup Pomi chopped tomatoes

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking pan with foil. Toss vegetables, oil, salt and pepper in prepared baking pan, so vegetables are coated by oil. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender.

Combine sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Drain pasta and return to cooking pot. Add vegetables and sauce to pasta and toss to combine.

*Ratatouille Pizza. What do children like better than pasta?…Pizza! This sauce works great on top of pizza too.
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Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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