A vegetable fricandò is a tasty mix of summer vegetables that are cooked together in a pan. It also goes by other names, including ratatouille (in French) and fricò, and it is typical of the Italian region where I come from, Emilia Romagna. There are many variations, and different vegetables can be used. One classic uses only peppers, with potatoes and olives.
The fricandò follows ideas described by the Romagnolo poet Olindo Guerrini, in his book “L’arte di utilizzare gli avanzi della mensa” (translation: “The art of cooking with leftovers”). Guerrini was born in 1845 and the book was published in 1918. During this period, ordinary people could not afford to waste food, so cooking with leftovers was an economic necessity. But this also led to the discovery of many delicious new dishes, such as meatballs, ragu, supplì, pancakes, risottos, salads, omelettes, … and fricandò.
In the recipe below I use onion, eggplants, peppers, zucchini, ripe tomatoes, and plant-based sausages. The result is a rich and nutritious dish. If you want, you can omit sausages. Alternatively –and more in the peasant tradition of Romagna – you can use actual meat sausages or leftover meat.
1 red pepper
2 ripe, medium tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 cup of vegetable broth or warm water
Thick-bottomed pan (I used a wok)
Peel the onion, cut it into thin slices, and put the slices in a large pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil; cover with a lid and cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
Cut the eggplant into cubes, add them to the pan with onions, cover with a lid and cook.
Meanwhile, clean the pepper by removing the internal seeds and pith, cut it into strips, and add it to the other vegetables in the pan.
Then, cut zucchini into round slices (or cubes) and add them to the pan.
Finally, chop tomatoes into large slices, then add them to the pan along with the tomato paste and broth (or water).
Cover with the lid and cook over low heat for 25-30 minutes (or longer, if you like). Stir the mixture every now and then.
When the vegetables are ready, season with salt if necessary – be sure to taste before adding salt, because the sausage may already be salted. Add ground pepper, and basil leaves, oregano, or other aromatic herbs as you like.
Remove the vegetables from the pan and place them on a plate. Cut the sausage into slices, put a tablespoon of oil in the pan where you cooked the vegetables (no need to clean it, the sausage will absorb the taste of the vegetables), and quickly brown the sausage for about 2-3 minutes.
Add the vegetables previously set aside and mix.
Your vegetable fricandò is ready! You can taste it immediately, but it is even better if you let it rest for a few hours.
Instead of two fresh tomatoes you can use canned peeled tomatoes, tomato pulp, or 10 cherry tomatoes.
Fricandò is excellent warm or at room temperature; you can serve it both as a side dish and as a condiment for pasta or bruschetta.