My favorite Puerto Rican dish is pastelon. It’s the casserole version of the Puerto Rican chuchifrito, called “pionono.” The ultimate comfort food, pastelon can be described as the Puerto Rican lasagna. Sweet fried plantains on the bottom, savory picadillo (seasoned ground beef) in the middle and melted spicy pepper jack cheese on top. Every bite is a melody of flavors. Pastelon is a gluten free dish and can be made vegetarian or vegan very easily by using beans or tofu instead of meat and vegetables instead of cheese.
Warning: This dish is a crowd pleaser, I always prepare at least two pans and it always goes quickly, often with leaving guests wanting more. If you do not think you will eat two pans, prepare two then freeze one and bake it it at a later date for an easy dinner.
Ingredients: One Large Pan Serves 8 to 10 people
- 7 to 10 Yellow Plantains (You can also purchase frozen amarillos.)
- 1 ½ to 2 lbs ground beef (To make recipe vegetarian, replace the beef with beans or tofu.)
- 1 Jar of Capers
- 1 Onion
- 1 Clove of Garlic
- 1 Red & Green Pepper
- 1 Bunch of Cilantro
- Small can of tomato sauce
- Spices: Cumin, Oregano, Salt, Achiote (or Annatto)
- 1 Package of Pepper Jack Cheese
- Vegetable or Olive Oil
- Two eggs
- Four tablespoons of Water
- Aluminum Foil & one large baking dish
Make Sofrito: In a food processor mix up half an onion, half the cilantro bunch, a clove of garlic and both the green and red peppers.
Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan, add the sofrito and began to sauté.
As the sofrito is starting to cook, dice up the rest of the onion and add to the pan. Sprinkle salt to your tasting and cook until onion pieces are soft and clear.
Chop up two cloves of garlic and add to pan, sauté a few more minutes and then add cumin, achiote, oregano, salt to taste and capers.
As the ingredients in the pan begin to cook together add the tomato sauce and ground beef. Sprinkle more cumin, oregano and salt to your taste. Mix it all together.
Preparing Yellow Plantains:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
As the beef cooks on a medium-low heat, begin to peel and cut the plantain in one inch slices.
Spray pan with cooking spray, then line bottom of pan with plantain slices.
Put pan in the oven for 15-20 minutes (until the plantains are slightly browning).
As the plantains are in the oven and the ground beef is cooking, begin to grate the pepper jack cheese.
Assemble the Dish:
Scramble the eggs and add water to mix.
Take the plantains out of the oven (keep the oven on at 350 degrees.)
Pour the picadillo evenly over plantains.
Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the beef.
Pour the egg and water mixture evenly over the cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and put it oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Remove aluminum foil and bake uncovered for an additional 20 minutes.
Once the cheese on top begins to brown, remove baking dish from the oven. Let it sit for 10 minutes, cut up and serve!
You can serve pastelon with rice and beans and/or a simple salad. Because I live in Pittsburgh, I like to serve my pastelon with Cafe Con Leche’s famous Pittsburgh Latino salad for a cross cultural twist!