Pastelón (the Mama Milly’s way)
This classic Puerto Rican dish is a casserole... some might even say our version of a lasagna. While there are no noodles, it’s layers of maduros, sweet fried plantain, and picadillo, a seasoned ground beef mixture. The top layer is set with beaten eggs and in my family like many, we layer the top with cheese. I’ve also substituted ground turkey for ground beef and it still comes out delicious. I’ve seen many versions with green beans or raisins in the ground meat, both of which I have never added. While each family has their own take on pastelón, it is the definition of comfort food, so any time is a good time to prepare and serve it. If you'd like, leave out the cheese, or add in 1/2 cup raisins or 1 cup frozen cut green beans. There is a Dominican version of this dish too, where the plantain is boiled and mashed rather than fried.
You can take some short cuts or prepare in advance- I have used frozen fried maduros and it still turns out good. You can also cook the meat filling in advance, let it cool down, transfer to a container and place in the fridge for up to 3 days. Then on the day of serving, fry the plantains, layer and bake. A little salad of avocado and tomato would be a perfect side dish to this hearty main.
- 1 small bunch fresh cilantro (save 1 tbs chopped to garnish on top
- 1 small green bell or cubanelle pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 small white or yellow onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons Mojo Garlic Sauce
- 10 pimento-stuffed Spanish green olives, thinly sliced into rounds
- 1- 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 2 teaspoons of adobo
- 2 teaspoons of sazón
- 1 small can of tomato sauce
- 4 very ripe plantains (blackened skin)
- 2 cups shredded or 6-8 slices low-moisture mozzarella cheese
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- To a food processor, add the cilantro and green bell or cubanelle peppers. Pulse until combined and a little vegetable oil can help smooth the consistency.
Note: I am alluding to a sort of sofrito base here. I use my own homemade sofrito. You can also just chop these ingredients and add the peppers when you sauté the onions and garlic sauce.
- Add 3 tablespoons of mojo garlic sauce to a pan and sauté. Add the diced onions (and peppers if desired).
- Add the ground beef to the pan and cook until no longer pink, about 7 minutes.
- Add the sliced green olives, 1 teaspoon of adobo seasoning, the sazón seasoning, and the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed into the meat, about 7 minutes.
- Peel the plantains, cut in half crosswise, then slice each half lengthwise to get 4 thin slices.
- Heat oil for frying over medium-high heat until the oil starts to shimmer. Test one plantain slice in the oil--if it bubbles and sizzles, the oil is ready.
- Fry the plantains in batches until they are lightly browned on the edges and tender in the centers, 4–5 minutes, turning occasionally with a fork. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Season on both sides with salt.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Arrange a single layer of plantains in the bottom of a baking dish of your choice. Using a slotted spoon, top with about half of the meat mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella over the meat sauce. Repeat with more plantains, the remaining meat sauce, and another cup of mozzarella. Finish with the remaining plantains.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch of adobo seasoning.
- Pour the egg mixture over the plantains, then cover the baking dish with foil.
- Bake the pastelón until the eggs are set and the cheese is bubbly, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn the oven to broil. Uncover the dish and sprinkle the remaining cup of mozzarella over the top. Broil for 5 minutes, or until cheese on top is golden brown. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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