Pastelón is a Puerto Rican and Dominican dish, which is a layered casserole made with cheese, plantains, and a tomato-based beef filling containing peppers, onions and seasonings. The dish is similar to Italian lasagna in its structure while its ingredients give a distinct Central American twist. Between and on the islands of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Pastelón has many variations.
The inclusion of fried plantains alongside the savory mixture of beef and seasonings gives Pastelón a sweet and salty flavor. This taste combination is very popular among Puerto Ricans, who sometimes will also add raisins to further the sweetness. Other recipes call for taro, which is cooked and mixed in with the plantains.
Generally, any meltable cheese can be used for Pastelón. Mozzarella is a popular choice due to its mild flavor and tendency to melt easily. In some areas of Puerto Rico, though, cheese is not used in the recipe at all. In the Dominican Republic, using cheeses such as gouda and cheddar is common.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Pastelón is a relatively new dish, first appearing in a Puerto Rican cookbook in 1948.
Although the origin cannot be confirmed, food and family historians propose that this came from neither Puerto Rico nor the Dominican Republic, but actually originated in New York City. There, Puerto Rican and Dominican families shared space and culture with Italian families. They would have learned about lasagna and its process but likely added their own ingredients to better suit their palettes. This origin is also still being contested.
It is because of the layering of the casserole that this dish is sometimes dubbed the “Puerto Rican Lasagna.”
The main differences between the Dominican and Puerto Rican recipes lie in how the plantains are prepared. While both the origin and the best way to make this dish have been debated since its conception, it is hard to go wrong with either version.
Pastelón is a Puerto Rican and Dominican dish, which is a layered casserole made with cheese, plantains, and a tomato-based beef filling containing peppers, onions and seasonings.
- Plantains, medium-ripe - 4
- Canola oil - ⅔ cup
- Cilantro, small bunch - 1
- Culantro, small bunch - 1
- Garlic cloves - 2
- Green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped - 1
- Red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped - 1
- Yellow onion, chopped - 1
- Canola oil - 1 tbsp
- Ground beef, lean - 1 lb
- Kosher salt - 1 tsp
- Black pepper - 1 tsp.
- Ground sweet paprika - 1 tsp
- Ground cumin - ½ tsp
- Dried oregano - 1 tsp
- Tomato Sauce - 1 can
- White wine (or water) - ¼ cup
- Tomato paste - 3 tbsp
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Mozzarella cheese, divided - 3 cups
- Eggs - 2
- Unsalted butter - 1 tbsp
- Pimento-stuffed spanish olives, thinly sliced - 5
- Prepare the plantains. Peel and quarter plantains: first cut in half crosswise, then lengthwise. You should get four slices from each plantain.
- In a large skillet or cast-iron pan, heat up the oil.
- Arrange the plantains as batches so they will flat beside each other in the pan– this will take cooking them in a couple of batches. Fry until the outside is a deep golden brown with a soft inside, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside on a paper towel, allowing them to cool. Strain oil to reuse.
- Prepare the sofrito. Put onion, bell peppers, oregano, cumin, garlic, cilantro, and culantro into your food processor. Pulse until combined. Consistency should be a coarse purée.
- Prepare the picadillo. In a large pan, heat up ¼ cup canola oil over medium heat. Add the sofrito and fry, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes until it begins to thicken and brown.
- Add in the beef, cumin, paprika, oregano, and salt and pepper.
- Cook until beef is no longer pink, 6-8 minutes. Turn off the heat and remove excess grease from the skillet before proceeding.
- Heat the pan again to medium heat. Add wine, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Stir occasionally until the mixture begins reducing, around 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and stir in olives.
- Assemble the pastelón. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease 8x8 inch baking dish.
- Lay a single layer of plantains in the bottom of the baking dish, crosswise. Layer about half of the picadillo on top and then 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat this order of layers one more time, using the remainder of the plantains and picadillo in the second layer.
- Whisk eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the egg mixture on top of the dish.
- Cover and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the eggs are cooked.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella on top.
- Broil again for 5 minutes until the cheese is golden brown.
- Let set for five minutes, cut into squares, and serve hot.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 862Total Fat: 53gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 35gCholesterol: 179mgSodium: 1108mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 6gSugar: 29gProtein: 39g