Around the world each country has their own version of a classic comfort dish and to the Puerto Ricans and the Dominicans, Pastelón is that dish. Pastelón is a Latin Caribbean casserole dish layered like an Italian lasagna or a Greek moussaka made with sweet ripe plantains, ground beef, tomato-based sauce and cheese. It is the ultimate in comfort food, so any time is a good time to prepare and serve this dish.
Why is pastelon so amazing? Because it’s the ultimate marriage of sweet and savory. The beef filling is simmered in an aromatic, savory tomato sauce. Some people like to add olives and raisins to their filling for surprise bombs of brine and sweet. The filling is layered with sweet fried plantains and stretchy delicious cheese. It’s probably one of the most amazing things you will ever eat.
What is pastelón de plátano maduro?
Pastelón de plátano maduro is a generous size layered dish consisting of staple Latin Caribbean foods such as yellow plantains, garlic, onions, cheese, butter and meat. Some regions add other ingredients to their pastelon recipe, such as wine, nutmeg and raisins, to intensify the sweetness, or eggplant for texture. The plantains however, are the main layer of the pastelón and are lightly fried, then baked. Mozzarella and ricotta can be cooked in a Béchamel sauce to be mixed with the ground meat and beaten eggs to hold the meat in place. Meat is then layered on the fried plantains then baked. When done, pastelón is garnished with parsley and parmesan cheese.
This Dominican recipe can also be prepared with potatoes to make a pastelon de papa.
Plantains are a staple ingredient in Puerto Rican and Dominican food as well as other Caribbean and tropical cuisines. Most people know of sweet plantains, but you can eat and cook with either ripe plantains (sweet) or green plantains. Both are delicious.
What is the origin of plantains?
They spread further across the world thanks to Arab sailors who planted banana and plantain seeds along the east coast of Africa. Although Portuguese explorers introduced the crop to the new world in 1516.
African slaves played a key role in making it a central feature of the continent’s cuisine, mainly in the Caribbean, Central America and the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines.
For better or for worse, bananas are one of the world’s most popular fruits. Plantains and bananas only grow in temperate climates and it’s estimated that 12 million tons are cultivated every year. 10 tons come from Latin America alone.
The banana (Musa cavendish) and the plantain (Musa paradisiaca) are two varieties of the same fruit, a long-leaved plant of the Musaceae family. Each region has its own varieties and peculiar names. In some regions such as Mexico, Central America, and Spain, plátano is the word used for both banana and plantain, and the plantain is distinguished by the name plátano macho. In the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, they call the banana guineo, while the Venezuelans call it cambur. Dominicans call fried plantain slices fritos or tostones.
What is the difference between plantains and bananas?
Many people confuse plantains with bananas. Although they look a lot like green bananas and are a close relative, plantains are very different.
The main difference between bananas and plantains is that the former has more sugar and less starch, while the latter has more starch than sugar and has to be cooked before eating. A plantain’s taste depends on how ripe it is – the riper, the sweeter. Bananas are usually eaten raw, but can also be baked, fried or boiled in a variety of recipes. In India, for example, banana features in savory dishes.
Bananas are a good food for growing children: nutritious, an excellent source of energy, rich in vitamins A, C and K, and potassium, as well as other minerals. Green plantains are a better source of energy than bananas and are an ideal snack for athletes.
Generally speaking, bananas and plantains were bred to be different because they are used for different reasons. Because plantains often play a role in the kitchen, it evolved to excel as an ingredient in various dishes. And it shows up in many Cuban dishes, next to rice and black beans. Cubans use fried sweet plantains or tostones (fried green plantains) and rarely eat the plantain raw (sweetness arrives in a plantain when it starts blackening). It is traditional that rice, beans and fried plantains partner together with the main dish.
How do you store plantains and bananas?
Most plantain and banana-lovers know that they should be stored at room temperature. To slow down the ripening process, wrap them in a newspaper and keep them in the fridge. It’s also possible to peel and slice plantains for tostones and store them in the freezer. Some even fry them once and store them to save time.
Whether fried, boiled, sliced or mashed into a mangú (which a Dominican would never call “purée”), mofongo or as a side dish to almost anything, Dominicans remain faithful to their plantains and seek them out and taste them everywhere they go.
Aside from mangú, pastelón de plátano maduro (ripe plantain casserole) is possibly the second most popular plantain recipe in the Dominican Republic.
Where to buy plantains?
If you’re lucky, you can find ripe plantains at your local Latin grocery or Asian market. If you don’t have either close by you, can buy green plantains at almost any grocery store. Unfortunately, most local grocery stores will toss ripe plantains, which is very sad. On a few occasions, I have gotten the ripe plantains by just asking a store employee if they have any they are getting ready to discard.
Depending on where you live will determine how long it takes a plantain to ripen. Warmer temperatures will ripen faster than cooler temperatures. During the winter months, you can place them in a paper bag and put them in the oven.
At first glance, truly ripe plantains will look like they have gone bad but ripe plantains are supposed to look that way. They should be blacker than yellow and tender to the touch. Ripe plantains are peeled similarly to green plantains but much easier.
Pastelón and its variant piñón from Puerto Rico is a casserole dish layered like Italian lasagna. The Dominican pastelón is known as banana lasagna.
What is the difference between pastelón and piñon?
Some people may say that this is piñon and not pastelon. However, piñon typically will have a layer of canned green beans and the plantains may be mashed. In reality, different regions have different preparations or names for similar dishes. Piñon is typically from the south and west regions of Puerto Rico, and pastelón is from the east and northern regions.
In Puerto Rico and many parts of the Caribbean, sweet, ripe plantains, also known as maduros, are a common accompaniment to beef, chicken, seafood and other savory foods. There’s something about that flavor combination that just works. It’s also one of those foods that instantly reminds you of the Caribbean tropics.
Dominicans love their pastelón de plátano maduro (ripe plantain casserole), which is ironic, because apart from politicians, in this country there is nothing that is more maligned than the plantain.
There are a lot of dishes that make you think of home, but, there is no doubt that one of my favorite is pastelón. It’s one of those dishes that I don’t get to enjoy often so when I make it, it’s a real treat. If you’re not familiar with pastelón, your life is incomplete. It’s basically a lasagna but, in my opinion, better. In place of noodles you use sweet fried plantains. It’s a healthy and delicious meal.
Pastelón de plátano maduro is a typical dish from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It can be used as the main dish, with a salad on the side or you can have it as a side dish. It’s an easy to make recipe. Enjoy it!
This recipe is validated by our Dominican culinary expert, Chef Carlos Estevez. Chef Carlos is the Caribbean Director for the Professional Gastronomic Council of the Americas, as well as the President for the Bocuse D’Or Academy of the Dominican Republic.
- 1 large red onion , diced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic , crushed
- 1 lb beef , ground
- 1 red bell pepper , chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 bunch cilantro , chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic , crushed
- 4 lb tomatoes (ripe), peeled, seeded and diced
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 7 plantains , ripe
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 5 oz. queso amarillo (or cheddar cheese or mozzarella), grated
- 10 tablespoons butter
- In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over low heat.
- Add the garlic and cook over medium heat until softened, being careful not to burn it.
- Add the tomatoes and bell pepper.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are tender.
- Remove from the heat and mix in the blender.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the ground beef and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add all the other ingredients and mix well.
- Finally add the previously prepared tomato sauce and cook covered for 15 minutes.
- Peel the plantains.
- Boil them in enough water to cover the bananas with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Cook them covered for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Spread 4 tablespoons of butter at the bottom of a 6x9 inch baking dish.
- Remove the plantains from the water, drain them and, in a salad bowl, mix them with the remaining butter until they become a smooth and creamy purée.
- Place half of the plantain puree at the bottom of the baking dish and spread evenly with a spatula.
- Place a layer of ground meat in the sauce on top.
- Garnish with half of the cheese.
- Place the other half of the plantain purée on top of it, spreading it evenly over a spatula.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- Bake and cook until the cheese is golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Wait 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding.