Beef and Plantain Casserole (Pastelón)

Here’s a Caribbean take on lasagna and possibly the most delectable casserole dish you’ve ever tasted. It’s what happens when ground beef is seasoned in sofrito (Puerto Rican marinade) and layered with sweet ripe Caribbean plantains. It’s more than a recipe, it’s a celebration of Puerto Rican and Dominican culture. I provide you with a recipe for homemade sofrito but you can shortcut with sofrito from a jar (see Tip). Serve the casserole with crusty bread and a side salad. I was introduced to pastelon by a roommate in college (Jenny) who was Puerto Rican, it was our celebratory meal. Good grades, job offers, we made pastelon!
Yield 8 Servings Prep. Time 45 min Cooking Time 75 min Total Time 120 min


Here are the following ingredients:

Sofrito (see Tip*)

  • 2 heads garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) drained capers
  • ½ cup (125 mL) green olives, pitted
  • 1 large onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 EACH sweet green and red pepper, cut into quarters
  • 3 jarred cherry pimientos, drained, seeded
  • 8 oz (250 g) fresh culantro leaves (see Tip**), 1 inch (2.5 cm) of bottom stems removed
  • 1 cup (250 mL) packed cilantro leaves, chopped

Beef Filling

  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) tomato sauce
  • 1 pkg (1.14 oz/40 g) Sazón with saffron (store-bought or about 1½ tsp/7 mL recipe in Tip***)
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar
  • 2 lb (1 kg) Lean Ground Beef
  • Seasoned salt


  • 4 large ripe plantains (yellow with black spots)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) fine sea salt


  • 3 cups (750 mL) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped, divided
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) softened butter
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cup (500 mL) tomato sauce

Shopping List

Here are the following shopping items to buy:


Follow these cooking methods/directions:

  1. Sofrito: Combine garlic, capers and olives in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Gradually add green and red peppers, pimientos, culantro and cilantro, in batches, and purée until it resembles a smooth dipping salsa. Measure out 1 cup (250 mL) sofrito for the Beef Filling and store remaining in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
  2. Beef Filling: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Cook carrot, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup (250 mL) sofrito, tomato sauce, Sazón seasoning and vinegar. Add ground beef and cook, stirring often and using back of spoon to break up meat into small chunks, for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned. Add seasoned salt to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Plantains: Place plantains on a cutting board and trim off both ends; discard ends. Slide the tip of a knife just under the edge of the peel, without cutting into the flesh, to remove peel; discard peel. Cut each plantain in half crosswise then carefully cut each half lengthwise into four ¼-inch (0.5 cm) thick slices.
  4. Heat oil over medium-high heat in another large skillet. Fry plantain slices, in batches, turning once, for about 6 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon; sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
  5. Casserole: Combine mozzarella, Parmesan and 2 tbsp (30 mL) of the parsley in a medium bowl. Brush a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 23 cm) shallow baking dish with butter. Divide the plantains into 3 portions; arrange one portion in a single layer in bottom of the dish. Spread half the beef mixture over plantains, then sprinkle with one-third of the cheese mixture. Layer with another portion of plantains, then remaining beef mixture and half the remaining cheese mixture. Arrange remaining plantains on top, pour beaten eggs over the plantains, as a binder.
  6. Cover with foil and bake in preheated 350˚F oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle remaining cheese over top and broil for 1 minute or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, heat tomato sauce over medium heat in a small saucepan until hot and bubbling. Serve casserole garnished with sauce and remaining parsley.