Nothing is more tempting (unless you’re a vegetarian) than ground beef with tomato sauce, in whatever form it takes. There’s some sort of magical synergy between ground beef and tomatoes that results in some of the most irresistible dishes, whether it’s chili, meatloaf, sloppy joe or meaty pasta sauce. Cuban Picadillo, I recently and happily discovered, is one of those irresistible tomatoey ground beef dishes. The sweet and sour elements are what sets this one apart – sweet raisins, salty olives, tangy vinegar and smokey paprika. Picadillo has been called the ultimate Cuban comfort food, but I think “comfort” is too mild an adjective to describe a dish with so many layers of exciting flavor. I call it amazing.
There’s nothing complicated about this dish. It all happens in one skillet, starting with a sauté of chopped onions, garlic and green pepper. After the vegetables soften a bit, the meat is added and browned. Then the tomatoes, vinegar, spices, olives and raisins are added. Everything simmered for 15 minutes until all of the flavors have melded.
It’s traditional in Cuba to serve Picadillo with rice and beans, a totally delicious combination. I also love this dish served over mashed potatoes. I make my mashed potatoes with no dairy, just boiled potatoes mashed with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little of the potato cooking-water. The light and fluffy bed of olive oil mashed potatoes is perfect for soaking up all the lovely, rich picadillo sauce.
There are so many other delicious ways to enjoy Picadillo. It makes a great filling for tacos, empanadas, or burritos. Or how about stuffing poblano peppers with picadillo and making chiles rellenos picadillo, as they do in Mexico? Doesn’t that sound incredible?!
I hope you enjoy this tasty Cuban stew. It’s one of those great recipes that’s delicious enough for company and easy enough for weeknight dinner.
As always, I’m hoping you will cook this and come back to leave a comment and let me know how you like it.
Here’s the recipe for Cuban Picadillo:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and chopped
- 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 28 ounce can imported plum tomatoes
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste (half of a 6-ounce can)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup dark raisins
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon (mild) smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup pimiento stuffed green olives
- Suggested Accompaniment: rice or mashed potatoes, black beans
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large deep skillet or dutch oven. Add onion, garlic and green pepper. Cook for 5-6 minute, until vegetables start to soften. Add beef and salt. Allow meat to brown, breaking up clumps with the end of a spatula or wooden spoon, to achieve a crumbly texture.
- Add plum tomatoes, crushing them or tearing them into pieces with your hands as you drop them in. Pour in the plum tomato juice from the can too. Add tomato paste and stir through. Add vinegar, raisins, cumin, smoked paprika, bay leaves and olives. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stew is slightly thickened and the flavors are melded. Remove bay leaves.
- Serve with mashed potatoes or rice. Black beans are a great accompaniment too.