Pastelón de Arroz (Rice Casserole)

Pastelón de Arroz (Rice and Beef Casserole)

A few years back, as part of an advertisement campaign, a certain local company had a funny commercial in which a newlywed husband called his wife on his way home to ask what she was cooking for supper. We never see the wife, but the husband gleefully repeats what she says:

– “Pastelón de arroz?!”

The following day the same scene repeats itself, with the husband slightly less enthusiastically repeating what his wife says on the phone:

– “Pastelón de arroz!”

Pastelón de Arroz (Rice and Beef Casserole)

As the story progresses, and it seems obvious that the wife cannot cook anything else than this dish, we hear him repeating with increasing despair:

– “Oh, pastelón de arroz…”

This story is apropos of nothing really, my husband and I just found the commercial hillarious, and every time I cook this delicious casserole (not really that often, in my defense)  my own husband jokingly imitates the husband in the commercial and exclaims:

“Pastelón de arroz?!

Pastelón de Arroz (Rice and Beef Casserole)

The story ends with the husband hastily making a U-turn, after the umpteen time he hears “pastelón de arroz”,  while telling his wife that he is in a meeting at the office and to “give it to Fido, I am sure he loves it”.

It’s a rare commercial that we remember nearly a decade after it aired, but this one was funny. It was like the husband was trapped in his own culinary groundhog-day reality.

OK, so it doesn’t take much to amuse us.

Aunt Clara
Pastelón de Arroz Recipe (Rice Casserole)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
There seems to be as many versions of this dish as there are homes in the Dominican Rep. This Pastelón de Arroz Recipe (Rice Casserole) is my family's.
Serves: 6 servings
  • 6 cups of arroz blanco (see recipe)
  • 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lb [0.45 kg] of ground pork
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1½ cups of finely chopped spinach
  • 1 teaspoon of basil finely chopped (may be omitted)
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce (not the same as the one listed below)
  • 1 onion diced into very small cubes
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper, or to taste
  • A pinch of oregano
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1½ tablespoon of all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups of evaporated or whole milk
  • ½ teaspoon of salt, or to taste
For the sauce
  • 12 large tomatoes, seeded, peeled and diced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • A pinch of oregano
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper, or to taste
For the filling
  1. Mix the ground meat with onions, basil, oregano, pepper and salt to taste.
  2. In a shallow pan heat oil over medium heat.
  3. Add the meat and brown.
  4. Add two tablespoons of water and the tomato paste.
  5. Simmer covered over low heat. Stir frequently.
  6. When the meat is cooked through (about 7 minutes) season with salt to taste.
  7. Remove from the heat and reserve.
For the white sauce
  1. In a separate pan heat up the butter over low heat.
  2. Add the flour and stir vigorously until the two are well mixed.
  3. Add the milk and stir until it reaches a uniform consistency.
  4. Add half the cheese and keep stirring until it becomes a thick cream.
  5. Remove from the heat and reserve.
For the rice with spinach
  1. Mix half the rice and half the cheese sauce with the spinach.
For the rice with cheese
  1. Mix the other half of the rice with the remaining cheese sauce.
To assemble
  1. Apply oil to a 4-inch tall baking pan (this oil is not in the list ingredients).
  2. Heat up the oven to 350 °F (175 ºC).
  3. Spread the rice mixed with the white sauce. Press down.
  4. Cover with the meat and top with the rice with the spinach. Press down.
  5. Top with the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake until the top starts browning.
For the tomato sauce
  1. Heat the olive oil over low heat.
  2. Cook and stir the garlic until it is cooked through, be careful that it doesn't burn.
  3. Add the tomatoes and oregano.
  4. Cover and simmer over low heat until the tomatoes are cooked through.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve the casserole with the tomato sauce on the side.
The rice is measured cooked.
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{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Yvette Pagan October 3, 2014, 9:05 AM

    Aunt Clara, first of all I really want to thank you for sharing with us our Dominican recipes. I am one of your biggest fans. I made this Pastelón de Arroz last night and it was outstanding!!
    My husband loved it! Thank you.

  • Rosa September 2, 2014, 10:02 PM

    Hola Tia Clara :) First I like to thank you for all the great recipes and keeping me connected to my Domincaness ;)). I need to double this recipe and will be preparing it ahead of time to bring to a gathering. My question is, at what temperature and for how long should I reheat it so that the rice does not dry out. Thank you in advance.

  • Laura May 24, 2013, 11:26 PM

    Is this prepared in a 9 x 13 pan? Also, can it be assembled ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it? I’d like to make it for a party. Thanks!

    • Aunt Clara May 25, 2013, 9:14 PM

      Yes, but it has to be at least 3 inches high. And yes, you can refrigerate it and bake right before serving.

  • Madelyn February 1, 2013, 10:42 PM

    This recipe looks very nice… my best friend’s family is from the Dominican Republic and her mom used to make a version of this, but with chicken in the middle. I remember it being sooo tasty.

    Now that I am vegetarian, I make a version using roasted tomatoes and eggplants. I wish I could include you the link… maybe your husband will like it. And maybe, just maybe, he might “joke” using the first version of the husband in the TV commercial. verdad???

  • Corey December 31, 2012, 2:39 AM

    What a nice way of serving rice. I would like to try it.

  • Julia | December 27, 2012, 7:42 PM

    The rice casserole looks delicious. Love that it is literally stuffed with spinach!

  • Suzanne Perazzini December 27, 2012, 5:38 PM

    I love the look of the rice casserole but I am wondering what the advert was actually selling.

    • Aunt Clara December 27, 2012, 6:05 PM

      :) It was for a cable company, extolling the wonders of having “variety”, or more channels.

  • Melissa B. { hungryfoodlove } December 26, 2012, 2:47 PM

    This brings back very good memories. When I was in college I would make Pastelon de Arroz all the time with leftover rice, even a single serving pastelon was good for me. I should try this again. I have not made pastelon de arroz in so long. Thanks!

    • Aunt Clara December 27, 2012, 11:53 AM

      Ah, college food. Good times, good times. :)

      • inez diaz November 21, 2014, 4:30 PM

        Do you need to use fresh spinach or frozen chopped spinach?

  • Sandra Paez December 26, 2012, 2:26 PM

    This recipe looks delish…I can’t wait to make it.

  • Pilar July 10, 2012, 9:25 AM

    I can’t wait to make this recipe.. I still remember that commercial dike pastelon de arroz! Otra vez lol

  • Hilda Dietch October 21, 2011, 3:30 PM

    Great recipe!