Pastelón de Harina de Maíz (Cornmeal & Beef Casserole)

Pastelón de Harina de Maíz (Cornmeal & Beef Casserole)

“Is it because you don’t love me anymore?” Ah, my husband, always so funny.

About a decade and a half ago I was trying to find my culinary style. For the first time in my life I was in charge of cooking for someone else, and that someone else turned out to be somebody from a culinary culture far removed from my own. Luckily my husband, also raised on staples, turned out to be as adventurous as me. We are always willing to give things a try (within reason).

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Fast forward to today and things have changed considerably. Both our cooking repertoires have evolved significantly,  we’ve tried new cuisines, been around a bit (actually, a heck of a lot, in my husband’s case). Things were left behind.

This week we had dinner  at Noah, a restaurant locals know and like well. One of their dishes, beef on a base of sweet cornmeal, brought memories of our first kitchen adventures as a couple, and how this dish was always a favorite of my meat-lover husband. All of a sudden he noticed I hadn’t cooked this in nearly half a decade, which prompted the question at the top of this post.

I think this is one of those dishes that once tried,  you’ll definitely add to your own repertoire. It just looks refined, while still being simple and easy to prepare, not to mention that it makes for the perfect dish for potlucks and leftover meals.

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Think of this recipe as the lovechild of polenta and lasagna. It combines the best of both worlds, but with an added twist: as in many of our dishes, this one combines savory and sweet flavors. For the filling, you can use chicken, vegetables or beef (or just use cheese). Beef should be your first choice though; it just goes well in this combination.

For the record, I don’t think there is an ounce of Italian in this dish, it is purely, unadulterated, industrial-grade Dominican.

I’d love to hear what you think of mixing savory and sweet ingredients in a meal.

By the way, the answer to the question is “I still do”.

Aunt Clara
Pastelón de Harina de Maíz Recipe (Cornmeal & Beef Casserole)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Think of Pastelón de Harina de Maíz (Cornmeal & Beef Casserole) as the lovechild of polenta and lasagna. It combines the best of both worlds.
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
Tomato sauce
  • 6 cups of fresh tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 10 large tomatoes)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1.5 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • A pinch of dry oregano leaves, crushed
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
Filling
  • 2 lb [0.90 kg] of ground beef
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 14 teaspoon of freshly-cracked pepper, or to taste
  • A pinch of dry oregano leaves, crushed
  • 1½ teaspoon of salt, or to taste
Cornmeal layers and assembly
  • 2 cups of cornmeal (polenta can also be used)
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese (mozzarella is also a good choice)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ cup of raisins (optional)
  • 1½ teaspoon of salt
  • Extra oil for greasing the pan
Instructions
To prepare the tomato sauce
  1. Heat oil and cook and stir tomatoes, garlic, onion and a pinch of oregano, add water and sugar. Simmer over low heat until you obtain a thick (chunky) sauce. Season with salt to taste. You should obtain about 6 cups of sauce. Set aside.
To make the filling
  1. In a skillet heat oil over low heat. Cook and stir the onion, bell pepper, garlic, and oregano. Stir in the ground beef. When the meat starts to release liquid, add two cups of tomato sauce previously made (set aside remaining sauce). Simmer over low heat until most of the liquid evaporates but it is still juicy, Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To cook the cornmeal
  1. In an iron pot mix in, cornmeal, sugar, salt and olive oil. Let it rest for an hour (if possible).
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it comes to the boil lower the fire and continue stirring until it has the consistency of cream cheese and starts lifting from the pot. Remove from the heat.
To assemble
  1. Heat oven to 300 ºF [145 ºC]. Grease a 9" x 9" [23 cm x 23 cm] baking pan.
  2. Spread ½ of the cornmeal mixture in the baking pan,. Cover it with ½ of the cheese, then the meat. Spread the remaining cornmeal mixture and cover with the other half of the cheese. Bake until it turns golden brown.
  3. Let it cool for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with the tomato sauce and serve with green salad (baby arugula with an olive oil vinaigrette is perfect for this).

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{ 23 comments… add one }

  • Rosanna Jimenez December 19, 2014, 2:29 PM

    Estoy intentando hacer esto, hoy! Wish Me luck :)

    Atentamente: Su fan #2 :p

    • Aunt Clara December 20, 2014, 1:36 PM

      Well, good luck then. And report back on the result, please.

  • NELLY December 9, 2014, 8:37 PM

    I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE THIS DISH FOR MY FAMILY THANK YOU !!

  • Jan June 15, 2014, 7:02 AM

    Great recipe!
    However, does “1/2 grated cheddar cheese” mean half a cup or half pound of it? I love cheese and tend to go overboard with it anyway, but please specify how much you would use.

    • Aunt Clara June 21, 2014, 1:23 AM

      It’s 1/2 cup, but go crazy with the cheese if you want. :)

  • Michelle September 26, 2013, 5:59 PM

    Making this now…. Thank goodness for you!!!

    • Michelle September 28, 2013, 11:45 AM

      This turned out great. YUMMY :)

  • Ingrid January 24, 2013, 11:01 PM

    Good Lord I LOVE this dish. My madrina “que en paz descanse su alma” would make this dish. Me, my mom’s pickiest eater would “go to town.” Thank you so much for having it here! :-) I will make an attempt to duplicate the recipe.

  • Jamie June 9, 2012, 10:47 PM

    OMG Im so making this dish for my dominican husband, he'll love it!!

  • Alicia January 9, 2012, 12:28 PM

    In step 4, what am I cookin bringing to a boil???? Im not understanding it right…am I boiling the corn meal?

    • Aunt Clara January 9, 2012, 4:32 PM

      Please read it again. Yes, you’re supposed to cook the cornmeal.

  • Sarah December 26, 2011, 5:21 PM

    Love this!! So yummy. Question anyway of automatically adjusting the recipe ( like a serving calculator)? My family is huge sometimes 8 servings and sometimes 15.

  • Sonia November 19, 2011, 10:05 AM

    My beloved late mother, Teresa, used to make this for us and we absolutely LOVED it! She used to add some tomato sauce on top and then added some parmesan cheese on top. She used to serve it with a salad of chayote, onion and tomatoes with olive oil/vinegar dressing. OMG! How I miss Mama's cooking. Even though I can "attempt" to cook as good as her, the love she put into her meals was out of this world. Her arepa was my absolute favorite with some delicious Dominican coffee. Dios mio, que ricura! Mami, I love and miss you dearly.

  • Nadia October 28, 2011, 6:33 AM

    I love your website. As a dominican/american girl living in Germany it's great to find a website with all my favorite dominican staples. And I'm pregnant so…. ¡que antojo! I want to make them all at once. :)

    • Aunt Clara October 28, 2011, 6:35 AM

      My 6 yo is also called Nadia, and for a second I was thinking "what is that kid up to now?". Pretty name, eh? And good luck with your pregnancy.

  • Lauren @ hey, who cu September 27, 2011, 12:24 PM

    This looks soo good! I never would have thought to combine cornmeal and beef like this. Thank you for sharing!

  • Aunt Clara April 27, 2011, 8:14 AM

    The most recent ones do. It's not so easy doing the whole site at once, but eventually I hope to revise all the recipes to add step-by-step pictures. This may take years as we have 10 years worth of material in the site and I keep adding new recipes every week.

  • isabel April 27, 2011, 7:55 AM

    i love when your recipes show pictures of the steps as well. i wish all of your recipes were like this.

  • Aunt Clara February 1, 2011, 6:54 PM

    I am happy to hear that.

  • Gina Hernandez February 1, 2011, 6:24 PM

    I just made this today! It was very easy to make and came out so delicious!!! Love the combination of sweet and savory flavors!

  • Carmen Rosa February 1, 2011, 2:08 PM

    That looks so delicious. I will definitely try this.