Lately it feels like life just keeps getting busier, as we get into that crazy mad dash towards the holidays.
My only source of sanity on those crazy days is the knowledge that I’ve stocked my fridge and freezer full of meals that I can get on the table with minimal effort.
It helps that some of the dishes I’m craving most at this time of year are also the ones that lend themselves best to big-batch cooking, and can easily be stashed away in the freezer until I need them.
You could say I’m kind of like a squirrel hoarding provisions for the winter. As soon as the colder weather comes along, I start compulsively filling up the freezer until it’s overflowing with containers of homemade chicken stock, split pea soup, chunky beef chili, and slow-simmered pasta sauce.
Another one of my favourite make-now-eat-later dishes is this super-saucy ground beef picadillo.
Unlike some of my other favourites, this one gives you the best of both worlds – it’s quick enough to make on a weeknight, assuming you can spare a half-hour of simmering time, but makes a big enough batch that you’ll have plenty left over to stash away for your next comfort food emergency. All you’ll need is a pot of cooked rice or a stack of tortillas. Easy, right?
What is Picadillo?
Different variations of picadillo can be found all over Latin America. While the ingredients vary slightly from one region to the next, the basic formula consists of ground beef simmered with a flavourful sauce of tomatoes, raisins and green olives. It might seem like an odd combination, but it actually works beautifully.
The word “picadillo” derives from the Spanish word “picar” or “to mince”, which refers to the fact that it was traditionally prepared with finely minced beef. Nowadays, though, a package of ground beef will do just fine.
Much like chili con carne or bolognese sauce, everyone has their own special family recipe they swear by. Some versions add chopped peppers, diced potatoes, capers, hot chilis or even hard-boiled eggs, but I like to keep things simple and stick to the basics – beef, onions, tomatoes, raisins, olives and a generous amount of minced garlic and aromatic spices.
It’s not exactly the most visually spectacular dish, but its humble appearance hides complex layers of flavour, each bite combining savoury beef, briny olives and sweet raisins, all tied together with a subtly sweet tomato sauce flavoured with bay leaf, cumin, cinnamon and chili powder.
How to Serve Picadillo
The simplest way to enjoy your picadillo is to serve it the way the Cubans do – spooned onto a bed of fluffy white rice with a sprinkling of cilantro. Cooked black beans or fried ripe plantains are very traditional options if you want a side dish.
However, if you’re feeling a little more ambitious, it also makes a delicious filling for a variety of Latin American dishes, such as empanadas, tamales, enchiladas or tacos.
Feeling truly adventurous? Try tossing it with your favourite spaghetti for an unusual twist on the more traditional pasta with meat sauce, or use it as the base for a gourmet tamale pie.
The good news is that this recipe makes enough to try more than one variation, so feel free to experiment.
Leftovers will keep up to one week in the fridge, or up to 6 months in the freezer. And the longer it sits, the better it tastes!
More Recipes to Feed a Crowd
Got a horde of hungry people headed your way, or just want some extra leftovers to take you through a busy week?
This extra-saucy Cuban-style picadillo features ground beef simmered in a spiced tomato sauce with raisins and olives. Serve with white rice for a quick and comforting weeknight meal, or use it to fill empanadas or tacos, or use as the base for a fun twist on tamale pie.
- 2 lb lean ground beef
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 red onion, finely minced
- 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cup stuffed green olives, sliced
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the beef and cook for 4-5 minutes or until no longer pink, breaking up any large clumps with a wooden spoon as you go.
- Stir in the onions and garlic, and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes longer or until the onions are soft. Stir in tomato paste, chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and cinnamon. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant.
- Stir in the tomatoes, raisins and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and stir in the olives. Serve immediately on a bed of cooked white rice, or set aside to cool and then spoon into freezer-safe containers for storage. Leftovers will keep for up to a week in the fridge, and up to 6 months in the freezer.
- Category: Mains
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Cuban