Recipe: Picadillo & Pastelitos

Two of the most amazing Cuban staples, easy to make, and my ‘go to’ things when I want a little bit of Miami. These are two different recipes really: picadillo is a comforting bowl of seasoned ground beef that you serve over rice, and it is a little but saucy. But if you make a drier version (just cook a bit longer uncovered to let liquid evaporate), then it is perfect filling for pastelitos! I tend to only make these around Christmas because they are addictive and that’s a lot of puff pastry to eat. Or I try to keep it to that.

Here is the problem with my sharing this recipe though – I really don’t do well on measurements here. Everything is ‘to taste’, and that taste should be bold – taste as you go to correct seasonings! So I’ll try to offer as a guide, but you do you.

This picadillo recipe makes a LOT, and in fact you will have enough left after you make pastelitos to just enjoy it on its own. But it also freezes well for future meals, or pastries! UK versions of recipes here, too, cause that’s how I think now.


Amazing with tostones – smashed and fried plantains topped with garlic & lime
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, OR garlic infused olive oil (my personal choice)
  • 750g mince (beef is traditional but you can use turkey thigh, to a mix of both, too – it works great)
  • Ground Cumin, approx 2 tbs
  • 1 tsp or so ground sweet cinnamon
  • 1 tsp or so allspice
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tin tomatoes (omit if doing this for pastelitos as it adds a lot of liquid
  • 3 tbs tomato puree; or 4-5 if not using tin tomatoes
  • 75 mls red wine – whatever you have sitting around
  • 1 small (~340g) jar Pimento-stuffed green olives, drained of brine and for pastelitos, finely chopped to make about 1/2 cup
  • A couple handfuls or so sultanas
  1. Chop onion and sauté in olive oil a couple minutes in a large pan/skillet until starting to become translucent; then add your meat.
  2. Brown meat and season generously with spices (note on salt – I add a pinch or two at this stage, but then correct at the end after olives are added, since they are salty); mix and add tomatoes, puree, and wine.
  3. Olives: for picadillo, I like to leave these whole, but you could chop them up a bit. If you are doing pastelitos though, you want to finely chop these – I recommend a mini chopper of food processor, just be careful not to make tapenade! Add these next.
  4. Scatter with a couple handfuls of the sultanas. For picadillo, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes or so. For pastelitos, simmer uncovered until liquid has evaporated.
  5. TASTE, correct seasonings if needed.
  6. Picadillo – serve over steamed white rice, like basmati. Pastelitos – set aside to cool.


  • 2 packs ready-roll puff pastry
  • Picadillo – you would probably only use about 1/3 of the above recipe, so you could always make less.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  1. Take pastry from fridge 20-30 minutes before use
  2. Place 1/2 cup sugar in small pan with 1/2 cup water; simmer until sugar dissolves and you have a simple syrup, set aside to cool
  3. Unroll pastry and either cut into an even number round circles, or be lazy and use a knife to cut into squares – I lay them on top with the baking paper between, then cut into thirds the long way, then into 6 across to make 18 rectangles.
  4. Place about 2 teaspoons of meat onto half of the pastry shapes – be a bit generous, but not some much that you don’t have an edge.
  5. Place the other half of pastry over the top of each. Ideally you would be patient and lightly wet the edges of each and seal with a fork maybe? But honestly I just pressed them down, then carefully picked up and pinched them closed because I am impatient to eat them and rustic is fun.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes at 200/180 fan, or until they are puffed and golden. Take out and brush with the syrup immediately, then let cool as long as you can stand it, but eat a couple hot! These will keep at room temperature a couple days, if they last that long. They won’t!

Author: Robyne Calvert

Cultural Historian... art, design, architecture, fashion, etc.

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