Latin Lasagna with Beef and Plantains

A good casserole is one of the best comfort foods.  You just can’t beat a one-dish meal for convenience – just pop it in the oven and relax – or for the great way the ingredients play off each other.  This Latin-style lasagna is both sweet and savory, with cumin-spiced ground beef, layers of plantains, and mildly spicy pepper-jack cheese.

I can’t emphasize the importance of using RIPE plantains enough.  I was impatient – two of the plantains I used were perfectly ripe, but two were still a little green.  The difference between the taste and texture of ripe and not-so-ripe was huge.  After sauteing the ripe plantains, the slices were soft and buttery, with a subtle sweetness.  The green plantain slices were tough and dry, and had all the flavor you would expect from cardboard.  Be sure that you use plantains that have black skins, or that are yellow with lots of black spots on the skin.

This is the basic recipe that I used, modified from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for Cuban-Style Beef and Plantain Pie, and inspired by Ingrid Hoffmann’s Latin Lasagna from Simply Delicioso.  We really enjoyed this lasagna, despite the presence of unripe plantain interspersed in the casserole.  Next time I make this, aside from using riper fruit, I might add a layer of ricotta with cilantro mixed in, or top it with a decadent layer of  cheesy, white sauce.  My mouth is watering already!


  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 pound ground beef (grass-fed)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 16-ounces diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked, hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ripe plantains (black-skinned, or heavily spotted)
  • coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil (to saute plantains)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • ~ 12 ounces pepper Jack cheese, shredded
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped, for serving

Preparing beef:

Heat coconut oil (or EVOO) in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and red bell peppers; cook until softened, stirring frequently.  Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute or until garlic is fragrant.  Add beef and pork.  Cook until browned, stirring and breaking up clumps.  Drain off all but 2-3 tablespoons of fat, if necessary (will depend on fattiness of beef and pork used).

Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, raisins, vinegar, oregano, cumin, paprika, coriander, salt, and pepper.  Simmer for around 15 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; adjust seasonings to taste.  The meat mixture should be moist and a little saucy.  If it seems too dry, stir in some water or broth.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Preparing plantains:

Peel plantains. (They do not peel easily, like bananas.  I found it easier to slit the thick skin open, lengthwise, then slide the skin off in one piece.)

Slice in half, crosswise, then slice each half lengthwise into 3 long slices.  In a large skillet, heat ~1/4 cup coconut oil (or EVOO) over medium high heat.  Saute the plantain slices in batches until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on each side.  Add additional oil, if needed.  Transfer the cooked plantain slices to drain on paper towels.

Assembling the casserole:

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly oil a lasagna pan or large casserole dish.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and water until blended.

Place about 1/3 of the meat mixture in the bottom of the pan as a base.  Top with half of the plantain slices, and then about half the shredded cheese.  Add a good layer of meat (about 1/2 of what is remaining). Pour half the egg mixture into the pan, spreading it out over the ingredients.  Layer with the remaining plantains, meat, and cheese.  Pour the remaining egg mixture over the top of the casserole – spreading it out to distribute evenly.

Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil, and bake at 350F until hot throughout and bubbly (about 45 minutes).  Remove foil, and bake for around 10 more minutes to brown the cheese on top.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.  Serve sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

XTC has long been one of my favorite bands, sadly they are no more. But what a brilliant collection of works they left. First, one of my “Top 10” albums, Apple Venus Volume 1, their final release (sorta…). At this point the band was just Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, but what a glorious noise they made! This sublime release is complete ear candy, from the opening rain drops of “River of Orchids” to Moulding’s “Knights in Shining Karma”. Hard to believe this was released in 1999…or that it’s out of print. For shame.

Now, one of the first albums by XTC, Drums & Wires. This was the first release by the band that got noticed in America, and I can remember “Life Begins at the Hop” and “Making Plans for Nigel” seemed to be on constant repeat on my Walkman (kids, ask your parents…it was the precursor to the ipod!). Essential!


32 thoughts on “Latin Lasagna with Beef and Plantains

  1. Holy cow, this looks incredibly unique and delicious! I’m pretty swamped right now, but would you guys like to do a trade with me next month or so? This recipe is calling to be illustrated–and devoured, haha.

      1. Hey Nancy! I’m going to make this this week–so excited! Just one quick question; I’m planning on making it up in advance by doing the initial cooking and assembly, and then freezing it, since I want to take it to a friend’s house to share. Think it will thaw well and then heat up nicely if I do that?

      2. Hi Alex! I can’t think of any reason why you couldn’t make it ahead and freeze it, like any other casserole. The only think I might do is add a little more liquid to the meat sauce to ensure it doesn’t dry out – tomato sauce, broth, fats, whatever sounds good to you. It might be a good idea to partially cook the assembled product before freezing it, since it has raw eggs on it. (The freezing might do weird something to the raw egg texture?) I hope it turns out well!

  2. “I can remember “Life Begins at the Hop” and “Making Plans for Nigel” seemed to be on constant repeat ”

    I absolutely ADORED those two songs, and also played them repeatedly. I never would have thought you’d look back kindly on them.

    Nancy, I can’t imagine a better collection of tastes than cumin, plantain,and pepper-jack – and the recipe certainly does NOT need an extra layer of cheese covering it.

  3. This looks absolutely awesome. I adore plantains….and I’m right there with you on one-pot dishes and casseroles. They are just the best!

  4. I love the picadillo and tostones at our local Cuban place, but I never would have thought to put them together in a casserole. Great idea!

    I have a plantain ripening on my counter. How yellow/black does it need to be when it’s ripe?

    1. Hey Dave! The riper the better, I think, for the plantains. The tasty ones were yellow and black. The icky ones were kind of yellow but still had some green on them. I would try to wait until they are mostly black and yellow before cooking them, for the sweetest taste.

      1. Thanks for the clarification – I was wondering the same thing about the plantains sitting on my counter. bought them specifically to try this but wasn’t sure when to call them “ripe”.

  5. Holy schmoly! Made this tonight and it was amazing! I have been craving a great mexican casserole, but can’t do grains, so this was just what I needed. I did add some extra heat with some cayenne, crushed red pepper, and green chiles, and also added some black olives, but I bet it’s just as fantastic as is.

  6. Wow, this looks like the most delicious thing. Gotta make this soon. Also, XTC are a phenomenal band – I listen to Nonsuch and Skylarking all the time. Music of my childhood. 🙂

  7. So delicious!! This Latin lasagna has been such a huge hit. I’ve shared this recipe with family, friends, and co-workers and everyone who has made it always raves about it. Thanks for posting wonderful, great tasting recipes.

  8. I made this the other day and will say that it was a big hit! Thanks for the tip about the plantains! I wish more people would comment about this recipe “after” they tried it rather than before. It’s really good! The raisins provide a nice contrast with the cumin.

  9. This looks Delicious! My only concern is, Does it have an “eggy” flavor? Also, how do you think it would come out if I use a grapes(a few week old) instead of raisins?

    1. Hi Samantha! I didn’t notice an eggy flavor – overall the eggs are pretty spread out. I don’t know what to say about the grapes. It might work – it would be a little different taste and texture-wise, but who knows, it might be great. If you try it, let us know!

  10. I had to wait for my plantains to ripen, so I finally made this tonight. Instead of using vinegar I added green olives for the acidity and I used some kind of old grapes instead of raisins. Oh my god! This turned out fantastic! My husband and I couldn’t stop eating it! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

  11. A fantastic change! I made the recipe as written and received rave reviews. I think some people just have to get past the idea of plantains as pasta if they are unfamiliar. The egg does not add anything negative. I think it just adds a density to the texture. It is very spread out. The pepper jack is a must for depth of flavor. Thank you for the recipe.

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