I have been meaning to make a recipe for a Rice Pastelón for quite some time… and then the other day, my mom and Mili surprised me with the news they’re making a rice pastelón and they want me to document it for the blog. Sweet!!!
When I was growing up, the mom of a very, very good friend of mine loved to cook rice pastelones, or Arroz Relleno as she would call it. At the time it was rice on the bottom, stewed chicken in the middle and rice on the top, covered of course with cheese. I have debated how I would adapt Lolita’s recipe to make it vegetarian and as reminiscent of that original arroz relleno as possible… that’s where I stayed in the idea/concept stage.
But Mili and Mami did one better… Picture this – imagine layers of rice with layers of eggplant and tomato and cheese in between. Genius, right?? Genius and DELICIOUS… you will make a large mold of this because you WANT to have leftovers. I guarantee it…
EGGPLANT TOMATO RICE PASTELON
3 cups of cooked brown rice 2 large tomatoes, sliced 1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced 1 large onion, chopped large ½ cup of strained tomatoes or tomato sauce or marinara sauce 2 cups of shredded cheese Extra Virgin Olive Oil Salt and Pepper to Taste Garlic and Herb Seasoning 1 vegetable bouillon cube
First, you need to cook all the components…
- Cook your rice the usual way you know how to cook brown rice. I make it in a rice cooker seasoning it with a little bit of salt, a drizzle of olive oil and a vegetable bouillon cube. I try to smash the cube and mix it in water before turning it on so the water is flavored evenly. After the rice is made, set aside.
- Meanwhile, season the tomato slices with salt and garlic/herb seasoning mixture. Place slices side by side in a baking dish or tray. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the tomatoes. Roast in a 400F oven for about 25-20 minutes. The idea is to concentrate the flavors of the tomato. Take out of the oven and set aside.
- Also, season the eggplant slices with the same salt and garlic/herbs mixture. Place slices side by side in a baking dish or tray. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the eggplant slices. Roast in the same oven where the tomatoes are at 400F for about 25-20 minutes too. Take out of the oven and set aside.
- And while the tomatoes and eggplants are cooking and rice is finishing, sauté the onions in a large skillet. Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. The idea is to soften them by cooking them over medium heat for about 10 minutes, without browning them too much. Set aside.
- Take the strained tomatoes and season them with salt, pepper and garlic and herbs. Add a little drizzle of olive oil to add extra flavor. Set aside. If using marinara sauce, you don’t need to season it then.
Now that everything is basically cooked, we assemble the pastelón as if it were a lasagna…
- Using a 9 x 13 baking dish, place 1/3 of the rice at the bottom of the pan. Flatten as much as possible.
- Add a drizzle of the strained tomato sauce over the rice.
- Add a layer of eggplants and tomatoes using half of the quantity you have available, trying to cover the layer of rice.
- Add some onions on top of eggplant/tomato layer.
- Add a layer of shredded cheese over the onions.
- Repeat with a second layer of rice. Drizzle some tomato sauce. Another layer of eggplant/tomato. Another layer of onions. Another layer of cheese.
- Finish with a last layer of rice. Add any remaining ingredients you might still have. Don’t let anything go to waste. And top with plenty of shredded cheese.
- Bake in the oven covered for 20-25 minutes in a 350F oven for all the flavors to combine. Uncover for the last 10 minutes of cooking to brown the cheese on top.
Just like with lasagna, there are several steps to this pastelón, but none of them are particularly difficult. After it’s assembled all you need to do is bake to melt the cheeses inside and on top. A nice salad on the side and dinner is ready!!!