Picadillo has all the elements of one of my favorite Cuban dishes, Ropa Vieja, where flank steak is braised until it falls apart like old clothes, but in a fraction of the time. In this dish, ground beef cooks super quickly making this ideal for a weeknight dinner. The onions, bell pepper and garlic – what my dad calls the Trinity of Cuban cooking – come together with the tomato sauce to form a rich and comforting sauce that gets studded with tangy, briny olives.
Many people add capers and raisins in addition to the olives for a sweet and salty mix. I leave them out because my abuela never included, and I personally don’t love raisins, but feel free to customize as you’d like! You’ll also see people add one peeled and diced russet potato in the last step to simmer with the beef and tomato sauce until it’s fork tender. I like to do this when I’m looking for an especially hearty meal in the winter. Cubans love a starch-on-starch, but who doesn’t :)
Like many dishes, this picadillo gets better the longer it sits. If you have time, keep simmering for 30 minutes to develop the flavor and even double the batch. I think this recipe can serve two super hungry people or more if you also serve with white rice, black beans and maduros.