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Mini Rice and Ground Beef Stuffed Pumpkins

Mini rice and Picadillo stuffed pumpkins presented with cilantro and fresh flowers in a cast iron skillet.

Creating a delectable fusion of flavors is a hallmark of Cuban cuisine, and what better way to capture that essence than with this recipe for Mini Rice and Ground Beef Stuffed Pumpkins, or as we say in Spanish, "mini calabazas rellenas de arroz y picadillo." This delightful dish brings together the sweetness of mini pumpkins and the savory richness of classic Cuban picadillo, harmonizing in a culinary symphony that's sure to delight your taste buds. In this recipe, I'll guide you through the process of selecting the perfect pumpkins, crafting a mouthwatering picadillo, and baking these petite wonders to perfection.

Selecting the Perfect Pumpkins The foundation of these mini calabazas rellenas de arroz y picadillo begins with the choice of pumpkins. Look for small varieties like Jack-Be-Little pumpkins or Wee Bee, known for their tender, edible flesh. These petite pumpkins not only add a delightful visual element to your dish but also offer a delectable contrast to the savory filling. Their subtle sweetness and creamy texture make them an ideal vessel for my Cuban-inspired creation.

Wee Bee pumpkins are perfect for this recipe.

Crafting Classic Cuban Picadillo At the heart of this recipe is the classic Cuban picadillo, a flavorful blend of ground beef, onions, bell peppers, and a symphony of spices. To prepare this iconic component, start by browning lean ground beef in a skillet until it's cooked through and slightly caramelized. Then, add diced onions, garlic and bell peppers, infusing the meat with aromatic layers of flavor. For that authentic Cuban touch, don't forget to include a medley of spices like cumin and oregano, which give the picadillo its distinctive taste.

Rice: A Bed of Cuban Bliss To complete the stuffing, we introduce cooked fluffy white rice, which serves as the perfect combination for the picadillo. It's essential to prepare the rice to a tender, fluffy perfection, ensuring it's ready to absorb the flavors of the picadillo. You'll discover that the rice not only adds texture but also balances the rich and savory notes of the filling.

Assembling and Baking Now, the magic truly unfolds as we bring together the mini pumpkins, picadillo, and rice. Carefully carve out the tops of the pumpkins, creating a lid that can be replaced later. Gently scoop out the seeds and any fibrous bits to make room for the flavorful stuffing. Each pumpkin becomes a charming, individual vessel for your culinary masterpiece.

Remove the seeds and hull out the mini pumpkins to prepare them for stuffing.

Fill the mini pumpkins with the aromatic picadillo and rice mixture, allowing the flavors to meld within the pumpkin's confines. Place the lids back on top of the pumpkins, and they are ready to embrace the heat of the oven. Bake these little wonders at 375°F (190°C) for approximately 45 minutes, or until the pumpkins are tender and the filling is heated through. This slow bake allows the pumpkins to soften, imparting their unique sweetness into the dish while harmonizing with the savory picadillo and rice.

A Feast for the Senses The aroma that fills your kitchen as these mini calabazas rellenas de arroz y picadillo bake is simply irresistible. The contrast of sweet pumpkin with the savory picadillo creates a symphony of flavors that dance on your taste buds. Each bite is a culinary journey, with the tender pumpkin giving way to the rich and aromatic picadillo and rice mixture.

Conclusion This recipe for Mini Rice and Ground Beef Stuffed Pumpkins embodies the heart and soul of Cuban cuisine. The careful selection of pumpkins, the craftsmanship of classic Cuban picadillo, and the harmonious marriage with fluffy rice create a dish that's as visually captivating as it is delicious. Whether you're planning a family dinner or a special gathering, these mini calabazas rellenas de arroz y picadillo will transport your taste buds to the vibrant tropics of Cuba.

Serve Mini Rice and Picadillo Stuffed Pumpkins with fresh avocado.

So, prepare your kitchen for a journey of flavors, and let's embark on this culinary adventure together. Mini pumpkins, picadillo, and rice unite to create a dish that embodies the warmth and passion of Cuban cooking. Buen apetito!

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Cooking Method
Cuisine
Courses
Difficulty Beginner
Time
Prep Time: 30 mins Cook Time: 1 hr Rest Time: 5 mins Total Time: 1 hr 35 mins
Cooking Temp 375  °F
Servings 6
Best Season
Description

This delightful dish combines the natural sweetness of mini pumpkins with the savory richness of classic Cuban picadillo, creating a culinary masterpiece that's bound to please your palate.

Mini Rice and Ground Beef Stuffed Pumpkins Ingredients
    Mini Pumpkins
  • 6 Mini Pumpkins
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt (to taste)
  • Black Pepper (to taste)
  • Picadillo
  • 2 tablespoons Duck Fat
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 Onion (diced)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (diced)
  • 1/3 cup Garlic Cloves (15-20 cloves smashed or minced)
  • 2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 1/4 cup White Wine
  • 8 ounces Tomato Sauce (Goya)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Green Olive Juice
  • 2 tablespoons Green Olives (small diced)
  • 3 cups Cooked White Rice
Mini Rice and Ground Beef Stuffed Pumpkins Instructions
    Mini Pumpkins
  1. Wash the six mini pumpkins thoroughly. Cut off the tops and save. Remove the seeds and innards. I saved the seeds for roasting. 

  2. Brush the inside, the outside and the tops with olive oil. Salt and pepper the insides of the mini pumpkins to taste. Set aside. 

  3. Picadillo and Rice Stuffing
  4. Cut and dice the bell pepper and the onion. Mince, grate or smash the garlic cloves.

  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

    In a large skillet heat duck fat on medium high heat. Brown ground beef. Immediately season beef with kosher salt, black pepper and cumin to taste. Break up ground beef as much as possible. I cooked the ground beef until some of the pieces started to caramelize. 

    You don't have to use duck fat. Substitute with olive oil. I had just purchased some really good quality duck fat and wanted to use it for some added depth of flavor.
  6. Add onions and bell pepper. Again season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until tender. Add garlic cloves, if the pan is too hot for the garlic turn it down to medium. You don't want to burn the garlic. 

    Taste every step and adjust salt and pepper as you like it.
  7. Make a whole in the center of the pan and add the tomato paste. Stir it to "wake" it up and then continue to mix it into the ground beef. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan and stir.

  8. Stir in the tomato sauce. Next, add the salt, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper and oregano. Stir to combine. Add the green olive juice and the green olives. Simmer on low for 10 minutes and let the flavors combine. 

  9. Adding cooked rice to Picadillo for the stuffed mini pumpkins.

    After 10 minutes stir in the cooked rice and remove from the heat. 

  10. Fill each mini pumpkin with ground beef and rice mixture.

    Put each mini pumpkin in a roasting pan that can be covered or I used 2 dutch ovens with a lid. Carefully spoon beef and rice mixture into prepared mini pumpkins and top with the  mini pumpkin lids. Cover pumpkins with foil or with the lid from the pan you are using and cook for about an hour at 375 degrees. Pumpkins are done when they are fork tender.

Keywords: Cuban picadillo, mini pumpkins recipe, savory pumpkin stuffing, mini pumpkins with picadillo, sweet and savory recipe