Pastel de choclo is one of Peru’s most famous dishes.
It’s a savory casserole that consists of pasta covered in a cheesy sauce topped off with sweet chunks of juicy corn.
The dish has been around for centuries and it’s become an essential part of the country’s culture.
If you love this classic Peruvian recipe, here’s everything you need to know about how to make your own version of the delicious dish.
What is pastel de choclo?
This savory dish is made up of pasta, corn, and cheese.
The dish originated in Peru but is now popular throughout South America.
Pastel de choclo can be served as an appetizer or main course, and it’s often eaten alongside other traditional Peruvian dishes like ceviche, pisco sour, and chimichurri.
The dish itself is named after the region where it was invented — the Choclo Region.
In Spanish, “choclo” means corn.
There are many different types of corn used in this dish, including yellow corn, white corn, red corn, and even purple corn.
These varieties all have their own unique flavor profiles so it’s best to experiment with them to find which one you prefer.
Pastel de choclo is also known as “pasta con queso,” which means “pasta with cheese.”
This name is misleading because there isn’t any actual cheese in the dish.
Instead, the creamy cheese sauce is what gives this dish its signature taste.
You’ll typically see this dish prepared with either penne or spaghetti, but you can use any shape of pasta you want.
You can serve both versions of the dish on their own or pair it with other Peruvian dishes like ceviche or sashimi.
If you’re not familiar with these other Peruvian foods, we’ve got some recipes and tips to help you get started.
Where does pastel de choclo come from?
The origins of pastel de choclo can be traced back to the Incan Empire.
It was first introduced to Europe during the Spanish colonization.
From there, the dish made its way to other countries, including Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.
Today, Peru is home to over 40 million people.
According to statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization, Peru exports around $2 billion worth of food every year.
This makes them the fifth largest exporter of agricultural products in Latin America.
How is pastel de choclo made?
The name of the dish is actually derived from the word “choclo” which means “corn kernel.”
Cassava is also known as manioc or tapioca and it’s the main ingredient of pastel de choclo.
You can find it fresh at many supermarkets but you don’t have to go far to buy it because it’s easy to grow yourself.
To prepare the dish, you’ll start by boiling the corn kernels until they are soft enough to be easily mashed.
Once the corn is cooked, add some salt to season it while stirring constantly.
Then, let it cool down before adding some milk and flour to thicken the mixture up.
Once the dough starts sticking to the pot, keep stirring it until it becomes thick enough.
Next, you’ll add some butter and eggs and stir them together well.
Afterward, add some parsley, oregano, paprika, and pepper.
Finally, take a large pan and pour in some oil.
When the oil is hot enough, use a spoon to scoop out portions of the dough and place it on top of the oil.
Cook it for a few minutes and then flip it over so that the other side gets browned too.
The last step is to remove it from the oven and cover it with grated cheese.
Let it rest for 10 minutes and then serve it right away.
What makes this dish extra special is that it uses ingredients that are common in Peruvian cooking.
Corn, cheese, and butter are all staples of the region’s cuisine.
So, why not try making your own version of pastel de choclo?
What are the ingredients in pastel de choclo?
Pastel de choclo is made up of three main ingredients: white corn flour, yellow corn flour, and cheese such as Emmental or Monterey Jack.
The rest of the ingredients include water, oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and onion.
You can also add other spices like cumin or paprika.
Some recipes call for chopped tomatoes, but others use tomato paste instead.
While there are no exact measurements, the ratio between the three main ingredients should be 50% corn flour, 25% yellow corn flour, and 25% cheese.
If you don’t have all three types of corn flour on hand, you can substitute with wheat flour instead.
You can find these flours at any supermarket.
To save time, you can even buy them online.
Just make sure you read the ingredient list carefully before buying so you get exactly what you need.
How do you eat pastel de choclo?
Pastel de choclo is usually served as a main course but it can also be used as a side dish or appetizer.
If you like it spicy, then add some chili powder into the mix.
The basic ingredients are all simple things you should have on hand at home.
You will need:
1 large ear of corn per person (or 6 small ears)
2 cups of penne pasta
1/2 cup of grated parmesan + 1 tablespoon extra
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
Here’s what you do next:
First, boil the pasta according to the package instructions.
Once cooked, drain the pasta and set aside.
Next, cut the kernels off the corn cob using a sharp knife.
You can do this by holding the cob over the sink while cutting along its length.
Place the kernels in a bowl and set aside.
Now, pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a saucepan and place it on medium heat.
When hot, crack the eggs into the pan and scramble them until they turn light yellow in color.
Remove the eggs from the heat and let them cool down before adding them to the bowl with the corn kernels.
Add 1/2 cup of grated parmesan and 1 tablespoon of shredded mozzarella cheese to the bowl.
Add 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and mix again.
Set the mixture aside.
In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of grated parmesan and 1/2 tablespoon shredded mozzarella.
This is the cheese topping that will be added later.
Finally, bring a pot of water to a boil.
Once boiling, add the pasta and cook it for 8 minutes.
Drain the pasta and toss it into the bowl with the corn mixture.
Add the cheese topping and stir gently.
Pour the contents of the bowl back into the same pot and return the liquid to a low simmer.
Cook the pasta for 5 minutes and remove it from the heat.
What is the history of pastel de choclo?
Pastel de choclo is believed to have originated in the 17th century as a way to use up leftover corn kernels after making corn tortillas.
The dish was so popular that people started serving it at their weddings and other special occasions.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that the dish became known as “pastel de choclo,” or “corn mush.”
The name is said to be derived from the Spanish word “chocolate,” which is used to describe the dark color of the creamy cheese sauce.
The dish is now known worldwide as “pastel de choclo” and is often served on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, and Easter.
What are some interesting facts about pastel de choclo?
Like many other foods, Peruvian cuisine has evolved over time.
The original “pastel de choclo” was made from ingredients like wheat flour and lard.
However, as time passed, people started using different types of flours and different cooking methods.
As a result, the dish became more diverse, adding potatoes, rice, or even cassava (manioc) to the mix.
But whatever type of pasta and sauce you use, one thing remains constant: You can never go wrong with a serving of pastel de choclo.
This versatile dish will keep you full for hours and it won’t leave you feeling gross after eating it.
Plus, it’s so easy to prepare — just throw all the ingredients into a pot and let them cook together until they reach a creamy consistency.
Why is pastel de choclo so popular?
The dish is known as “choclo” (or corn) in Spanish, and the name translates to “molded corn.”
In Peru, the dish is typically made with yellow cornmeal or masarepa, but you can use any type of grain you like.
In addition to the corn, the base of the dish is filled with an assortment of ingredients including potatoes, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cheeses.
The pasta is then cooked until tender before being served with the creamy mixture on top.
It sounds simple enough, but there are many different variations on the original dish.
The traditional way of cooking the pasta is to boil it in water first before adding the rest of the ingredients.
This method results in a thick sauce that clings to the pasta and helps to keep the dish moist.
If you prefer a creamier texture, try simmering the pasta instead.
You can also add dried herbs or spices to the dish to give it extra flavor.
Once you have all the components prepared, you can start mixing them together.
Once you have the whole dish assembled, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.
Then, place it in the oven to cook for another hour.
When done, you should have a rich and creamy pasta dish full of sweet and tangy flavors.
As for why the dish is so popular, you might be surprised to learn that Peruvians eat it year round, regardless of the season.
According to Peru Magazine, the dish became popular during the early 1900s due to the growing popularity of Italian immigrants coming into the country.
As the dish was traditionally cooked using Italian ingredients, people started referring to it as “Italian style pasta.”
It wasn’t long before it reached other countries and now, it’s considered a staple dish throughout Latin America.
How can I make pastel de choclo at home?
There are two main ways to prepare this dish: Casseroles and soufflés.
With the former, you cook the pasta first, then add the cheese sauce and the corn later on.
Soufflé style means you start with the corn and add the cheese last.
Ingredients: Shrimp Saganaki (or any other seafood), Pasta, Cheese Sauce, Corn, Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, Oil, Water, Vegetables, Garlic and Lemon Juice.
How to make:
Cook the pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, add oil to a pan over medium heat.
Add garlic and sauté until golden brown.
Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and transfer it into the pan.
In the same pan, add the cheese sauce and toss well to combine.
Stir in the corn and seasonings.
Allow the mixture to simmer for 5 minutes.
Top each serving with a lemon wedge.
Ingredients: Shrimp Saganaki (or any other seafood), Sweet Corn, Pasta, Chive Butter, Parmesan Cheese, Salt, Pepper, Oil, Egg, Water, Vegetables, Garlic and Lemon Juice.
How to make:
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic and sauté until golden brown.
Remove the garlic from the pan and set aside.
Then, add the corn kernels to the hot pan and sauté for 2 minutes.
Transfer the corn to a bowl and set aside.
Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
Drain the pasta and transfer it to the pot containing the remaining ingredients.
Whisk together the egg, water and seasoning and pour the mixture into the pot.
Toss well to incorporate all the ingredients.
Cover the top of the pot with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.
Uncover the pot and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until the top starts to turn golden brown.
Garnish with fresh herbs and serve immediately.
What are some creative ways to serve past?
The best way to enjoy this dish is by cooking it yourself.
There’s no better way to appreciate the flavors than to cook it yourself.
However, there are a few different ways to get started on your homemade version of the dish.
You can use frozen mixed vegetables or fresh ones.
If you choose to use frozen vegetables, start by boiling them for three minutes before adding them to the pan.
You may also want to add a pinch of salt and pepper to enhance their flavor.
Use dried oregano instead of fresh. Oregano is a key ingredient in the Peruvian dish.
If you don’t have fresh oregano, you can substitute with dried oregano.
Simply crush the dried herb using a mortar and pestle and sprinkle over the top of your casserole.
Use canned black beans instead of dried.
This will save you time and effort because you won’t have to soak the beans overnight.
Just rinse them well then drain the excess water before adding them to the pan.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and sauté the beans until they start to soften.
Add a splash of white wine to the mix.
Adding a dash of white wine to the mix is a great idea.
Not only does it improve the overall flavor but it also helps thicken the sauce.
To do so, simply pour a small amount of wine into the pan and let it simmer for a few seconds.
Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
Then, return the pan to the stovetop and reduce the liquid by half.
For a sweeter taste, add honey to the mix.
Honey is another important ingredient in this recipe.
It adds sweetness to the dish while enhancing its flavor.
Add 2 tablespoons of honey to the pan and bring it back up to a boil.
Once it boils, turn down the heat and let it simmer until the sauce thickens.
Don’t forget to season the sauce.
Seasoning is a crucial step in creating a flavorful dish.
Use a little bit of salt and pepper to enhance the flavor of the sauce.
Seasoning is also necessary when cooking any meat.
For instance, if you’re preparing beef, you should always season it with salt and pepper.
Make sure the pasta is al dente.
When eating pasta dishes, it’s always a good idea to eat it al dente.
This means that the pasta should be tender enough to bite through but still firm.
If you overcook the pasta, it becomes mushy which defeats the purpose of the dish.
Corn and Beef Chilean “Pastel de Choclo” Recipe
- Large saucepan with oil heated over medium heat. Add the meat and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the paprika, salt, pepper, and cumin and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add the broth, cover, and boil on low heat for 30 minutes.
- Stirring occasionally, simmer the onion for about 30 minutes over medium heat after adding it, after thoroughly mixing it in.
- After removing from heat, thoroughly whisk in the flour. If required, modify the seasoning. Use right away, then cool and store.
- Regarding the corn mixture,
- Melt the butter over medium-high heat, add the frozen corn, and stir occasionally for about 8 minutes in a cast iron skillet or a sizable pot with a thick bottom.
- For about 10 more minutes, add the milk, basil, Merquén or paprika, salt, and pepper. Stir the mixture occasionally.
- Blend the corn with a hand blender, taking care to leave some chunks and avoiding a uniform texture. Cooking the cornmeal for an additional 5 minutes over medium heat after adding it. The constancy must be unwavering. To taste and season as necessary. When it cools, it will somewhat thicken.
- On a clay or baking dish, spread out the prepared meat filling in one layer. On top of the meat, scatter cooked or rotisserie chicken pieces, hard-boiled eggs cut into quarters, olives, and raisins.
- Add the corn mixture on top. To give your food a lovely browning in the oven, sprinkle with granulated sugar.
- An unbaked Chilean Pastel de Choclo
- For 45–60 minutes, bake in a preheated oven at 400°F or 200°C until bubbling and brown on top. 10 minutes should pass before serving.