Belqui’s Beef Picadillo Ragu

beef picadillo ragu

This melt-in-your-mouth beef picadillo ragu recipe homes in on what Belqui’s Twist is all about. Belqui’s Twist is the cooking blog of one of our favorite Dominicana home cooks, Belqui Ortiz-Millili, who is known for bringing her own take or “twist” to her favorite recipes, so many of which reflect her Latinx heritage.

Take picadillo, a traditional dish in her native D.R. Belqui looked at the hearty tomato-beef stew she’s been eating all her life one day and thought: what if I made pasta with it—a Dominican-Italian mashup? ”I am always making Italian meat sauce. And In my quest to twist things up I decided to use picadillo as the base for my ragu sauce. I was so excited when I tasted it the first time and even more so when everyone at home raved about it.”

The ”Endless Possibilities” of Beef Picadillo

Picadillo is a very common dish in Latin America and Spanish-speaking islands like Cuba, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico,” says Belqui, who grew up in New York City’s Washington Heights and now lives in Arizona with her family.

”We all cook our picadillo a bit differently, but at the end of the day, the most important ingredient is ground beef. We add adobo, olives and much more. Cuban picadillo sometimes even has potatoes, which makes it super filling.”

If your family is from the D.R., P.R. or Cuba, you know that adobe is esencial for home cooking. This salty-savory dry seasoning is a mix of onion powder, garlic powder, salt, oregano, pepper and other ingredients, depending on who is making it. Adobo is a must-have in Caribbean spice rack and essential to many criollo dishes.

.Belqui also adds the juice of a lime, fresh squeezed—a very Latino thing to do. “It helps to boost its flavor,” she says. She also recommends saving yourself the time and using your favorite kind of store-bought pasta sauce. She personally loves basil-flavored marinara ones—to which she then adds lots of of olives and the the adobo.

”I love to make picadillo and I tend to make it to fill tacos, top tostadas, fill empanadas. This inspiration for this take on picadillo ragu came from Italian meat sauce. I really love meat sauce on pasta, and I thought this would be a great way to Latinize this dish, giving it a twist’ she smiles. She likes this Belqui”s Twist recipe so much she submitted it to our Familia Kitchen Your Favorite Picadillo Recipe Contest.

”I debated between using plain tomato sauce or one of pre-made spaghetti sauce brands. I love the ones that include basil. Of course, I ended up choosing the spaghetti sauce, and that was the perfect fit—because it was delicious! Each different picadillo recipe has a bit of a twist on the picadillo ingredients to begin with. The possibilities are endless and those possibilities led me to create this beef picadillo ragu.”

Belqui looks into the pan she is carefully stirring, stirring, stirring, as the ground beef soaks in the flavors of the pasta sauce and adobo. She gets ready to serve her family heaping plates of pasta and picadillo ragu, each topped with a dusting of parmesan cheese.

”Look how beautiful this dish is. Look at all those olives. Oh my god, it’s crazy!”

Yes it is: crazy good.

Belqui smiles. ”I hope that I have convinced you to give my beef picadillo ragu a try!”

For more of Belqui’s Dominican dishes, check out her addictive arepitas de yuca, D.R.-style black beans and rice, and recipes for classic cocktails morir soñando and santo libre to wash it all down—in style and authentically.

Ready to Give Your Pasta a Beef Picadillo Ragu Twist?

Belqui’s Beef Picadillo Ragu

Recipe by Belqui Ortiz-Millili
3.6 from 5 votes
Cuisine: Dominican


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 lb ground beef, 85% is my preference

  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion

  • 1 tsp adobo seasoning

  • 1/2 cup manzanilla olives with some of their juice

  • 1 lime, juice of

  • 1/4 tsp ground oregano

  • 24 oz spaghetti sauce (I like basil flavored) or plain tomato sauce

  • 1 lb small or mezze rigatoni

  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish (optional)


  • In a large and deep nonstick skillet (I used a wok), over medium-high heat, add the ground beef. Cook the meat, breaking it up as you go with a wooden spoon or spatula.
  • Once the beef is halfway cooked, add the onions. Continue to break up the beef, stirring constantly.
  • When the beef is no longer pink, add the adobo, olives with their juice, lime juice, and oregano. Stir well until the beef is cooked through and there is little liquid left in the pan.
  • Add the sauce and stir. Lower heat to simmer.
  • Cover. Cook the pasta as directed while the picadillo ragu simmers.
  • Separately, boil the pasta until al dente—firm to the bite yet cooked through. When ready, drain the pasta and add directly to your pot with the beef picadillo ragu. Stir gently so as not to overwork the tender pasta.
  • Top with parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve! This is so good with a nice green salad and garlic bread—if you wish.


  • I have made this picadillo ragu with both tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce. Both are good but I think I like using spaghetti sauce a teensy bit more! If using tomato sauce, feel free to customize it to your taste with extra spices like basil, oregano or Italian seasoning.

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