Here is my official, tested recipe—affirmed to be “perfect” by my wife (of Puerto Rican heritage). The process has a number of steps, but it’s less complex than it looks.
Part I – Beans
- Sort 1 pound dried small red beans (Habichuelas Rosadas Secas). These are hard to find, for some reason. If dried beans are unavailable, substitute two 15 ½ ounce cans of the same beans. Do not substitute another type of bean if you’re striving for the authentic effect.
- Soak dried beans overnight in water to cover generously.
If you are using canned beans, proceed immediately to the next step.
- Drain beans and place in 12 cup or larger pot. Add 8 cups water.
- Add 1 large sweet potato, cut into pieces (small but not tiny—they will cook down).
- Add 4 yellow potatoes, cut into pieces (same as the sweet potato).
- Cut 8 oz salt pork into small pieces. Fry just until done. Add to pot with beans. You may substitute pork chops, but salt pork is better.
- Heat to boiling and continue cooking over moderate heat for 1 hour, or until beans are almost tender.
Part II – Sofrito
While beans are cooking, prepare Sofrito as follows:
- 1 medium Spanish onion, cut into large chunks.
- 2 cubanelle peppers.
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled.
- 2 large bunches cilantro, washed.
- 5 ajices dulces (sweet chili peppers), seeded.
- 3 ripe plum tomatoes, cored and cut into chunks.
- 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks.
- Chop the onion and cubanelle or peppers in the work bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped. With the motor running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth.
Part III – Complete
When the beans are almost tender, add Sofrito to the pot along with the following:
- 16 oz Spanish style tomato sauce.
- 2 ¾ teaspoons salt.
- 2 packets (2 tbsp) Sazón Goya (con Culantro y Achiote).
- 1 tbsp Adobo seasoning (sin Pimienta).
- Mix and boil uncovered over moderate heat about 1 hour, or until cooked sauce thickens to taste.
- Serve over cooked rice; use medium grain rice (it makes a difference).