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Fufu Con Sofrito De Ajonjoli (Fufu With Sesame Sofrito)

Fufu Con Sofrito De Ajonjoli (Fufu With Sesame Sofrito)
Carol Guensburg for NPR

Maricel Presilla serves fufu, a traditional Afro-Cuban dish of cooked mashed plantains, yams or the nutty root vegetable malanga, at Zafra, her restaurant in Hoboken, N.J. (Her second restaurant there, Cucharamama, features South American fare.) "In both Cuba and the Cuban exile community, fufu is made with plantains and served as an earthy dry puree enriched with pork cracklings and garlic," she told me. Shaped into balls, following an old Cuban recipe, she presents it in a broth-like tomato sofrito flavored with sesame. Both the fufu balls and sofrito can be cooked a day in advance. Pair this side dish with pan-fried Cuban-style pork chops, steak or grilled chicken.

Serves 6 (about 18 fufu balls)


2 pounds plantains, yams, taro or malanga (if using plantains, choose ones that are ripening yet relatively firm, with few brown spots)

2 quarts water

1 to 2 teaspoons salt

1/4 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled, drippings reserved (optional)

2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste


3 tablespoons bacon drippings or olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 Cubanelle pepper (an elongated sweet pepper, similar to a banana pepper) or small green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste

1 pound ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

2 cups chicken broth, preferably unsalted


2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Peel the plantains, yams or malanga and cut into chunks; rinse under running water. Place in large saucepan and cover with water. (Add a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice to avoid discoloration, if you're not cooking immediately.) Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes.

Drain and mash into a fine puree with a fork or potato masher in batches, with a mortar and pestle, or using a food processor. Add more salt, if desired. Add the olive oil and garlic paste, and knead with your hands to form a homogeneous puree. Mix in crumbled bacon, if desired.

Shape into balls the size of golf balls, and set aside on a plate in a warm place.

For the sofrito, heat the oil in an 8- to 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper; saute until the onion is soft and golden, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until light gold, about 1 minute. Add the tomato and salt, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes more. Stir in the broth and taste for salt. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes more to blend flavors. The resulting sofrito will incorporate chunks in a thin broth.

Add the reserved fufu balls to the sofrito just long enough to heat through; left in the sauce too long, they'll begin to dissolve.

While the fufu heats, toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast to a golden brown while stirring, about 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat.

Ladle the fufu balls and sofrito onto a serving plate and garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

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