No marshmallows. No pecans. No brown sugar. These Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil, Thyme, and Parmesan are a savory take on mashed sweet potatoes. With just ¼ cup of oil for the whole batch, dare I say they’re a healthier take on them, too!
Most families fall into one of two categories on Thanksgiving: their sweet potatoes are adorned with marshmallows or their sweet potatoes are topped with a brown sugar and pecan crumble. My family falls into the latter—no marshmallows in sight. The ratio is probably 60% sweet potatoes to 40% crumble, which is just how I like it! The corner pieces seem to hold more crumble so I reach for one of those. 🙂
These Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil, Thyme, and Parmesan are a different take altogether. They’re decidedly savory, with the fresh thyme and pungent Parmigiano Reggiano. I love the flavors that they lend to the potatoes. There’s just enough thyme to keep guests guessing (what’s that herb?) and the parmesan comes in with a nice, salty kick.
Instead of a pre-shredded cheese, I grated a hunk of imported Parmigiano Reggiano with a microplane for this recipe. It really does make a difference in the flavor of the finished dish. It’s usually available in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store, and sometimes you can even find it pre-grated. The pre-grated version spoils more quickly than the large hunks, but as long as you use it within a few weeks, it should be fine.
Instead of butter, I used olive oil. It’s a little more heart-healthy than butter, but in reality it just pairs nicely with the thyme and parmesan. It puts a decidedly Italian spin on these sweet potatoes, and is a nice change of pace from the usual butter-ladened side dish.
A Note on Technique
The texture of the potatoes will turn out best if you follow these steps:
1. Peel and cut the potatoes in 1½ inch chunks
2. Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water
3. Heat the potatoes and water together until boiling
4. Reduce to a simmer and let cook until a fork easily slides in and out of the middle of a potato
This technique of even-sized chunks and starting the potatoes in cold water (instead of throwing them into boiling water) ensures the potatoes cook evenly. As a result, they’ll also mash evenly and you won’t have lumpy mashed sweet potatoes.
To mash the potatoes, I use a handheld mixer (here’s the one I use). It’s so much easier than mashing them with a potato masher, and yields a similar result. A stand mixer would work, too. You don’t really run the risk of easily over-beating the mashed sweet potatoes like you do traditional white mashed potatoes. I suppose you could, though, so don’t go crazy!
I served with Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil, Thyme, and Parmesan as part of a Friendsgiving with my friend Kelley of Haviland Events. She contributed all of the gorgeous dishes and created the tablescape for the dinner. She has a knack for making things more special, with added little touches and thoughtful ideas and decor. She’s also a wedding planner (Chicago folks—check her out here!). She did Longe’s and my wedding, and we were so over-the-moon with her and her work in making our day special.
Here’s the rest of the menu for this Italian-inspired Thanksgiving:
Olive Oil & Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil, Thyme, and Parmesan (recipe below)
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Italian Stovetop Green Beans
Orange Hazelnut Cranberry Sauce
Two-Layer Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Olive Oil, Thyme, and Parmesan
Yield 6–8 servings
- 3 lbs sweet potatoes
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, removed from stem and chopped
- ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1¾ teaspoons salt
- Peel sweet potatoes. Cut into 1½ inch chunks and place in a large saucepan. Cover with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt to the water. Place pan over high heat and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15–20 minutes, or until a fork easily slides in and out of the middle of a potato.
- Drain the potatoes. Place back in the large saucepan or another mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and ¾ teaspoon salt. Using a handheld mixer, mix on medium speed until mashed, about 3–4 minutes. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano and thyme; mix for 30 seconds more.
- Taste and season with additional salt if desired. Serve immediately.
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