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Kitchen Witch - Get more from your mash

Polpettone di Patate e Fagiolini

The things we do for love.

My first thought was to build upon ye olde potato puree (not that there's anything wrong with that), enhancing it with like-minded, easily boiled and mashed cold-weather crops such as cauliflower, parsnips and turnips. The result is undoubtedly more nutritious, but from a taster's point of view, more complex in both flavor and texture. (Not to mention it's a brilliant tactic if you've got recalcitrant vegetable eaters at home.)

Then I remembered a recipe scribbled in an old notebook, a mashed-potato casserole kind of thing with green beans that I have served at Easter in years past. Polpettone di patate e fagiolini is its long Italian name; traditionally, a "polpettone" is a filled meatloaf, but this version, from the northwestern coastal region of Liguria, is meatless. It's also not really filled or stuffed, but more like a potato pie that's gone to heaven.

Last week, I revisited this recipe, and I remembered why I loved making it in March, when spring is oh so close yet winter continues to nip at our heels. We still need a cozy blanket of mash, but the green beans, studded throughout with specks of fresh herbs, give us hope for the promise of warmer, longer days.

Polpettone di Patate e Fagiolini

1 pound potatoes, quartered (about 5 medium potatoes; I really like the creamy quality of Yukon golds for this dish)

Salt

3/4 pound green beans, trimmed

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an oven-proof baking dish, about 9 inches in diameter (for more of a "pie" effect, use a round dish).

Cook potatoes in boiling, salted water until fork-tender. Mash and cover.

In a separate saucepan, cook beans in salted water for about 10 minutes, until nearly tender. Drain, finely chop and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk eggs, then add both cheeses, whisking until integrated. When potatoes are cool, combine with egg-cheese mixture.

Place bread crumbs into a small bowl and pour milk on top, allowing bread crumbs to soften.

In a saute pan, cook garlic in olive oil for about 20 seconds, then add herbs and beans, tossing with tongs until well-mixed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow beans to cool. Add to potato mixture, and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add accordingly. With a rubber spatula, scoop filling into prepared baking dish. Top with bread crumbs. Bake about 40 minutes, until golden. Serve hot.

Makes about 4 servings.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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