I tried Ina Garten’s cheesy twist on mashed potatoes, and they’re the perfect Thanksgiving side dish

Mixing Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
I made Ina Garten’s parmesan smashed potatoes, and they changed my opinion on the traditional Thanksgiving dish. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
  • I made Ina Garten’s parmesan smashed potatoes, her twist on the traditional Thanksgiving dish.
  • The recipe includes parmesan cheese, unpeeled red potatoes, sour cream, and plenty of butter. 
  • I’ve never loved mashed potatoes, but Garten’s delicious upgrade deserves a spot on my holiday menu.

I decided to tackle three different Ina Garten recipes for a recent Friendsgiving.
Ina mac and cheese
I’ve been whipping up Ina Garten recipes for Friendsgiving. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the most experienced chef in the kitchen, so cooking more than one recipe for Friendsgiving felt extremely ambitious. 

But Ina Garten has been my guide as I’ve worked to sharpen my cooking techniques and instincts, so this year I decided to skip my usual store-bought contribution and make a few of her dishes instead. 

I made Garten’s overnight mac and cheese, which was a huge hit with everyone. But you can’t have a proper Thanksgiving meal without potatoes, and I knew just the “Barefoot Contessa” recipe I wanted to try. 

Garten recently shared the recipe for her parmesan smashed potatoes and said they’re perfect for the Thanksgiving table.
Ina Garten
Garten shared the recipe for her smashed potatoes with Al Roker. NBC/Contributor/Getty Images
Garten whipped up her parmesan smashed potatoes while appearing on Al Roker’s podcast, “Cooking Up a Storm with Al Roker,” earlier this month. 

“The key to mashed potatoes is what you add to them to make them have great flavor,” she told Roker. “Two things people really miss a lot, in almost every recipe, is the salt. It needs a lot of salt to give it flavor.” 

A post shared by Ina Garten (@inagarten)

Garten’s dish also features smashed potatoes instead of mashed potatoes, a time-saving technique that I knew would be super helpful with an ambitious Friendsgiving menu. 

But how would the “Barefoot Contessa” twist compare to a classic Thanksgiving dish? It was time to find out. 

Garten’s parmesan smashed potatoes only need a few basic ingredients.
Ina Garten smashed potatoes ingredients
Garten’s smashed potatoes include parmesan cheese and sour cream. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
To make Garten’s smashed potatoes for six to eight people, you’ll need: 

  • 3 pounds red potatoes (don’t peel them!) 
  • ¼ pound unsalted butter 
  • 1 ½ cups half and half 
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream 
To begin, I first placed my potatoes in a pot with cold water.
Boiling potatoes for Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
I covered my potatoes with cold water. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
I added one tablespoon of salt to the pot and made sure the water covered the potatoes.
I brought the pot to a boil, then lowered the heat and covered the potatoes.
Boiling potatoes for Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
I boiled the potatoes for 25 minutes. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
Garten recommends boiling the potatoes for 25 to 30 minutes, until they’re completely tender. My potatoes were ready right around the 25-minute mark. 
While my potatoes were on the stove, I prepped the butter.
Melting butter for Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
I heated my butter with the half and half. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
I heated the butter in a small saucepan with the half and half, per Garten’s recipe.  
Once my potatoes were ready, I threw them into a bowl and grabbed my electric mixer.
Mashing potatoes for Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
I only used the electric mixer on my potatoes for a few seconds to break them up. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
All you need to do is mix the potatoes on low speed for a few seconds to break them up. These aren’t supposed to be mashed after all! 

Garten’s recipe recommends using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for this step. I just used my electric hand mixer with a regular mixing bowl, and it still worked great. 

Then I slowly added the hot cream and butter to the potatoes while mixing on the lowest speed.
Pouring butter into potatoes for Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
Then I added the butter and half and half to the potatoes. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
Per Garten’s instructions, I folded in the last quarter of cream and butter with a spatula instead. 
Once that was mixed in, I added the sour cream and parmesan cheese.
Adding parmesan to Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
I folded in the sour cream and parmesan cheese. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
I folded in the sour cream before throwing in the parmesan cheese. And as a huge cheese lover, I’m not ashamed to admit that I added a full cup — and then some. As Garten herself said, the parmesan helps give these potatoes “an edge.” 

“It’s something that’s a little sharp,” she told Roker. “That kind of wakes up your taste buds.”

All that was left to do was season the smashed potatoes.
Adding seasoning to Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
Then I added the seasoning to my smashed potatoes. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
Garten’s recipe only calls for two teaspoons of salt, which did not fly with my boyfriend, who was also my sous chef for the night. He added a little more regular salt to the mix, along with some garlic salt and Italian seasoning for a delicious kick. 
In just a few easy steps, the smashed potatoes were ready.
Mixing Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
My potatoes looked absolutely delicious. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
The red from the potatoes’ skin gave the dish a nice pop of color, and I loved that you could see all the chunks. It was clear the smashed potatoes had a lot of texture, and they already looked far more appetizing to me than traditional mashed potatoes. 

Also, a pro tip from Garten: If your potatoes are looking a little too thick, simply add more hot cream and butter. And, if you’d like to reheat your leftovers, just throw the potatoes into an ovenproof baking dish, add some more parmesan, and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes. 

I sprinkled a little more parmesan on top and dug in. And wow, these smashed potatoes were absolutely delicious.
Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
I loved how chunky the smashed potatoes tasted. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
I’m going to confess something to you, reader. My family doesn’t really care about mashed potatoes. If they’re on the Thanksgiving table, they came out of a box. Thank you for all your years of service, Betty Crocker!

So you’ll have to understand that mashed potatoes never used to excite me. But Garten’s parmesan smashed potatoes have changed everything. 

These potatoes are deliciously thick and full of flavor, from the sharpness of the parmesan to the subtle sweetness of the red potatoes. And they were a huge hit at Friendsgiving. 

“The smashed potatoes were deliciously salty, and also not overcooked,” my boyfriend said. “They still had a bit of texture to them — it wasn’t just like a bowl of soup.” 

“The best mashed potatoes I’ve had!” our friend Kayla added. “So creamy and thick.” 

I never used to care about mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving, but I’d happily make Garten’s version again and again.
Anneta with Ina Garten's smashed potatoes
I’d definitely make Garten’s smashed potatoes again. Anneta Konstantinides/Insider
Garten has made a name for herself by giving fun and unique twists to classic dishes, and that skill is out in full force with her parmesan smashed potatoes. 

This is such an easy recipe to make ahead of a big Thanksgiving dinner, and I think it’s so much more exciting than the traditional mashed potato dishes that I’ve tasted. After giving the potatoes some time to just sit on the stove, you barely have to do five minutes of work. And the finished product is still way better than anything from a box. 

To borrow one of Garten’s favorite phrases, how easy is that?