Purè di Patate – Mashed Potatoes with Olive Oil and Garlic

Sometimes more traditional mashed potatoes, such as those in the style of Bologna, don’t quite fit with whatever main course you’re serving.  The texture is perfect, but the added dairy (butter and half & half) may not contribute the flavors you’re looking for.  A cleaner version of this satisfying way to make potatoes is to replace the dairy with a high-quality olive oil and a hint of garlic.  I loved these mashed potatoes while staying in the south of Italy; here is my attempt to replicate the recipe:



  • 1 pound of potatoes, scrubbed
  • 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced and divided
  • Pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water by about an inch.  Over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes.  Drain the potatoes.
  2. Gently heat half of the olive oil in a sauce pan at low or moderately low (medium is too hot) heat.  When the oil is heated, add half of the minced garlic and sauté until a pale golden color, about 5 minutes.
  3. Create a garlic paste with the second clove of garlic:  sprinkle the pinch of coarse sea salt over the remaining minced garlic clove and smash with the broad side of your chef’s knife, scraping it back and forth on your cutting board.  Work the garlic and salt until it forms a paste.  In a small bowl, add the paste to the remaining olive oil and whisk until combined.
  4. Pour the warm olive oil / garlic mix into the the raw olive oil / garlic paste mix.  Whisk until well incorporated.
  5. Set a food mill over the still warm saucepan in which you boiled the potatoes.  Spear a potato with a fork and peel the skin with a paring knife.  Repeat with the other potatoes.  Cut the peeled potatoes into chunks and drop into the food mill.  Process the potatoes into the warm saucepan.
  6. Stir in the olive oil mix until fully incorporated.  Remember that some potatoes will absorb less liquid than others, so add enough to arrive at the consistency you desire.
  7. When no more oil can be absorbed by the potatoes, add fine sea salt to taste.
  8. Serve immediately!


Tips for Success:

  • Mashed potatoes are best served piping hot.  It’s best to make this dish last.
  • You can also purée the potatoes into a double boiler if you’re worried they will get cold.
  • This is a dish where you want to use high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, because half of it is used raw.



I don’t believe they use russet potatoes in Italy; the less starchy, more watery new potatoes are the most common.  These smaller red potatoes hold their shape much better after cooking, unlike the starchier russet, which tends to flake apart.  I have to confess, though:  I prefer russets for both mashed and baked potatoes and leave the red potatoes for when we roast them, cook gnocchi, or make potato salad (Italian potato salad is delicious!).

Peeling the potatoes before boiling will render them rubbery.  Boiling with the skin on helps prevent the potatoes from becoming water-logged and precludes starch and protein (the flavor) from dissolving into the boiling water.  And peeling them after they’re boiled is easier – once you get the hang of it.  Just stab a potato with a fork and peel back the skin with a paring knife.

Nothing creates better mashed potatoes than a food mill.  A potato ricer works well, but requires processing in batches.  You can also use a potato masher, but the result is usually lumpy and heavy.  A hand mixer can also result in lumps and you can easily over-process the potatoes.  A mixer – like a food processor – aerates the food as it processes; something that’s not always desirable.

Sautéing half of the garlic not only infuses the oil, but also mellows the garlic, rendering it more friendly to the palate.




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