Potato Gateau is a French savory potato cake re-adapted to the Italian cuisine, and mostly known around the area of Naples as “Gattò”. Made of mashed potatoes, egg, parmigiano and with a filling of mozzarella and usually ham that we made vegetarian using a mix of spinach and scarola.
Gateau, potato? Up until a few days ago I had never heard of a potato cake, let alone Gatto di Patate. But thanks to my wife and her European influences, my palate is getting bigger and bigger. I remember telling Nicoletta that we had some potatoes left in the fridge, ones that I had picked up at The Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market, fingerling potatoes full of flavor and soft billowy texture when boiled. Nicoletta immediately said, I know what we should make, a Potato Gateau.
I was intrigued as I love potatoes any fashion. She described it as this cake with potatoes for a bottom and top, in the middle usually filled with ham and mozzarella cheese. My mind began formulating pictures, soft mashed potatoes seasoned just right, then the ham, nice and warm settling in to that gooey goodness of melted mozzarella, I am drooling at this point and am sold on this idea, but respecting Nicoletta for her vegetarian way, we decided that a nice sauteed spinach and scarola (Italian greens) would replace the ham, and you know what, I am still drooling and still in, hook, line, and sinker. So there you have the story of how our Potato and Spinach Gateau came to be.
The Journey of the Gateau
Thinking that we need some produce as there was not enough potatoes to complete the dish, Nicoletta and I visited Planet Organic, a local organic market that just recently moved to a newly renovated and vastly larger space, here in downtown Edmonton. I have visited before, when my wife was away, but it was Nicoletta’s first time, and let me tell you she was like a kid in a candy store. Looking at deli things, the many different types of flours, and of course the produce section where we picked up some Yukon gold potatoes, scarola, and various other items around the store, including some shower gel, soft tofu, tortilla chips, salsa and a most delectable Pain au Chocolat. That particular item was gone in seconds as we sat in the car chowing down on that flaky chocolaty delight. I love going shopping with my wife it is truly a blessing seeing her excitement over these beautiful organic products.
Now we are set to put this potato and spinach gateau together. A nice large pot of salted water is on boil, Nicoletta is busily peeling and washing potatoes, I am getting the greens sauteing, I had purchased some nice organic baby spinach from the Italian Center downtown which is going to work well for the filling of this gateau. Nicoletta saw the scarola which I planned on using as a salad, and she gave it the Italian boot as a salad, because of its firmness, but me always thinking outside the box said, hey why don’t we saute it with the spinach, it will add just another level of taste to the filling. Nicoletta agreed and in it goes after of course a nice vigorous wash and spin. A little dash of salt, pepper and onion powder along with some whole garlic which I will remove after. I just want a hint of garlic flavor. Potatoes are boiling and I am checking them for softness. A good thing to remember is to cut them evenly in size as this will ensure them to cook equally and at the same time.
I reach for a 9 inch spring fold pan as I am thinking that it will release this masterful cake of potato, spinach and mozzarella nicely. I am buttering the pan, then dusting it with Italian style bread crumbs. Potatoes are cooked a nice dollop of butter, some potato water and milk to get it rich and smooth during the mashing process. A little taste for seasoning reveals a need for some salt and pepper. I mix in some grated parmigiano, reggiano of course, thanks to the deli at The Italian center shop. This will add a bit of punch to the smoothness of the mashed potato. Throw in a whisked egg, and a pinch of nutmeg, mixing till it is all so creamy and blended.
Pan all nicely dusted with the bread crumbs gives home to a base of mashed potato, velvety smooth with a stick to your ribs texture. I use a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top of the mash so the spoon can glide and spread that bottom layer beautifully. Next in goes the mozzarella that Nicoletta so nicely chopped up. These little morsels are going to melt so wonderfully and will hold this gateau together. In goes the sauteed spinach and scarola, some more mozzarella on top, and this recipe is smelling so good I want to eat it up right now. The final stage of this composition is another layer of mashed potato, a dusting of parmigiano on top, a final sprinkle of Italian bread crumbs, and yes a splash of olive oil, now that’s Italian!
This dish weighs a bit so it will be a two handed affair into a preheated oven. This is where patience comes in and you have to wait, no finger dipping.
Several glances in the oven with that “IS IT READY YET! ” look on your face and you see it is bubbling a bit on the sides. I suggest a bit of time under the broiler to get that nice crispy golden crust to form on top, but watch it because it could burn very easily. Both Nicoletta and I are salivating at the thought of cutting into this potato and spinach gateau, with all that melting cheese, but it’s way too hot, and I don’t know about you, when I have a burnt tongue and mouth, I can’t taste a dam thing. More so I have to remind my wife to slow down and not burn her mouth, because she gets so excited to eat that she forgets that hot thing, lol. Then I have to administer first aid.
Gateau is out of the oven, a little time to cool and the magic moment arrives, I release the spring fold and YESSSSS! It comes right out and a nice golden crust has formed on the sides of the gateau. A quick cut and forks in hand, we taste, all I am hearing at this point is alot of mmmmmmms, yums, oh my god, this is so good. That crispy surface, I love potato crispiness, then your tongue falls into the folds of the creamy, soft, cheesy mashed potatoes nicely seasoned, not too much and not to little, and a surprise hit of nutmeg. The spinach comes up, buttery, with a hint of garlic and that scarola with that bitter sweetness subdued and pinned with the melted mozzarella and parmigiano. That is what I am talking about……… soul food. I know the potato lovers out there are really going to take this Potato and Spinach Gateau to heart land guaranteed! The last sounds heard, the forks scraping the plates to get that last bit of potato and cheese, and finally the sighs and smiles, absolutely beautiful. Our work is done.
Song of the day: “Mashed Potato” by Dee Dee Sharp.
This one will get you dancing for sure!Print
- 700 g potatoes, peeled, washed, boiled and mashed
- 250 g spinach, sautéed
- 50 g scarola, sautéed
- 1 egg, lightly whisked
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 350 g mozzarella, cubed or sliced as you prefer
- 50 g parmigiano reggiano, grated
- 1/8 cup milk
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garllc (to sauté the greens)
- Preheat the oven to 390° F (200° C) .
- Wash the spinach and scarola and sautée them in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, a clove of garlic, salt, pepper. Set aside.
- Peal, wash and boil the potatoes until they are fully tender, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size and quality of the potato, the run them through a potato masher into a large bowl.
- Add the butter, grated parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whole egg, lightly whisked.
- Mix everything very well until the butter is melted and the other ingredients well incorporated. If the mixture is too stiff to work with, add a bit more milk, a few drops at a time, until you have the texture you want.
- Grease the bottom and sides of an 9″ spring-form cake pan with the butter and dust it completely with breadcrumbs.
- Spread out half the mashed potato mixture on the bottom of the pan, then arrange a layer of mozzarella cut in cubes, a layer of spinach and scarola on top and another layer of mozzarella,
- Finish with the other half of the mashed potato mixture on top of the filling and even it out so that the surface is nice and flat.
- Top the whole thing with more parmigiano, breadcrumbs and sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the gateau is cooked through and golden brown. (If the top is not browned enough, broil it a bit but watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn).
- Let the gateau cool off a bit before slicing and serving.
If you want you can create appetizer size potato and spinach gateau using small ramekins.
- Serving Size: 4-6 servings
For the non-vegetarians, we have a grat recipe that uses mashed potatoes:
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