Giada De Laurentiis Uses Mashed Potatoes In This Classic Italian Treat

Forget Thanksgiving sandwiches. You can repurpose your leftover mashed potatoes in an entirely new, entirely sweet way that will have you making a double batch.

Thanks in no small part to their thick, creamy texture and rich flavor, mashed potatoes are always a crowd-pleaser. Mashed potatoes are so distinctive that recipes of all kinds tend to use them as a metric for explaining an ideal consistency. A preliminary step in this vanilla cream puff recipe, for example, calls for the pre-baked dough to resemble the popular Thanksgiving side — albeit sans all the added starch.

Yet for Italian-American chef and television personality Giada de Laurentiis, mashed potatoes are more than a mirror for determining whether a dough is ready. Instead, potatoes are a secret ingredient capable of blending the savory with the sweet.

Granted, de Laurentiis' mashed potato recipe isn't your family's traditional one. The famous chef incorporates mascarpone — a creamy cheese popularized in tiramisu — in her potatoes. The blend enrichens flavor to create a truly decadent dish. Beyond mascarpone, her mashed potatoes also call for the addition of parmesan, garlic, and chicken broth: savory mainstays that don't exactly translate to a tasty dessert.

So keep your mashed potatoes simple and opt for de Laurentiis' zeppole recipe instead. You'll need to reserve a cup of starch for her iteration of the classic Italian pastry.

Mashed potatoes are a surprising addition to traditionally sweet zeppoles

If you've ever been to a street fair — or any city's Italian district — chances are you've come across zeppoles. Akin to fried dough and funnel cake, zeppoles are essentially a variation on a donut, derived from southern Italy (per Serious Eats). They're typically covered in powdered sugar, with a warm, crispy exterior.

But you don't have to go to an Italian-American street feast to try one for yourself. To make your own from home, de Laurentiis recommends using standard donut ingredients, like milk, sugar, butter, flour, and the like. Yet, according to the Food Network, her recipe also calls for a cup of mashed potatoes. To make 36 donuts, she incorporates the flour into a mashed potato mixture, creating a homogenous dough that is then fried in vegetable oil.

Other recipes, like Bon Appetit's zeppoles with chocolate sauce, skip the mashed potatoes altogether. But de Laurentiis, who has Roman origins, is not to be discounted. Although mashed potatoes may seem antithetical to Italian pastries, her zeppoles are surely worth a taste. Plus, the dish finishes with a side of cranberry dipping sauce, paying homage in more ways than one to the beloved Thanksgiving sandwich.