My Grandmother didn’t get along with potatoes. (An Italian immigrant, her carbohydrate of choice was pasta, preferably made from scratch in her kitchen.) She saved her worst scorn for mashed potatoes. One exception: potatoes, boiled and mashed, made great potato patties, or croquettes. Unlike her neighbors who made potato croquettes from leftovers, often hiding peas and other green vegetables within in, Nonna made the mashed potatoes fresh, specifically for this dish, and the patate, as she called them were served straight out. No vegetable surprises. And, unlike her neighbors, she added parmesan or pecorino cheese to the mix. This made Nonna’s potato patties a rare treat rather than a weekly punishment. We loved them as a side dish, and often looked forward to them more than whatever else was on the plate.
The outside of these should e golden brown and crunchy, something that is easily boosted using panko, Japanese bread crumbs, now available at any large supermarket.
PATATE FRITTI Makes 4 servings
1. Peel potatoes; cut into cubes; cook until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and put them through a ricer, then fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.
2. Set up 3 plates: one of seasoned flour, the second of the eggs beaten with a tablespoon of water, the third with the bread crumbs.
3. Mash the cooled potatoes with the cheese. Scoop up a half cup of the potato mixture, and shape into a patty. Dip into flour, then egg, then coat with bread crumbs, shaking off the excess after each one. Continue until all the potato mixture is used. Refrigerate, lightly covered with plastic wrap, on a foil-lined baking sheet, for 1 to 2 hours.
4. Heat the oil in a deep skillet. Add the patties, a few at a time so that the pan is not crowded. Cook, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a paper towel-lined sheet pan. Keep warm in the oven until you finish the whole batch.