Seasonal Kitchen: Papabilo’s Sweet Potato Casserole


by Chef Maria Rivera, Sobremesa

My great grandfather (whom we called Papabilo) loved to cook. He loved being in the kitchen and making up new recipes. My mom tells me stories of sitting in the kitchen and watching him cook. Although I was very young when he passed away, I always feel close to him because we share the love of feeding people. Thanksgiving was always a big affair in my family, so we did it potluck style. My mom always made this, from her grandfather’s recipe.

As an adult, I love trying new recipes around the holidays, but this is a staple. Boniato is less sweet and denser than sweet potato, so it changes the flavor profile from a traditional sweet potato casserole recipe. This casserole was my great grandfather’s take on an American classic, with a Cuban twist.

Papabilo’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves 8

1 1/2 pounds boniato (also called batata or Cuban sweet potato), peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 1/2 pounds sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

1/2-3/4 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4-8 ounces orange marmalade

Jumbo marshmallows, for topping

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Place boniato and sweet potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with cold water by 1 inch and generously salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until easily pierced with tip of a paring knife. Drain, and return to pan off heat.

Add milk and butter and mash to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish. (If making ahead, cool then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

There are two options from here. Papabilo used to spread a thin layer of orange marmalade across the top of the sweet potato mixture and then top with marshmallows just before baking.  My mom and I like a little bit less orange flavor, so we add the marshmallows first (standing up on their flat sides), with about 1/2 inch of space in between, then spoon a little marmalade in between the marshmallows.

Bake, uncovered for 20-30 minutes, until center is warm and marshmallows are golden.