Move Over, Pumpkin Spice. Sweet Potatoes Also Make For Smashing Fall Meals

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Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese by chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese by chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Sweet potatoes have a whole lot going for them. They’re good for you— loaded with beta carotene, vitamin A and C, fiber and not very many calories.

They add a beautiful orange color to your plate and are totally adaptable in sweet and savory dishes.

Here are three of my favorite recipes.

Sweet Potato Mac And Cheese

The ultimate comfort food — macaroni and cheese — is elevated to a new level with the addition of baked sweet potato and creamy ricotta cheese. The sweet potato not only adds a brilliant orange color but also a sweet, earthy flavor. The dish can be made several hours ahead of time and baked about 30 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.


  • 8 ounces sweet potato, 1 large or 2 small
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces pasta, macaroni, penne, or your favorite shape
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cream or half and half
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the sweet potato on a cookie sheet and bake for 40 minutes, or until just soft when tested with a small sharp knife. Remove from the oven, and let cool. Remove the peel and cut the potato into 1/2-inch size cubes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Cook the pasta for about 11 minutes, or follow the directions (for al dente pasta) on the package depending on what variety you choose. Drain, but do not rinse. Set aside.
  • Also meanwhile, make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Add the flour and stir to create a thick roux. Cook 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and the cream, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until thickened. Reduce the heat to low and add the ricotta; stir until fully incorporated. Add ½ a cup of the parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Season to taste.
  • Place the drained pasta in a large 8 to 10-inch gratin dish or baking tray. Spoon the cheese sauce on top and stir to coat all the pasta. Stir half the potato pieces into the pasta and top the dish with remaining sweet potato.
  • Bake on the middle shelf for 20 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and bake another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the pasta is hot and bubbling and the cheese is melted.

Sweet Potato Fries With Miso Mayo

Sweet Potato “Fries” with Miso Mayonnaise by chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Sweet Potato “Fries” with Miso Mayonnaise by chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

These “fries” are oven-baked and make a healthy snack or side dish with this umami-rich miso mayonnaise. The mayonnaise will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

Serves 2 to 4.


The Sweet Potato “Fries”

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut lengthwise and then into wedges about 1/2-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The Miso Mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste, preferably white
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • Make the fries: preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the potatoes gently with the oil, salt and pepper, and place in a single layer on a cookie or baking sheet. Bake 6 minutes. Gently flip the potatoes over and bake another 6 to 8 minutes, or until soft on the inside.
  • To make the miso mayonnaise, mix all the ingredients in a small bowl.
  • If you want a crisper exterior place the potatoes under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve hot with the miso mayonnaise.

Sweet Potato And Spicy Sausage Tacos

Sweet Potato and Spicy Sausage Tacos by chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Sweet Potato and Spicy Sausage Tacos by chef Kathy Gunst. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

The combination of spicy pork sausage (you could also use a vegetarian sausage) and sweet potatoes on top of a corn tortilla sprinkled with feta cheese, pumpkin seeds and fried chile peppers is a great one.

Serves 2 (2 tacos per person).


  • 1 sweet potato, about 8 ounces, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound spicy sausage, removed from the casing
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 dried ancho or chipotle peppers, thinly sliced lengthwise, with or without seeds
  • 4 to 8 corn tortillas, depending on if you like single or double tortillas
  • Approximately 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Approximately 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Approximately 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped


  • Bring a saucepan of salted water to boil over high heat. Cook the sweet potatoes for about 10 to 13 minutes, or until just tender but not falling apart. Drain and cool. Cut into small cubes.
  • In a medium skillet heat the olive oil over moderately high heat. Add the sausage meat and cook, stirring for about 10 minutes, or until crispy and cooked through. Reduce heat to low, add the cooked sweet potatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Meanwhile, in another small skillet heat the vegetable oil over moderately high heat. When hot add the chile slices and cook, about 2 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
  • Warm the tortillas in a dry skillet over moderate heat or in a warm 250-degree oven.
  • To assemble taco: place 1 or 2 (if you like to double them up) warm tortillas on a plate. Add 1/4 of the sausage/sweet potato mixture. Top with a one quarter of the feta, chile slices, pumpkin seeds and cilantro, then serve. Repeat with the remaining filling and tortillas.

This segment aired on October 23, 2019.


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Kathy Gunst Resident Chef, Here & Now
Kathy Gunst is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and the author of 15 cookbooks.



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