Pumpkin and Cheesy Baked Potato Casserole
There’s something about baked potatoes that just screams fall comfort food.
And baked potatoes, paired with cheese and pumpkin, create a whole trifecta of fall comfort.
My husband adores potatoes. He will eat them any way they’re served. He prefers white to sweet, but any will be just fine. Hash browns, French fries, mashed potatoes and gravy, baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, and even microwave potatoes. No matter the preparation method, he loves his tubers. Potatoes, paired with cheese in a hearty casserole that’s baked so that the edges crisp up and the center remains soft and gooey, earned me big time brownie points.
I, however, am not really am not a meat and potatoes girl. I haven’t had any meat in more than two decades and I’m take-it or leave-it with potatoes. They’re fine but if I’m going to load up on fairly empty white carbs and butter, I prefer them in the form of Cinnamon Raisin English Muffins with Cinnamon Sugar Butter.
I also had a half-opened can of pumpkin puree from some other pumpkin baking projects that was lingering in my refrigerator, and I incorporated it for a little extra beta-carotene and nutritional oomph.
Scott thought the pumpkin puree was marinara sauce. He also thought the zucchini flecks in this Zucchini Banana Bread were chocolate chips.
The beauty of this little number was that it literally took me five minutes to prepare before baking it. First, line a 9-by-9-inch pan with aluminum foil in order to save yourself time on later on with the dishes and elbow grease.
I used one twenty-ounce bag of Simply Potatoes Homestyle Slices from my grocer’s refrigerated case. I divided into about three-quarters of the bag for the crust and the remaining quarter was layered on top. Regular hash brown-style potatoes will also work or you could slice potatoes the old-fashioned way noting that you will likely need to extend the baking time if using raw potatoes because the kind I used are softened and precooked a bit.
Layer the potatoes in the base of the pan so they will form a nice solid wall, overlapping them as necessary so there are no holes or gaps. This is important because you want all the soon-to-be melted and oozing cheese to be contained. Drizzle about two tablespoons of olive oil over the slices, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Then spread about one cup of pumpkin puree over the potatoes, or whatever is in the bottom of the can that you’re not really sure how you’re going to use up, but now you know. Then add about four ounces of sliced or shredded cheese, vegan cheese, or your favorite cheese. I sliced my cheese but shredded cheese would be lovely, too.
Top the cheese with the another layer of potatoes, albeit a much thinner layer than the crust layer. Drizzle about two more tablespoons oil, season with a touch more salt, pepper, and then sprinkle on your favorite seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash, Lowry’s, Old Bay, Trader Joe’s 21 Salute, or whatever spices sound good to you. I think cinnamon and nutmeg sound good with the pumpkin, but I wasn’t making this for me, so I refrained.
Then bake off your five-minute layered masterpiece for about 45 minutes, or until it’s as golden at you like. The more well-done for my husband, the better. He loves really well-done edges and if this casserole was the equivalent of a cookie, it would be a very chewy-edged cookie with a very tender center. Sort of like this cookie. Everything reverts back to sweets rather than savory for me.
This got rave reviews from both Scott and Skylar. The melted cheese smothered and engulfed the soft and tender potatoes in a big, wonderful, cheesy blanket. Everything is enhanced by melted cheese, I’m sure of that. The pumpkin puree added a nice pop of color to an otherwise white dish, as well as provided some extra nutrients and fiber.
I used a Mrs. Dash seasoning blend and it added flavor and visual interest. I like seeing large flakes of spices or large bits of coarsely ground black pepper on my food. I like to really see the herbs and spices as well as taste them. I like to really see my chocolate, too.
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and it’s important to keep that in mind for certain times of the month. Yes, those times of the month when the credit card bill arrives.
This did the trick.
- 20 ounces thinly sliced potatoes, sliced about ⅛-inch thick, divided (I used one bag of these Simply Potatoes Homestyle Slices or use about 1¼ pounds potatoes)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- pinch salt, to taste
- pinch pepper, to taste
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (about half of one 15-ounce can)
- 4 ounces sliced or shredded cheese (American, Havarti, Pepperjack, Monterrey Jack, or similar; use Daiya or similar to keep vegan)
- 1 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning blend, to taste (Mrs. Dash, Trader Joe's 21 Salute, or similar)
- Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9-by-9-inch baking ban with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray.
- Place about 15 ounces potatoes (about three-quarters of the bag if using a 20-ounce bag) in the baking pan arranged in a staggered yet flat layer so the potatoes form a solid crust over the base of the pans, without gaps or cracks so the cheese will be contained when it melts. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Note: The prepared refrigerated potatoes I used are softened and somewhat pre-cooked; if using raw potatoes that are then sliced or grated, baking time will likely need to be extended.
- Spread the pumpkin on top of the potatoes in a smooth, uniform layer using a spatula or knife. Add the cheese slices in a single layer (or add shredded cheese so that it's all about the same height and fluffiness). Top with remaining potatoes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle seasoning blend over the top, to taste.
- Bake for about 45 minutes until top is browned and golden. Serve immediately. Extra casserole may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
For example, about 1 cup of the following may be added on top of the cheese layer before topping with the remaining potato slices: grated zucchini or carrots, corn, salsa, black beans, kidney beans, crumbled tofu or tempeh, pre-cooked chicken or sausage, or most any vegetable on hand can be worked in. Baking time may need to be extended by 5 to 15 minutes if adding substantially more ingredients.
Baked Chipotle Sweet Potato and Zucchini Fritters – I prefer sweet potatoes to white, and although this could be made with any type of potatoes, the sweet potatoes paired nicely with the zucchini and chipotle seasonings
Spicy Baked Eggs and Hash Brown Casserole – Music to my husband’s ears. Baked eggs and potatoes, cheese optional. If there’s one thing he loves as much as potatoes, it’s eggs, and paired together it was an easy dish that was a hit
Vegetable Lasagna Casserole (vegan, GF) – Rather than using traditional noodles, I made a noodle-like pancake from grated carrots and zucchini, but hash browns or grated potatoes could also be used to create a noodle. Top with any kind of filling you enjoy from salsa with corn and beans to marinara sauce
Cheesy Taco Casserole (vegetarian with vegan option, GF) – Picture tacos or enchiladas, minus the shells, being baked into casserole form, complete with rice, beans, and salsa
Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole (Vegetarian/Vegan, Gluten-Free) – Baking chips and cheese into this sure beats using breadcrumbs or noodles. A tailgater’s dream food
Cheezy Vegetable Bake (vegan, GF) – Rather than using cheese, I used nutritional yeast to create a cheezy flavor. I add nooch to anything I possible=y can, from vegetables to popcorn to Cheezy Kale Chips. I order all my nutritional yeast from iHerb.com and I’ve found they have the best prices and I go through lots. Use code AVE630 to save $5 on your order