Donna’s Good Luck Potatoes

My friend Donna Natale Mason…what can I say other than that Texas is not nearly as colorful without her? She is a vibrant, loud, gorgeous bit of Texas stomping through the snow in Indiana in red cowboy boots. We were debutantes together in Wichita Falls and she keeps threatening to come back to Texas and have a get together where we all wear our (very small sized yet shockingly poufy) deb dresses and eat lots of food and tell raunchy jokes.

In the meantime she has given me a very decadent, yet simple recipe that is dear to her heart. You know I have a soft spot for recipes that are truly an embodiment of love. This recipe not only yields a baked mashed potato dish that will make you tear up with delight, but the story behind it will make you a little weepy, as well. At a minimum it will make you call your mother and tell her you love her, if you are still fortunate enough to have her around.

This is part of the note that Donna sent to me:

“My sweet Momma made these for me when I was pregnant with my daughter, Molly in 2005. My mom was in her third battle with breast cancer, and we weren’t sure she was going to beat it this time. She wanted to throw a dinner party in my honor and invited all of my girlfriends for a wonderful dinner. She made a beef tenderloin, glazed carrots with raspberries, a spinach salad and these potatoes. My Momma beat cancer and we make these potatoes every time we need good luck.”

Hence, I call these Donna’s Good Luck Potatoes. If you are in need of a little luck, or just craving a dish that feels like a hug from your mother, please try these. I love them for several other reasons, as well. First, they have Gruyere cheese in them. Second, they use mashed baked potatoes which I like because I don’t have to peel potatoes with a peeler. And, third, they also have Parmesan cheese in them. For years, Parmesan cheese has been my own personal mashed potato secret. Well, not a secret, but a key. I use it in my mashed potatoes every single time and it yields a flavor that is hard to place, but makes the potatoes richer and fluffier.

My only other comment on mashed potatoes is that it is important to mash in the butter before you add the milk. I learned this in Cook’s Illustrated years ago and I stand by it. The science behind the order is that the butter coats the starch molecules before you add the milk and prevents the milk from making the potatoes gummy. But truthfully, you need not understand the science to gain an immediate benefit to your mashed potato dishes.

Donna's Good Luck Potatoes
Recipe type: Side
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6
This is by far one of the most popular recipes on website. The story is inspirational, and the potatoes are outstanding. Thanks, Donna!
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes
  • 3 ounces grated Gruyere cheese (try your microplane if you have one)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted (or in my case, mostly melted)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¾ cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (I used shredded)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Scrub the potatoes and poke several holes in each with a fork. Bake until a fork pierced into one of the thicker ones meets little resistance, approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Cool potatoes briefly. Then, cut them in half. Using a towel in your hand to keep the potatoes from burning you, spoon the flesh from the peels and into a large bowl. Discard the peels.
  2. Mash the potatoes a few times with a masher and add the melted butter. Continue to mash the potatoes until they are evenly coated with butter. Add the milk and continue to mash until the potatoes are the consistency that you like. You can add a splash more milk if you need to get to a good consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Seriously, taste it…you need good mashed potatoes as a base for this amazing topping).
  3. Spread the potatoes into a greased 3 quart baking dish. Depending on how much the potatoes have cooled during this process, you might cover them and put them in a warm oven (perhaps 250 degrees while you prepare the cream. The potatoes only go into the oven for an additional 10 minutes so they need to be warm before you add the topping).
  4. Whip the cream until it is fluffy, but soft and fold in Gruyere cheese. Spread over the potatoes and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes.


Donna says you haven’t lived until you make these with steak.

My mashed potatoes, that I love, merely use butter, milk or half & half (depending on my mood), salt, pepper and a handful of Parmesan. Give that a try sometime, too.

Gruyere is a type of Swiss cheese (generally speaking because there are French “Gruyere” cheeses, as well). It is also commonly used in French Onion Soup and on Crocque  Madame sandwiches. I love it and have also used it in my Cauliflower Gratin. It is also a great cheese to eat for snacking and even my kids love it.

As you can see from my photos, I should have gone one size up on my baking dish OR put a foil liner under the dish. The cream portion puffs up a bit, which is pretty on the dish but not on the bottom of your oven. So, consider that when choosing your baking dish.

In closing:

When I talked to Donna about posting this recipe and how I almost cried when I read her words the first time, she said:

“I didn’t mean to make you cry…I made these last night and I knew you’d love them. But, seriously, make steak with it. And my Momma? She just had her appointment and she is 6 years cancer free. My mom is my hero…..I will share that story with anyone…..xxoo.”

Thank you, Donna. And, thanks to Donna’s mom, Priscilla Natale, for having a great kid and great recipes. Now, all of the rest of you who have the privilege, go call your mom.


  1. says

    I did indeed get all choked up. Thanks for sharing Donna’s wonderful story and great recipe. I’ll definitely remember when I need some good luck.

    I don’t have my mom with me any more but I talk to her every day.

  2. Amy Bush says

    Love the recipe, and look forward to trying this one out. I laughed and cried while reading your post. I remember those poofy deb dresses and the mall bangs to match! What an inspiring story behind, of all things, potatoes! I have shared your website with my Mom and we both love your posts. Keep up the good work.

  3. Kelly says

    Well, Merriman, obviously you will have to come when we have our deb dress feastival and comedy night. I think my mom still has my dress in a closet somewhere. Can you imagine. You’d even probably still fit in yours. Not I. That is why we will have a “no need to zip” rule.

  4. Kelly says

    Indeed! And it is a keeper. It is easy and it is special. I hope you will let us know when you make it.

  5. Christine says

    You have been blessed to have such a wonderful memory from your Mom that will always be cherished!

  6. Kelly says

    It is a wonderful story. I thought it was very sweet of Donna to share it with me so I could share it with everyone. And, darn good potatoes too!

  7. Donna says

    Um, Kelly? I’m not sure I’ll be able to get my deb dress over my head since I’ve been eating these potatoes the last 6 years….and really….really…please make this with a juicy steak….the juices marry so well with these potatoes. Really.

  8. bethany says

    Oh my goodness. These were amazing. Made them tonight for a last minute dinner we threw together, and they were the star of the show!! The gruyere was so lovely with the parmesan cheese. And so creamy! Will definitely make again…and again…and again…

  9. Kelly says

    Bethany, I’m so glad you liked them. I think they are a delicious, bubbly treat. The gruyere puts them over the top…literally in my case.

  10. Earlene Nelson says

    Yum, these sound really good I’m definitely going to give them a try. I only have one problem with them. I can’t see myself just tossing the potato skins. Brush them with a little olive oil, broil them till golden brown and crispy, then sprinkle with some shredded sharp cheddar cheese and chopped cooked bacon pieces, then broil some more until the cheese is melted and bubbly, serve with some sour cream w/chives. I have a hard time throwing anything out if I can make something else nummy from it.

  11. Kelly says

    Thank you so much. Donna is one of a kind. I’m so grateful that she shared this story and recipe with us. It was a fun one to write and cook knowing what it means to her family.

  12. Donna says

    My name is Donna! and I am 10 mo. breast cancer free. When I read this post I knew I had to make these potatoes. They sound fantastic!

  13. Kelly says

    First, CONGRATULATIONS!!! What a funny (not exactly funny) coincidence. I hope you like them. I think my Donna will be thrilled that you are trying them. Come back and let me know how they work for you. And, thank you for visiting PIE.

  14. Priscilla Natale says


    I am so glad you like Donna’s Good Luck Potatoes – but I am the “lucky” one to have her as my daughter! I am so happy Donna told me about your site – I love your recipes!! Priscilla

  15. Kelly says

    Priscilla, so glad to see you here!! Your potatoes have been a big hit. I’m so glad Donna shared the story and recipe with us. And you are lucky, she is a wonderful woman. But I gather that she is pretty lucky in the mom department, as well.

  16. Kelly says

    Oh, I wish I knew how to do that for you…I really do. But I don’t. Maybe you’d come over to the dark side for an evening. Probably, not. But if you ever do, this would be a good place to start.

  17. Susan says

    OMG. My boyfriend and I just made these tonight. We added a layer of chopped bacon between the potatoes and cheese topping and, let me just have a moment to say, OH. MY. GOD. This is the best potato recipe I have ever, EVER made. Top notch. Eleventy billion stars. Amazeballs. AMAZEBALLS.

  18. says

    I commented before, but I keep making these potatoes because I am an addict for them. Also, I shared them on my Facebook page, with a direct link to this website! SO GOOD.

  19. Lara says

    I got this off pinterest when I was looking for a recipe that my Mum could eat before her colonoscopy – as she is limited to what she can eat – basically mashed potatoes kumara (sweet potatoes), cheese, and pumpkin with no added sauces or flavouring (other than cheese! lol) – she has been cancer free for 10 years (fingers crossed) but has had to deal with a lot of other health problems including H.U.S that people in Germany died of last year – she was the first case in New Zealand to survive and not be on dialysis. My Mum is my inspiration too so thank you and your friend for sharing this recipe – I can now cook her up a good luck feed!

  20. Kelly says

    I hope your mom is doing well. This is definitely a great comfort food and “good luck” recipe.

  21. Amber Noe says

    I found this recipe on Pinterest today and immediately decided it would be making an appearance on my menu this evening. I just pulled these out of the oven, and oh my gosh! They are incredible! Took Donna’s advice and made a big juicy steak to go with them. Pure heaven! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. :)

  22. Kelly says

    Amber, I’m thrilled that you like them. Donna is a seriously decadent cook. I love being able to share this recipe of hers…and, of course, the great story behind it, as well. Steak is the perfect match, though I think I could eat a whole meal of the potatoes, too!


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