The Creamy Ingredient That Makes Twice-Baked Potatoes Way Better

Twice-baked potatoes are one of those dishes that take any meal up a notch on the fanciness scale. It doesn't matter if you're eating off paper plates in front of your television, if you serve a golden brown, crispy twice-baked potato, your tastebuds will be convinced you're at a fine dining establishment. Even better is the fact that it seems like these creamy, savory potatoes are probably very difficult to make — but they really aren't. Sure, they take some thought when buying ingredients (are you going vegetarian? Bacon all the way?) and some time — they're baked not once but twice, so this isn't a meal to start making late on a weeknight when you're already hungry.

But the technique isn't overly difficult, even in something like a Weight Watchers twice-baked potato recipe. Just bake, dig out the flesh, mix with ingredients, scoop back into the potato skins, then bake again until the top is crispy and the interior is warm and delicious. But there's a way to upgrade this already awe-inspiring food, and that's with mascarpone cheese.

The mascarpone magic

Mascarpone cheese is one of Italy's many gifts to the culinary world. It could be described as similar to cream cheese but with a smoother consistency and a more buttery, sweet flavor. It's brought to its thick, semi-solid state from liquid (a process called coagulating) with some sort of acid, like lemon juice or vinegar. The resulting cheese is incredibly smooth, thick, and spreadable.

It has a buttery, almost sweet taste that makes it ideal for both sweet and savory applications. Including and especially in — you guessed it — twice-baked potatoes. Many recipes for twice-baked potatoes include sour cream as a mix-in, which makes sense. After all, thick and tangy sour cream is a classic accompaniment to traditional baked potatoes. It works perfectly to make creamy mashed potatoes and works well with many flavors. So why even bother with the sour cream to mascarpone cheese switch-up? That's thanks to the mascarpone cheese's texture.

So nice to bake it twice

It's much airier and lighter than traditional dense sour cream, which means while it adds richness to the flavor, it doesn't make the potato itself heavier. Now that mascarpone is on the table, what to do with the rest of the potato? That's completely up to the diner.

Parmesan cheese adds salt and nuttiness, and cheddar adds that unmissable sharpness and tang. Crisp bacon is a classic addition though those with dietary restrictions (vegetarian, kosher, halal, etc.) have many options with chopped and cooked broccoli, and anything else that makes their tastebuds sing. When it comes to topping the twice-baked potato, you don't have to add anything, or you can add a sprinkling of fresh herbs. And fine, we'll just say it — if you serve a little sour cream alongside because you feel badly it got left out of the main dish, you might be rewarded with the best of both worlds: A creamy yet light twice-baked potato dolloped with the decadent tang of cool sour cream. After all, isn't decadence what a great twice-baked potato is all about?