Love From the Lunchroom

Potato Turbate

December 14, 2016

Since I ran the recipe for this Pinellas County, FL school cafeteria lunchroom favorite, I’ve heard from more than a dozen readers who fondly remember the dish. Susant T., who attended Starkey Elementary in Pinellas County, FL, in the early 1960s, asked for it first, so Susan: know that you have a lot of grateful cohorts who appreciate your request. Cafeteria-hot-dish-wise, potato turbate is basically a stripped-down version of shepherds pie ( seasoned ground beef baked under a thick layer of whipped (turbated?) potatoes. “That dish is the one we get most requests for when people write in, or do menus for school reunions,” says Dolores McCoy, a longtime nutrition education specialist and menu planner for Pinellas County Schools. While earliest versions of the turbate were sans vegetables, the recipe was updated a few decades ago to include some onion, carrot and celery.

Potato Turbate
Serves 10
With love from the lunchroom of Pinellas County, FL school district, potato turbate is a simple beef/gravy/veggie shepherd's pie. Easy to make & comfort food for sure, it's a kid favorite.
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  1. Meat and Vegetable Filling Ingredients
  2. 3 pounds ground beef (chuck)
  3. 2 ribs celery, diced
  4. 1 small onion, chopped
  5. 1 cup fresh, shredded carrots
  6. ¼ cup whole wheat flour (NOTE: regular unbleached white flour is okay, too)
  7. 2, .87-ounce packages powdered brown gravy mix (McCormick brand is fine)
  8. 1 2/3 cups beef stock
  9. 1 tsp granulated garlic
  10. Fresh cracked black pepper and salt, to taste
  11. 1 tsp. light soy sauce
  12. Sprinkle of Worchestershire sauce
  13. Whipped Potatoes Ingredients
  14. 3 cups instant mashed potatoes
  15. To brush on before baking
  16. 2 Tbsp. margarine, or butter, melted
  17. Paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In saute pan, brown ground beef. In microwave, combine raw vegetables with 2 Tbsp water; cover and microwave-steam vegetables until tender; about 5 minutes. Drain fat from ground beef. Combine vegetables with beef; sprinkle with flour and seasonings. Stir combine. Stir in powdered beef gravy mix. Add stock. Simmer five minutes until thickened. Spread layer of beef mixture in bottom of 9 x 13 baking pan. Prepared mashed potatoes as directed on package (Choose the method on the box that includes milk and butter). Spread 1/2 of the whipped potatoes over beef. Using a pastry piping bag, top the potatoes with piped potato for more decorative look. Brush top with melted butter; dust lightly with paprika. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly brown on top (about 30 minutes.)
Adapted from MKRogers
Adapted from MKRogers
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  • Reply Teresa Starling Culpepper August 14, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Loved the Potato Turbate. Does anyone know the recipe for the hamburger buns served at Lealman Jr. High in Pinellas County back in the 60’s?

  • Reply Mark August 15, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Hi Monica, thanks for this stroll down memory lane! As a Pinellas County schools kid in the 1980s (Ponce de Leon Elem.) I fondly remember Potato Turbate.

    There’s one particular lunch item I, we, all adored and would to get our hands on: Mexican pizza! The kind we had was shaped like a hexagon, with dark orange cheese and a spicy beef sauce. Pretty simple but oh so good. Any leads? Perhaps Dolores McCoy could be of help?

    Thanks again!
    Mark H.

    • Reply Monica Rogers September 2, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      🙂 Wowee! I’ll look into it. Thanks, Mark!

    • Reply Lisa March 17, 2018 at 12:43 pm

      Oh my goodness. I lived in pinellis county Florida 43 years ago , and remember this favorite lunchroom meal. We lived in Madeira Beach and were bussed to a school about a half hour away. I always remembered how much I enjoyed this lunch. Thank you
      How I irononic that it was a school lunch favorite and that it was from pinellas county. Lol

      • Reply Lester J Frazier July 13, 2019 at 8:27 pm

        Remember it all to at Seminole middle school in the late 70’s hard to beat. Would get two lunches that day

        • Reply Lorraine Margulies April 7, 2020 at 5:00 pm

          That was my Aunt Mary Raffa as head cook!!!!

          Lorraine Margulies

  • Reply Melanie M Hernandez January 7, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    I remember this from Belcher Elementary 90s ! Fav

  • Reply Michael Vozda August 27, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Thanks, I remember the potato turbate being my favorite lunch at SkyCrest elementary school in Clearwater,Fl in the 60s

  • Reply Jennie Wilson December 30, 2018 at 3:11 am

    Favorite lunch of this gal who went to schools in Pinellas in the seventies and eighties! Thank you.

  • Reply John Garland April 5, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    LMAO I have searched for this recipe several times in the past. This morning after just waking up I tried it again. BOOM, there it was! Greco!

    • Reply Monica Rogers May 2, 2019 at 8:16 pm

      John! : ) I have had so many people comment on this recipe. I’m so glad you found your way too it. Enjoy!

  • Reply Robin Maro May 18, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Late 60s Lakewood elementary school. My favorite lunch. I’ve made it for years. Still my kids favorite. And they are to young to have had it in school. My first wife’s mom was a lunch lady. When I was in my 20s she would always bring me a Pan home. And the one from the lunchroom is still the best.

  • Reply Antoinette Coleman June 29, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I was a Pinellas County student in the 70’s and became a Teacher there in the early 90’s at Clearwater Comprehensive/ Clearwater Discovery/ Clearwater Intermediate. All these posts recall Very Fond memories of our cafeteria manager, MARY DOWD, and her entire staff!! Ms. Mary, as she was called made the children and staff meals that rivaled Grandma’s Best!
    Christmas and Thankgiving meals with All the fixin’s including homemade desserts
    My best memory is of here preparing a LARGE spread of hand mixed salads, an entire salad bar with…..homemade warm breads for Teacher appreciation week!!
    I would love to see Ms Mary Dowd again!❣
    ” Love Made From Scratch!!”

    Antoinette! I love this story 🙂 Kudos to Mary Dowd and all the good food memories! –Monica Kass Rogers

  • Reply Faye DeLong July 2, 2019 at 12:22 am

    I definitely remember the potato turbate. My mom, Margaret Hargraves was a cafeteria worker at San Jose Elementary. She made the main dish so if you went to San Jose in 1962 and up she made this dish for you!

  • Reply Jeanie Johnson April 1, 2020 at 7:51 pm

    Thank you so much. I made this last night. First time since the 60’s when I attended Azalea Elementary in St. Pete. I didn’t even know the name of it., so was surprised to find a Pinellas County recipe for it.

  • Reply Bob Lamb August 5, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    My mom, Mary Helen Lamb, was also a lunchroom cook when I attended Lakewood Elementary and Roser Park Elementary in the mid-sixties. This was my favorite lunch dish along with the square ground meat pizza. We always got extra after school when we were waiting for her to get off of work.
    I make it all of the time now and everyone at my house loves it so much. I would associate this dish with Shepherd’s Pie which I order in restaurants anytime it’s on the menu.
    Does anyone know if Lakewood and Roser Park are still functioning schools? I haven’t lived there since 19991.

    Bob Lamb

    • Reply Monica Rogers August 16, 2020 at 1:35 pm

      Wow! So pleased you shared this story 🙂 I hope Lost Recipe Found fans out there may know answer to your question. Good luck! –Monica Kass Rogers

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