Shepherd’s Pie, or Cottage Pie, is a humble casserole dating back to Europe in the 1700s. Traditionally, lamb is used to make shepherd’s pie, while other red meats make a cottage pie. North Americans usually call this mashed-potato-topped, meat-and-vegetable-dish, a shepherd’s pie, including us.
This is the recipe we’ve been using for about a decade, and it took a lot of trial and error of the prior decade to get the veggies just right as the kids grew up and went through their various picky phases. One thing that seems to stick is grated carrots. When I started grating the carrots, in most of our dishes, seconds and thirds started happening a lot more often. Having more surface area of the carrots available to flavour the dish makes a difference too, so the benefit of grating isn’t just the texture. Lots of folks like chunkier veggies, so definitely prepare them to your preference!
Something that we gave up after many years was diced tomatoes. This dish needs the tomato flavour, but diced tomatoes weren’t providing the right taste or texture, and tomato sauce was all wrong, so I tried tomato paste and that was it. Added bonus, it helps thicken the sauce up.
For the vegetables, use what you like. We add a can of green beans, usually french cut as the textures work well with the rest. Cut green beans, peas, corn – whatever you like! We used to use corn, but so much farmed corn is GMO that we mostly stopped eating it (check out amazon for no-GMO cornstarch – or use tapioca or arrowroot to thicken instead). Frozen veggies are fine, just throw them in like you would fresh or canned.
So as you prepare this dish, prepare everything how your family prefers. Your types of meat, your preferred veggies and how they’re cut. It’s really a forgiving recipe. Let me know if you tried this recipe in the comments!
- 2 lbs ground beef and/or pork
- 1 onion - medium, diced
- 3 celery stalks - diced
- 2 carrots - medium-large, shredded, diced, or sliced
- 1 can vegetables - drained, or 1½ cups fresh or frozen; green beans, corn, peas, diced tomatoes, etc
- 1 tbsp worchestershire sauce
- 1 tbsp Better than Bouillon, Beef
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp salt and pepper - or to taste
Sauce (see notes)
- 2-3 tbsp cornstarch - or preferred thickener
- ¼ cup water
- 1 cup milk - or more as needed
- 1-2 cups grated cheese - sharp/old cheddar or your preference
- 3-4 cups mashed potatoes
- If needed, prepare mashed potatoes on stove or in Instant Pot.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add ground beef/pork, onion, and celery. Cook and stir until meat is brown and onions are translucent.
- Add carrots, vegetables, worchestershire sauce, Better than Bouillon, tomato paste, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 350°f.
- Measure cornstarch into a marked liquid measuring cup then add enough water to fill to ½ cup line. Pour into pan, followed by milk and stir completely. If needed, add more milk to make filling as saucy as desired. Turn heat to medium. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
- Pour filling into 9x13 casserole dish. Add grated cheese and mashed potatoes in order preferred - we like to add the cheese directly to the filling and then top with mashed potatoes, but lots of folks prefer the cheese on top.
- Bake in 350°f oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly and the potatoes start to brown.
- Allow to set 10 minutes before serving.