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Cottage Pie

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This traditional Cottage Pie has a savory ground beef filling with carrots, onion, and celery topped with cheesy potatoes and baked until golden brown. This family favorite is the ultimate comfort food and super easy to make!

Cottage Pie topped with cheesy potatoes with a scoop of beef filling scooped out of a cast iron skillet.

Cottage Pie is one of those classic English meals that I grew up eating, and never once complained about it. Who could possibly resist beef in a rich gravy topped with mashed potatoes? Not me!!

I did make one big change from the meal that I grew up with, I added grated white cheddar cheese to the potatoes. This adds incredible flavor and another layer of decadence to this otherwise humble pie.

Ingredients needed

Ingredients needed to make traditional Cottage Pie.
  • Diced carrots, celery, and onion are sautéed in olive oil to soften them and create the base for the gravy.
  • Ground beef, or beef mince is the protein used to make cottage pie, not to be confused with Shepherd’s Pie. (see below)
  • All-purpose flour to thicken the gravy.
  • Dried thyme, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste add more depth of flavor to the gravy.
  • Red wine and beef stock add intense flavor to this dish. Substitute additional beef stock if not using wine.
  • Yukon Gold potatoes are creamier than Russet potatoes and closer to the type of potatoes used in Europe. Russet potatoes will also work, but they are a bit drier and have a grainier texture.
  • Butter and cream create a silky texture, and white cheddar cheese melts into the hot potatoes for even more creaminess.
  • Ground nutmeg adds a touch of flavor along with the black pepper and fresh parsley.

Be sure to check out the detailed printable recipe card below

Sheep Herder's Pie {aka Shepherd's Pie} is the perfect comfort food on cold winter nights | cookingwithcurls.com

I originally shared this recipe December 2012. Updated December 2022.

What is the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie?

Shepherds tend, herd, and guard sheep, so Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb. Back in the 18th century Cottage Pie was made with leftover cuts of beef and sliced potatoes that formed “shingles” on top of the pie.

In modern times the recipe has been simplified to use ground beef and creamy mashed potatoes. Outside of the U.K. it is referred to as Shepherd’s Pie no matter which filling is used.

Check out my Fisherman’s Pie for a delicious mashed potato topped, wine poached white fish in a velvety sauce that is another British favorite.

How to make Cottage Pie

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until they begin to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.

Diced onion, carrot, celery, and oil in a cast iron skillet.

Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook just until no longer pink, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon to separate. The beef will continue to cook in the oven.

Raw ground beef mixed into diced vegetables in a cast iron skillet.

Once the meat is browned, tilt the pan to drain the excess fat/liquid that has accumulated in the skillet. I use a large spoon and dump the liquid into a bowl, but you can also pour into a strainer if you prefer.

Stir in the flour, cook while stirring until the flour is golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Flour sprinkled over cooked ground beef and vegetables in a cast iron skillet.

Add the wine to deglaze the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the skillet.

Stir in the tomato paste, thyme, Worcestershire, beef stock, .25-teaspoon of pepper, and one tablespoon of parsley. Heat, stirring constantly until the mixture stars to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes.

Ground beef, carrots, celery, onion, and beef stock in a cast iron skillet.

Remove from heat and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place diced potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and cook until potatoes are for tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and drain. Place the potatoes in large mixing bowl and mash with butter, half of the cheese, nutmeg, parsley, and ground pepper until a smooth texture.

Mashed potatoes topped with black pepper and grated white cheddar cheese in a large mixing bowl.

Add enough cream until you reach desired consistency.

Mashed potatoes with chopped parsley and grated cheese in a large mixing bowl.

Gently top the beef mixture with the mashed potatoes then sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Grated cheese on top of mashed potatoes in a cast iron skillet.

Place the skillet on a parchment lined baking sheet to catch any drips while baking, then place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the gravy is bubbly. Place under the broiler for a minute or two to brown if needed.

Bubbly classic Cottage Pie topped with fresh thyme in a cast iron skillet.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Ground beef in gravy filling next to cheesy potatoes topped with fresh thyme on a plate.

Recipe Tips

  • I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet, but you can also use a 9″ deep-dish pie pan or 9 x 13 baking dish.
  • Chop the carrots, onion, and celery into small pieces so they cook faster and thoroughly, otherwise you end up with crunchy vegetables.
  • To prevent the potatoes from sinking into the beef mixture, it is best to make the meat first and allow it to cool before adding the potatoes.

Storage Tips

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Cottage Pie can also be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator and baked when needed.
  • You can also prepare ahead of time and freeze in a freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake until golden brown.

What to serve with Cottage Pie

This is a rich, carb-heavy meal so a light vegetable or salad on the side is perfect.

If you love this recipe, please rate it five stars and help me share on facebook and to help other readers in our community!

Enjoy!!

Cottage Pie topped with cheesy potatoes with a scoop of beef filling scooped out of a cast iron skillet.

Cottage Pie

Traditional Cottage Pie has a savory ground beef filling with carrots, onion, and celery topped with cheesy potatoes and baked until golden.
5 from 2 votes
Print Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British, Irish
Keyword: beef and potato pie
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 8 Servings
Calories: 553kcal
Author: Lisa Johnson

Ingredients

Beef Filling

  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup onions finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery finely diced
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef 90% lean
  • 2 tablespoons all-purppse flour
  • 5 ounces red wine substitute additional beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 0.5-teaspoon fresh
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • .25 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1.5 cups beef stock

Potato Topping

  • 2.5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes or Russet – peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
  • .33 cup heavy cream or more as needed
  • .25 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh parsley
  • 1.5 cups grated white cheddar cheese divided – optional but worth it
  • sea salt to taste

Instructions

Beef Filling

  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until they begin to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook just until no longer pink, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon to separate. The beef will continue to cook in the oven.
  • Once the meat is browned, tilt the pan to drain the excess fat/liquid that has accumulated in the skillet. I use a large spoon and dump the liquid into a bowl, but you can also pour into a strainer if you prefer.
  • Stir in the flour, cook while stirring until the flour is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the skillet.
  • Stir in the tomato paste, thyme, Worcestershire, beef stock, .25-teaspoon of pepper, and one tablespoon of parsley. Heat, stirring constantly until the mixture stars to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.

Potato Topping

  • Place diced potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and cook until potatoes are for tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.
  • Place the potatoes in large mixing bowl and mash with butter, half of the cheese, nutmeg, parsley, and ground pepper until a smooth texture.
  • Add enough cream until you reach desired consistency.
  • Gently top the beef mixture with the mashed potatoes and spread over the entire surface. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  • Place the skillet on a parchment lined baking sheet to catch any drips while baking, then place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and the gravy is bubbly. Place under the broiler for a minute or two to brown if needed.
  • Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet, but you can also use a 9″ deep-dish pie pan or 9 x 13 baking dish.
  • Chop the carrots, onion, and celery into small pieces so they cook faster and thoroughly, otherwise you end up with crunchy vegetables.
  • To prevent the potatoes from sinking into the beef mixture, it is best to make the meat first and allow it to cool before adding the potatoes.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • Cottage Pie can also be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator and baked when needed.
  • You can also prepare ahead of time and freeze in a freezer-safe container. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and bake until golden brown.

Nutrition

Calories: 553kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 121mg | Sodium: 422mg | Potassium: 1282mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 3281IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 218mg | Iron: 5mg

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7 Comments

  1. Lisa…what a great recipe share for our first party at Inspiration cafe! Thank you!!! Your Sheep Herder’s Pie looks so good….perfect comfort food. Pinning!!!

  2. Thank you so much for linking up to the Recipes from our Heritage Link party Lisa. I LOVE this recipe, we have a very similar one that I make at least once a week, here in New Zealand we call it Cottage Pie and the kids love it. xx Nat

  3. Lisa…this looks awesome!! I have a similar recipe, minus the parsnips and tomatoes. I’m trying yours next time! Thanks for sharing it at the Inspiration Cafe’s link party! Do you have an option to follow your blog by email? I didn’t see one and I’d love to be able to follow that way too, so I never miss a post!

  4. Gday and WOW! This looks delish, TRUE!
    Based on your recipe and photo, this IS on my list to do!

    Cheers! Joanne
    What’s On The List
    Foodie Friends Friday Party too!

  5. I am so in love with Shepherd’s Pie! I made it–I don’t know how many times–this past Fall/Winter. And I order it every time we got to our favorite Gastropub! Now that’s it’s Summer, it’s TOO HOT to make it. But I am going to pin this for the Fall! Can’t wait!!!!

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