on Feb 27, 2022, Updated Nov 22, 2023
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A thick layer of mashed potatoes blankets a rich filling of ground beef and vegetables with a savory sauce in this classic English cottage pie recipe.
Cottage pie is usually made with chopped or ground beef and is the British cousin of Irish Shepherd’s pie, which features lamb. The most important part? A thick layer of mashed potatoes on the top, which browns slightly in the oven as it bakes. The ratio of mashed potatoes to the beef filling is generous, but that’s intentional — you don’t need a whole lot of meat to have a satisfying meat and potatoes meal.
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Cottage Pie: This classic English recipe boasts a thick layer of mashed potatoes blanketing a rich filling of ground beef and vegetables in a savory sauce.Tweet This
Cottage Pie Ingredients
Many of the ingredients for this cottage pie recipe may already be in your kitchen.
- Potatoes – I use the classic Idaho russet potatoes for the mashed potato topping in this recipe.
- Ground beef – The base of cottage pie.
- Onion, carrot, and celery – Classic pot pie vegetables add flavor, texture, and nutrition.
- Minced garlic
- Rosemary and thyme – Dried herbs are perfect in this savory pot pie.
- Flour – Thickens the sauce.
- Tomato paste – Flavors the broth and veggie mixture.
- Worcestershire sauce – Optional, but provides more depth of flavor.
- Corn kernels – Add a bright, crunchy element to this rich dish.
- Chicken broth – The base of the sauce.
- Milk – Creams up those mashed potatoes for the topping.
- Butter – Add richness and flavor to the mashed potatoes.
Pro Cooking Tips and Variations
- You can also think about adding a cup of frozen peas along with the corn if you wish.
- Turkey is an option instead of beef, and of course, lamb is always a good choice, which basically gets you back to a Shepherd’s Pie.
- If you leave out the flour, the sauce will not thicken as much, but the recipe will be gluten-free if that’s a goal.
- If you want the top to be more browned, run the pie under the broiler for a minute or two at the end, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t get too brown.
How to Make Cottage Pie
- Cook potatoes: Simmer the potatoes in a pot of water until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.
- Cook the beef: Meanwhile, brown the beef and drain.
- Sauté veggies and seasoning: In the same skillet, sauté the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, and thyme until the vegetables are starting to soften.
- Add flour and tomato paste: Season with salt and pepper, add the flour, and stir until it coats the vegetables, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce (if using).
- Add beef, corn, and broth: Stir until the liquid thickens into a sauce, about 4 minutes.
- Mash the potatoes: In the saucepan you used to cook the potatoes, heat the milk and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until barely simmering. Put the cooked potatoes through a food mill or a ricer, or use a potato masher to mash them in the simmering milk. Season, and stir until hot and well blended.
- Spread potatoes over top of mixture: Use a spoon to make nice wavy peaks and valleys in the potatoes; the peaks will then get nicely browned and beautiful in the baking.
- Bake and serve: Bake for 15 minutes. If you want the top a bit more browned, you can run it under the broiler for a few minutes. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
A cottage pie uses beef, while a shepherd’s pie uses lamb. Otherwise, the two dishes are very similar in flavor and ingredients.
Cottage pie is extremely popular in Britain, often served in pubs. It’s a total English comfort food.
What to Serve With Cottage Pie
More Pot Pie Recipes
- Shepherd’s Pie
- Chicken Pot Pie
- Turkey Pot Pie
- Hashbrown Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie Casserole
- Salmon Pot Pie
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- 1 ½ pounds Idaho russet potatoes (peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
- ¾ cup chopped onion
- 1 carrot (peeled and diced)
- 2 stalks celery (trimmed and diced)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1 cup corn kernels (canned and drained, frozen, or fresh)
- 1 cup less-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk (or half-and-half or cream)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Place the potatoes in a medium-sized saucepan and add cold water to cover. Salt the water, then place over high heat until the water simmers. Lower the heat to medium-high and continue to simmer, partially covered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, spray a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring frequently to break up the meat, until brown and crumbly, about 5 minutes. Turn into a colander to drain. Carefully wipe out the skillet.
- Heat the oil in the same large skillet over medium-high heat, and sauté the leeks, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, and thyme and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften. Season with salt and pepper, add the flour, and stir until it coats the vegetables, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce (if using), cooked beef, and corn, and then add the broth and cook, stirring, until the liquid thickens into a sauce, about 4 minutes.
- Turn the mixture into a 9-inch deep dish pie pan.
- Drain the cooked potatoes. In the saucepan you used to cook the potatoes, heat the milk and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter until barely simmering. Put the cooked potatoes through a food mill a ricer, or add the potatoes as cooked chunks and use a potato masher to mash them in the simmering milk. Season with salt and pepper, and stir until smooth, hot, and well blended.
- Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the beef and vegetable mixture in the pie pan. Use a spoon to make nice wavy peaks and valleys in the potatoes; the peaks will then get nicely browned and beautiful in the baking.
- Bake for 15 minutes until the top is set and a bit colored. If you want the top a bit more browned, you can run it under the broiler for a few minutes, but keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t get too brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.