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Hearty and comforting Cottage Pie
Enjoy this delicious meaty casserole made with ground or minced meat and vegetables in a rich, flavorful sauce topped with creamy mashed potatoes.
What’s the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie?
Which is better: Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie?
Where does Cottage Pie come from?
Here are some tips for making the best Cottage Pie:
- Don’t skip the first step! Sprinkling a little baking soda over the ground beef helps it stay tender instead of chewy and tough. Thanks to America’s Test Kitchen for that amazing tip!
- Some cottage pies can be watery, and almost soup-like. To prevent this we start by using lean ground beef. As fatty beef cooks, it creates more juice that can water down your gravy. Make sure to use beef that is at least 90% lean.
- We recommend using a hand potato masher when making the mashed potatoes. An electric mixer makes mashed potatoes gummy.
- Our recipe calls for 2 cups of beef broth. If you prefer less gravy, reduce that amount to 1 or 1-1/2 cups broth instead.
- Cottage pie can be baked in the skillet used to cook the meat, or transferred to a casserole dish before baking. If you use a casserole dish, make sure it’s broiler friendly, or skip broiling the top and just bake until bubbly. The potatoes will brown a little without being broiled.
- For a simple shortcut use good quality, pre-made, store-bought mashed potatoes. Stir in an egg yolk before piping on top of the beef. Adding an egg yolk to the potatoes helps it turn a nice golden brown. I gleaned that terrific tip from my other go-to source for all things cooking and baking: Cook’s Country.
- Piping the mashed potatoes on top of the casserole is highly recommended. If spooned or dolloped, the potatoes tend to clump and sink into the meat and not spread as well.
- I’ve also has great success adding white cheddar cheese to the mashed potatoes and/or topping the casserole with shredded cheese at the end. Cheesy potatoes… yum!
Can this Cottage Pie recipe be made ahead or frozen?
- The meat mixture may be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Allow the beef to come to room temperature while preparing the mashed potatoes. Bake and broil as directed.
- Leftover cottage pie can be gently re-warmed in the microwave.
- We often freeze leftover cottage pie in individual servings to use as a quick weeknight dinner, or for a hearty lunch. Thaw the frozen cottage pie overnight in the refrigerator and rewarm in the microwave.
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PRINT THE RECIPE!
For the beef mixture:
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (not less than 90%)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
For the mashed potatoes:
- 3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks (3-ounces or 85g)
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ⅔ cup milk
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can low-sodium beef broth (use less broth if you prefer for a drier casserole)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 ½ cups fresh or frozen green peas
To prepare the beef:
- Place the ground beef in a medium mixing bowl. In a small cup combine the baking soda with 2 tablespoons water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Stir to dissolve. Pour the baking soda mixture over the ground beef and toss to combine. Set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature while preparing the potatoes.
To prepare the potatoes:
- Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover completely with cold water. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 10-12 minutes.
- Drain the potatoes completely until very dry. Return the potatoes to the pot and mash until no lumps remain. Add the butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir until the butter is melted. Whisk together the milk and egg yolk. Add to the potatoes and stir to combine. Cover and set aside.
To prepare the filling:
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- In an oven/broiler-proof large skillet (at least 12-inches wide) add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Heat on medium until butter is melted. Add the onions, carrots, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, if using. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots start to soften. Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir constantly until the mixture darkens and the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes, scraping up the browned fond onthe bottom of the skillet. Add the beef broth, Worcestershire and thyme. Scrape the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the beef in small chunks on top of the vegetables (don't stir). Bring the mixture to a simmer, cover and cook until the beef is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes, stirring halfway through breaking up any large clumps.
- Whisk together the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water and add to the beef. Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Stir in the peas and remove from the heat. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
- Place the mashed potatoes in a large zipper or pipping bag. Cut a 1-inch opening in one corner of the bag and pipe the potatoes over the beef mixture. Smooth the potatoes to cover the beef. Drag the tines of a fork across the top to make decorative ridges in the potatoes.
- Place the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is bubbling, about 15 - 20 minutes. Turn the broiler on HIGH, prop the oven door open slightly and broil the casserole until the potatoes are golden brown and crusty, about 5 minutes. (Watch carefully so they don't burn!)
- Cool 10 - 15 minutes before serving.
- Inspired by recipes on Food Network and Cook’s Country
- The beef mixture may be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Allow the beef to come to room temperature while preparing the mashed potatoes Bake and broil as directed.
- We recommend using a potato masher for the mashed potatoes. An electric mixer will make the mashed potatoes gummy.
- We use 2 cups of beef broth in this recipe. If you prefer a drier casserole with less gravy, use 1 to 1 1/2 cups broth instead.
- Fattier beef will create more juice, affecting the amount of gravy in this casserole. If using ground beef with a high fat content, decrease the amount of beef broth to 1 cup.
- This dish can be baked in the skillet used to make the meat, or transferred to a casserole dish before baking. Make sure your casserole dish is broiler friendly. If you don't have a broiler-friendly pan, skip that step and just bake until bubbly and browned on top.
- For a shortcut, use pre-made, store-bought mashed potatoes mixed with 1 egg yolk.
- Piping mashed potatoes on top is recommended. If spooned on top, the potatoes tend to clump and sink, and not spread as well when covering the meat mixture.
Here are a few more hearty casseroles you might also enjoy: