Cottage pie is like shepherd’s pie, but with ground beef instead of lamb. This easy cottage pie is a simple, rich, warm, and comforting dinner! This dinner is the definition of true comfort food! It’s my mom’s birthday dinner request every year, and a perfect dish to take to a family that needs a meal. It tastes super rich but it’s actually pretty healthy. Ground beef, onions, carrots, peas, flour, beef broth, red wine, tomato paste, and mashed potatoes are all you need for this crowd-pleasing dinner! It’s a great make-ahead dinner as well.
Shepherd’s Pie Vs. Cottage Pie
If you had mentioned to teenage me that cottage pie would someday be one of my favorite easy dinners, I would have given you a pretty strange look. A “what is cottage pie?” look, to be exact, because I had exactly zero concept of what that was.
After Philip and I got married, I started watching Nigella Lawson religiously on the Style Network. She made shepherd’s pie with ground lamb, which, 17 years later, is still pretty difficult to find around here. I started making it with ground beef instead. Later, in one of Nigella’s cookbooks, I learned that shepherd’s pie made with ground beef is actually known as cottage pie.
This recipe is not Nigella’s recipe. It’s wholly mine, though it almost seems a little disingenuous to claim such a simple recipe as your own. There is nothing difficult about this dish, but when you taste it you’ll be blown away by how perfectly all the flavors work together to make something that is a little elevated.
I like to make the gravy for the meat with a combination of Better Than Bouillon and red wine thickened with flour. You can use beef broth instead of Better than Bouillon; I just never use up a carton of beef broth before it goes bad so it’s way easier for me to keep a jar in my fridge.
Tips for Making Easy Cottage Pie
- You can use leaner ground beef, but you will need to add some butter or oil in order to allow you to make the roux for the gravy. You will need to have about two tablespoons of fat in the pan.
- You can leave out the carrots and peas in the meat if you or your family doesn’t like them.
- You can use 1 teaspoon of Better Than Bouillon + 1 cup of water OR 1 cup low-sodium beef broth in the recipe.
- If you prefer to leave out the wine, you can just sub in another cup of beef broth or 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon + 1 cup water.
- If you want to turn this into a make-ahead meal, prepare it but do not bake. Cover with foil and refrigerate for up to two days or freeze for up to a month. If you freeze this, you will want to thaw it completely before baking. Add twenty minutes to the bake time.
This easy cottage pie recipe is perfect for a comfort meal on a cold night or to take to a family that needs a comforting meal. Just add some rolls and maybe some green beans on the side for a perfect, easy dinner!
Yield: 6 servings
15 minPrep Time:
1 hrCook Time:
1 hr, 15 Total Time:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, scrubbed and diced
- 1 pound 80/20 or 85/15 ground beef
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup red wine (I use Cabernet)
- 1 cup low-sodium beef broth or 1 teaspoon low-sodium Better Than Bouillon + 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Peel the potatoes then rinse and cut them into large chunks. Place them in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and generously salt the water. Cook until the potatoes are tender then drain. Place the hot pan back on the stove and add the cream and butter. Stir until the butter is melted and add the potatoes back into the pan. Mash with a potato masher or use a mixer to mash. If the potatoes are too thick, add more cream or milk until they reach the desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.
- While the potatoes are cooking, preheat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and when the olive oil shimmers, add the onions and carrots and cook until the carrots begin to soften. Add the ground been and cook until well browned. Push back the meat and remove all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
- Sprinkle the meat with the flour. Stir and cook for one minute. Slowly stir in the red wine then the beef broth or Better than Bouillon/water mixture. Stir constantly until thickened. Add the tomato paste and peas and stir until well combined.
- Spread the meat mixture into an 8-9 inch square baking pan or a pie pan. Spoon the mashed potatoes over the top and spread to completely cover the top of the meat. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the mashed potatoes are browned on top and the meat mixture is bubbly. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.
To make ahead: make the meat mixture and top with the mashed potatoes. Cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate for up to two days. Remove from the refrigerator while the oven is preheating. Remove the foil and bake the cottage pie at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Check the temperature before serving to make sure that the food is hot.
To freeze: make the meat mixture and top with the mashed potatoes. Cover tightly with plastic wrap then aluminum foil. Freeze for up to a month. Thaw completely in the refrigerator before baking. Remove from the refrigerator while the oven is preheating. Remove the foil and plastic before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, checking the temperature before serving to make sure that the food is hot.