A rich gravy with ground beef and vegetables topped with ultra creamy mashed potatoes. The ultimate comfort food: Shepherd’s Pie!
Growing up, my family had a tradition of big Sunday dinners. Nearly every Sunday we’d go to our grandparents house for some kind of pot roast or ground beef dish, mashed potatoes, and lots of sides. Whenever it was my parent’s turn to make the roast and potatoes, they’d make extra which my mom would refashion into a shepherd’s pie for Monday night dinner. It was one of the most frequent meals we had growing up and luckily, everyone loved it! I was talking to one of my sisters recently about mom’s famous shepherd’s pie and realized I’d never really made it for my own family. Since making it a few times for my boys, we’ve decided this shepherd’s pie needs to show up frequently on our dinner table.
What is Shepherd’s Pie?
First of all, this meal is not technically a true “Shepherd’s Pie”! A true shepherd’s pie originates from England and is traditionally made with ground lamb. However, since in the states, ground beef is eaten more than lamb, this meal is usually referred to as a shepherd’s pie. (In England and other parts of the world, they’d call this ground beef version a “cottage pie” and the lamb version “shepherd’s pie.”)
Although the name might be a bit different, a shepherd’s pie is essentially a casserole with cooked meat and vegetables in a flavorful gravy, topped with creamy mashed potatoes, and sometimes cheese. This casserole gets baked in the oven until the the mashed potatoes are golden and slightly crispy on top.
Shepherd’s pie is a great way to repurpose a big meal (or holiday leftovers) into an equally delicious dinner! While I’m sharing ground beef in this recipe today, my mom often made shepherd’s pie with leftover pot roast which you can certainly do.
How to make Shepherd’s Pie:
Because shepherd’s pie is often made up of leftovers, it is one of the easiest and quickest meals to make! Here’s how to make it in a few quick steps:
- Prepare your meat base: Add sauce or gravy and vegetables to your meat. This creates the base of our shepherd’s pie. The wonderful thing about shepherd’s pie is that you can always change the veggies, sauce, and meat that you use. While I’ve included my favorite version of shepherd’s pie here, you should feel free to try your own variations using the veggies or meat you have on hand – just make sure you keep to the recipe’s ratio of meat and veggies.
- Add the potatoes: Once the meat and veggie base is prepared, you can add the mashed potatoes on top. After you add the mashed potatoes on top, use a fork to add texture to my potatoes. This will give you plenty of crispy potatoes bites after you’ve baked the pie. Alternatively, you can add cheese to the top of your shepherd’s pie. When adding cheese, prepare it first without cheese and then remove the pie 3-5 minutes early, add shredded cheese, and return to the oven until cheese is melted.
- Cooking shepherd’s pie: Because all of the components are already cooked, this meal cooks relatively quickly. The pie should cook until the potatoes are golden brown and the edges are bubbling – approximately 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
What sides should you prepare with Shepherd’s Pie?
Because shepherd’s pie is a heavier dish that already includes meat, potatoes, and vegetables, I would recommend a lighter salad to go with it. Here are a few of my favorite sides:
- Winter Fruit Salad
- Candied Pecan and Pear Salad
- Candied Almond and Mandarin Salad
- Pomegranate Orange Salad
- Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
Preparing ahead and storing Shepherd’s Pie:
- Shepherd’s pie is a great dish to prepare ahead of time. Make it the night before or the morning of, store it covered in the fridge, and then bake it when you’re ready to eat!
- After your shepherd’s pie is cooked, you can store typically it for an additional 3-5 days, covered in the fridge. You may need to adjust that storage time depending on whether you used fresh ingredients or leftovers. If using leftover meat, remember that meat should not be stored for more than five days from when it was originally cooked, NOT from when the pie was made!
- You can freeze this Shepherd’s Pie! After cooking the pie cover it tightly and you can freeze it for up to two months. Cook the frozen pie at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour before enjoying.
More Comfort Food:
A rich gravy with ground beef and vegetables topped with ultra creamy mashed potatoes. The ultimate comfort food: Shepherd's Pie!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups mirepoix (mix of carrots, onion, & celery), finely chopped (I chop 1 small yellow onion, 1 celery rib, & 1 carrot to get 2 cups)
- 1.2 pounds ground chuck round
- 1/4 cup white flour
- 1/2 cup frozen sweet peas or corn
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 and 3/4 cups beef stock (low sodium) (can use low sodium beef broth)
- 1/2 cup 100% grape juice
- 1 beef bouillon cube
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 bay leaves, separated
- 2 and 1/2 pounds potatoes (I use an equal mix of Yukon Gold and Russet; if just using one use Yukon Gold)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream (can use fat free)
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Optional: fresh parsley or fresh thyme, for topping
Pour 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large (oven-safe to save a dish!) skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic cloves and finely chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently for about 1 minute. Add the finely chopped carrots and celery and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until veggies are softened.
Increase heat to high and add in the beef. Cook, breaking up the beef, until browned through. If there is excessive grease, drain off that additional fat. Add in the flour and cook an additional minute to cook off the flour taste. Reduce heat to medium-high and add in the frozen peas or corn, can of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, beef stock, grape juice, beef bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce, dried thyme, and 2 bay leaves.
Bring this mixture to a simmer then reduce heat to medium and bring the mixture to a rapid simmer. Cook for 25-35 minutes at medium heat, stirring every 5 or so minutes, until you have a good thickened gravy. Remove from heat, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. (I like making in the morning and assembling before dinner). If making immediately, place in the fridge until potatoes are done (you want the mixture to chill for as long as possible so the layers stay separate when baking, 15-20 minutes at a minimum) 🙂 If you didn't prepare in an oven-safe skillet, transfer to a 2 quart oven-safe dish.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel and then cube the potatoes into golf-ball sized pieces. Place in a strainer and rinse under cold water until the water rinsing through comes out clear. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon fine sea salt and 1 bay leaf, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender; about 15-20 minutes. When a potato can easily be pierced, drain the potatoes in a strainer and make sure you get rid of ALL the extra moisture. Let them dry for about 3 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.
While the potatoes are drying in the strainer, add the heavy cream, sour cream, and butter to the pot. Melt on low heat and stir to combine. While potatoes are still hot, put them through a ricer and add right on top of the butter/sour cream mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper (I use about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Cover and place in the fridge until ready to assemble pie! OR add these mashed potatoes to top the pie in an even layer.
Use a fork to add marks into the surface of the potatoes. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.
Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown and the edges are bubbling. Broil for 1-2 minutes on high to get the very tops of the potatoes crispy! Remove from heat and garnish with fresh thyme or fresh parsley as desired. Serve hot 🙂