Cook once, eat twice. Cheesy Cottage Pie is great to eat now and freeze some for later when you’re too busy to cook. Cheesy potatoes, warm and flavorful beef in every bite this comfort food recipe will be a family favorite!
Cottage Pie is one of my go to recipes for when life get super busy. It’s a comfort food classic that is filling, economical and made with simple ingredients like ground beef, potatoes, peas and carrots. The meat layer has a light gravy which just screams comfort food so everyone walks away happy and full!
The cottage pie is made with ground beef, but I’ve used ground short ribs, ground lamb (aka shepherds pie) and even have made it with leftover turkey that Ive just cut into small chunks.
Cottage Pie Versus Shepherds Pie
Let’t get the elephant in the room out in the open.
I usually call this recipe shepherds pie, but technically its a cottage pie. What’s the difference between the two? Today cottage pie is made with ground beef and shepherds pie is made with ground lamb.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Cottage pie was originally a savory food for those who didn’t have a lot of money. Small amounts of meat were ground up, (any they could find or afford,) then were topped with potatoes that were inexpensive. The name cottage came from the houses they lived in.
Later the classic British Recipe referred to ground lamb as Shepherds Pie (which came from the fact that shepherd’s herd sheep.) Since then there are specific meats associated with each one.
I’ve served this dozens of times for company and it’s more understood by others as Shepherds Pie so I use that name whether I’m using lamb, ground beef, ground turkey or ground short ribs— Everyone always wants seconds and no-one goes away hungry.
Looking for more Casseroles? You can find all of our casseroles here!
Step by Step Photos for making this simple but flavorful classic!
Tips on how to make Homemade Cottage Pie Casserole
- Buy 85/15 ground beef (or beef mince if you want the British word!) There is a little bit of fat in it, but it gives a rich sauce.
- I use carrots, celery and onions as the base and cut them in small pieces so they sauté quickly and evenly. The most important thing is to cut each vegetable in similar sizes so they cook evenly.
- Cheesy mashed potatoes are by far the thing that stands out among other recipes that I have had. Any hard cheese works- cheddar, gouda, mozzarella– and even a flavored cheese like a bacon cheddar will add a lot to the delicious casserole. (you can find the recipe for the gouda cheesy mashed potatoes here! )
- Worcestershire sauce adds a tart tang to the recipe— don’t leave it out. It brightens the flavor. If you don’t have that, you could use teriyaki or soy sauce to replace it.
- You can use frozen peas and corn but you’ll toss those in at the last minute right after adding the broth, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. If you are using fresh corn or peas, go ahead and saute them with the carrots and celery so they can cook a little bit before baking.
- Other vegetables you could add in that work well are mushrooms, butternut squash and peppers. These are not “authentic” but they work very well in the recipe.
Variations on this Ground Beef Potato Casserole
This is a Quebec Style casserole that is like cottage pie. It uses a layer of meat, then a layer of creamed corn then is topped with the potato crust.
St Stevens Day Pie
Made with leftover turkey and ham instead of ground lamb or ground beef this pie is served the day after Christmas in many countries.
Traditional cottage pie made with ground lamb instead of ground beef.
Helpful Suggestions for Entertaining:
This delicious recipe can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and placed covered/sealed into the fridge until you are ready to bake it. You’ll want to remove it from the fridge to come close to room temperature before baking it. This method may require a a few extra minutes to get hot throughout.
This is a great recipe to make a double batch of and freeze for a later date. (It keeps for 3 months frozen.) When you are freezing it you’ll want to wrap it in plastic so it doesn’t get freezer burn.
I like to make the second batch in a foil container so my good dishes aren’t in the freezer. (see the photo below)
When it comes time to defrost it you will want to let it thaw so there is no frozen sections. This will allow for even cooking.
Don’t have time to make the homemade mashed potatoes or have any leftover potatoes? By all means use some instant mashed potatoes (follow the instructions on the box and add a cup of cheese if you want too!)
This cottage pie is very filling on its own, but if you are looking for more to serve with it for a full meal you could serve it with green beans, sugar snap peas a simple green salad. It would also be perfect with a bacon cheese puff!
More Healthy Comfort Food Casseroles you might enjoy:
- Tuna Noodle Casserole ~ uses pantry ingredients so you can always have this on hand!
- Gouda Mac & Cheese ~ This is #1 the most raved about recipe by my readers on EVERY SINGLE HOLIDAY— all year long!
- Taco pasta Who needs tacos on Tuesday when you can have tacos and pasta!
- Chicken Artichoke Rice Casserole great for potlucks and weeknight dinners
- Ham and Potatoes ~ Cheeses, ham and potatoes make the best dinner!
- Smoky Jambalaya easy to make with simple ingredients!
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******The Recipe for Gouda Cheesy Shepherds pie is adapted from and a slight variation from Mummy Boome’s recipe here. *******
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
- 1 Tablespoon Olive oil
- 1 small onion, small diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 stalks celery
- 3 cloves Garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1 tablespoon flour, optional
- 2 pounds Ground Beef or Ground Lamb ** see notes
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 2/3 cup Beef Stock
- 1 cups Peas
- 1 cups Corn
- Cheesy Mashed Potatoes ** Make potatoes first!, recipe
- Preheat Oven to 400°
- In a large skillet melt butter and olive oil on medium heat. Once melted, add onions, carrots, celery and garlic and saute until tender, but not mushy. (they will continue to cook in the oven when baking, so you want them to be al dente... almost completely cooked, but not mushy.) About 7-8 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and the flour and mix well. (the flour acts as a thickener for the broth so its not runny when finished cooking. However, this is totally optional.)
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add ground beef and cook completely until there is no pink left. While cooking use a spoon to break the meat down into the smallest of pieces. (about 10 minutes)
- Once the beef is browned, add the worcestershire sauce and the beef broth and cook for another 10 minutes.
- Check seasoning at this point and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Add peas and corn and mix well.
- Using an oven proof backing dish for the next cooking, place the beef mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan. I use an 9X13 glass dish, but Ive split into smaller pans as well.
- Place a thin layer of potatoes over the top of the meat mixture using a spatula. This layer acts as a coating so you don't have to worry about a little meat, carrot or anything being in it. Once it is spread over the top, then come back and put the rest of the potatoes evenly over the top. (You can use a piping bag if you want something fancy but a spatula works just as well!)
- Make sure the potatoes are completely covering the meat mixture and there are no open spaces against the baking dish. While it will still be very tasty, if you have an open space, the meat juices will seep out while baking.
- You can run a fork across the top to get crevices that will get crunchy in baking.
- Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes or so or until golden brown.
- See Notes for Freezer info!
Just a fun fact, technically Shepherds Pie is made from Ground Lamb and Cottage Pie is made from Ground Beef. But in the United states we use the word Shepherds pie interchangeably for both!
If making a double batch you will prepare exactly the same except place Shepherds Pie in a freezable container. (I use oven safe tins that you can see in the photos in the post)
When ready to make the freezer version you will need to defrost for 1-2 hours before baking. I take them out and place them in the fridge the night before and they are ready when I want them for dinner.
Calorie information for this recipe was calculated in My Fitness Pal using the ingredients/brands I used to make this recipe. Please note using different brands can alter the caloric information. Please keep this in mind if you are following strict dietary guidelines. (NOTE: Potatoes are included in the recipe calorie information). PLEASE NOTE THE RECIPE INCLUDES THE MASHED POTATOES IN THE CALORIE COUNT.
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Serving Size:8 servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 574Carbohydrates: 69gFiber: 7gSugar: 7gProtein: 34g