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Cottage Pie

1 hour 15 mins Cook
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NomNom Recipes 58

Cottage pie – the heart of home cooking! This British classic features an extremely flavorful ground beef filling drenched in gravy, topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked until golden brown. One of the best cozy dishes with ground beef!

Want to know the difference between cottage pie and shepherd’s pie? The recipe is the same, but the cottage pie is made with beef and the shepherd’s pie is made with lamb. (Because the shepherd flocks the sheep….)

Cottage Pie

Cottage pie is a great British classic that we Australians have embraced as one of our favorite winter favorites. Or in my case, a year-round favorite.

Easy to prepare, economical, using everyday ingredients, and 100% freezer safe, this type of food has universal appeal (well, vegetarians aside).

Cottage pie has two components: beef filling and creamy mashed potatoes. The bean paste is thick and very flavorful, so you need to be careful not to put it in your mouth while cooking…..

….and continue with that creamy mashed potato filling. It takes a lot of willpower to keep it out of your mouth with a shovel…

But you persevere because you know it’s worth the patience.And no matter how rough the day was, it just got a whole lot better with your cottage pie.

What’s the difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie?

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie. Both are made the same way – ground beef stuffed in baked gravy topped with mashed potatoes and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. is made with lamb instead of beef. If you prefer, just swap out beef for lamb in this recipe and you have a shepherd’s pie!

What goes in Cottage Pie

Here’s what you need for cottage pie:

Any protein can be substituted for beef. It’s delicious with lamb (made into shepherd’s pie), chicken, turkey, or pork. Also, don’t worry if you’re missing carrots and celery. Skip it or add other diced vegetables like peas.

And that’s what you need for topping mashed potatoes.

I like parmesan cheese on my cottage pie. But any melty cheese will work.

Cottage Pie from scratch

This cottage pie is made from scratch and is very fuss-free. If you can make bolognese and mashed potatoes, you can make cottage pie because you basically follow the same steps.

Cottage Pie – 2 little tips
  1. To stop the potato from sinking into the filling, cool the filling first. But this isn’t a deal breaker, it’s just a visual thing ie if you don’t cool the filling, the potato “bleeds” into the beef mixture; and
  2. Ensure the filling reduces down enough (see video) to ensure you don’t end up with a watery filling after baking. It’s so disappointing when you break through the potato to be greeted with a beef sitting in a watery sauce!

How to freeze Cottage Pie

Cottage pie is one of the best unusual foods to make ahead of time. Stores in the refrigerator for 4 days – assembled and ready to reheat or cook once.

You can also freeze cottage pies to 100% perfection. You can bake frozen – which takes about an hour (that’s an impressive block of ice!!), or thaw and then bake.Cooked leftovers freeze well too.

What goes with Cottage Pie

Since this is a high-meat, high-carb dish, it pairs very well with a fresh side salad such as a rocket salad with balsamic dressing or a garden salad with French or Italian dressing. Served with carrot salad!

Cottage Pie

Cottage pie - the heart of home cooking! This British classic is topped with a very flavorful filling of gravy-soaked ground beef and creamy mashed potatoes baked until golden brown. One of the best cozy dishes with ground beef!
prep time
15 mins
cooking time
1 hour 15 mins
total time
1 hour 30 mins



  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves , minced

  • 1 onion , finely chopped

  • 1 carrot , finely chopped*

  • 1 celery , finely chopped*

  • 750g / 1.5 lb beef mince (ground beef)

  • 1/4 cup (40g) flour (plain / all purpose)

  • 1/4 cup (55g) tomato paste

  • 2 cups (500 ml) beef stock / broth , low sodium

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) red wine (or water)

  • 1 beef bouillon cube , crumbled (stock cube, or 1 tsp stock powder)

  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tsp dried thyme (or 3 sprigs fresh thyme)

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 3/4 tsp salt

  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


  • 1.2 kg / 2.5 lb potatoes , peeled and cut into 2.5cm / 1" cubes

  • 2/3 cup (165 ml) milk , warmed

  • 2 tbsp (30g) butter


  • 2 tbsp (30g) butter

  • 2 tbsp (20g) parmesan, grated


Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Then add carrots and celery. Cook for 3 minutes or until softened and sweet.
Turn heat up to high. Add beef and cook, breaking it up as you go, until browned.
Add flour and mix in. Add tomato paste, broth, red wine, bouillon cube, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
Bring to simmer, then turn down heat so it is simmering rapidly - I have it on medium high. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces down to a gravy consistency (Note 1) (see video). Taste then add more salt if desired.
Transfer to 6 cup pie dish (1.5 litre / quart). Cover, cool if you have time (even overnight). Cool filling = easier to top with mash (Note 2)

Assemble Pie

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.
Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain then return to pot on turned off stove. Shake briefly and allow to steam dry for 30 seconds or so (Note 3).
Add butter and mash until melted, then add milk and salt. Mash until smooth.
Spread onto pie, use a fork to rough up the surface (rougher surface = more golden bits). Sprinkle with paremsan, drizzle with butter (or skip this and just drizzle with olive oil)
Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden on top and bubbling on the edges. Stick a knife into the middle to ensure it is piping hot.
Stand for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with fresh thyme leaves if desired.


Carrots and celery are used to make a truly great mirepoix / soffrritto flavour base for this pie. However, they can be omitted, but add 1 tsp of sugar instead. 1. Filling thickens - Whatever the thickness of the sauce when you pour it into the tin, that's what it will be once baked - no steam escapes while baking to allow it to reduce any further. So keep cooking until it's the consistency you want. 2. Cooling the filling ensures that the potato doesn't sink into the filling and makes it much easier to spread. If you are in a rush - as I often am - pop it in the freezer while you make the potato. That works pretty well. 3. Watery potatoes drops excess liquid while baking into the filling which makes the sauce watery. So don't skip the step of steam drying the potatoes! Also, make sure the mash is hot when spreading onto the pie. Cold mash is hard and so it is harder to dollop / spread onto the pie. 4. Variations: If I'm making this for company or am on a calorie-blow-out mission, I add a big handful of cheese into the potato and also top with more cheese before baking. It doesn't need it, it's a bonus. For the filling, sometimes I add peas, or I reduce the amount of beef and add chopped veggies like zucchini. 5. Make ahead instructions: Assemble pie but don't bake it. Cool mashed potato topping then either refrigerate (4 days) or freeze (3 months). Thaw if frozen (it will take way too long to bake from frozen) then bake as per recipe. Or bake from frozen - covered at 180°C/350°for 45 minutes, then 30 minutes uncovered. Can also do individual servings in ramekins! 6. Nutrition per serving, assuming 5 generous servings.
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