Traditional Cottage Pie

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This traditional Cottage Pie has a rich meaty beef sauce as the base, topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked until deliciously golden. An easy Cottage Pie recipe – make a double batch of the sauce to serve with pasta!

cottage pie shepherds pie in copper tin

Difference between Cottage Pie and Shepherd’s Pie

One of my winter favourites is this traditional Cottage Pie which I have, confusingly, wrongly called a Shepherd’s Pie for most of my life.

It appears that a Cottage Pie is made with beef, whilst a Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb; the latter is also usually (and traditionally) made with leftover roast meat. I’ve had it so wrong all of these years!

Traditional Cottage Pie Recipe

Perhaps it would be easier to call this dish by the French name, a Hachis Parmentier, which is named after the Frenchman who persuaded the French to eat potatoes and which doesn’t differentiate on the type of filling.

But whatever you call it, it is undoubtedly comfort food to many. This is what I love to rustle up for the family when the weather is arctic cold outside (it is currently -9°C in Zurich), and it helps that my children love anything with mashed potatoes.

cottage pie shepherds pie on white board

How to Make Cottage Pie

There are many Cottage Pie recipes, and my recipe relies on a hearty meat sauce topped with creamy mashed potatoes.

I recently made a double batch of my Bolognese Sauce which has seen us through several meals in the past week.

Aside from its uses in a good ol’ Spaghetti Bolognese or Lasagne, this sauce also forms the basis of this traditional Cottage Pie. And if you have made the Bolognese Sauce ahead of time, transforming it into an easy Cottage Pie takes hardly any effort.

Given the versatility of this sauce, and the fact that it takes a few hours to cook, I would highly recommend making a double batch and freezing it in portions for later use.

And the reason why I prefer to use my Bolognese Sauce in this Cottage Pie recipe is quite simple: the slow-cooking produces a rich, meaty and flavoursome sauce which you can’t replicate by taking short cuts. Although the sauce takes a few hours to cook, it hardly takes any time to prepare.

cottage pie shepherds pie on white placemat

Cottage Pie Variations

To bulk up the sauce for this easy Cottage Pie, I like to add some vegetables to the sauce, often just frozen peas but sometimes also frozen carrots, or maybe even some sautéed mushrooms. Just go with what you have to hand and improvise!

A traditional Cottage Pie looks most welcoming when it is served family-style in a large baking dish, but I sometimes make them in individual ramekins for the children – something about the little pots seem to make them eat more 🙂

And, of course, if you want to make a Shepherd’s Pie, simply substitute the beef for ground lamb (minced lamb) instead.

cottage pie shepherds pie with parsley

Cottage Pie

5 from 4 reviews

This traditional Cottage Pie has a rich meaty beef sauce as the base, topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked until deliciously golden. An easy Cottage Pie recipe – make a double batch of the sauce to serve with pasta!

  • Author: eatlittlebird.com
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Australian

Ingredients

  • 1 quantity Bolognese Sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
  • 1 cup frozen peas, cooked according to packet instructions (add less or more, as you like)
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • 1kg (2 lb) potatoes
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 125ml to 250ml (1/2 to 1 cup) full fat milk or cream, or a mix of both
  • freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Once you have made the Bolognese Sauce, taste for seasoning. You can leave it as is, or add some Worcestershire sauce to taste.
  2. Stir the peas and chopped parsley through the sauce.
  3. Half fill a baking dish with the sauce. Depending on how many people you are serving, you may not need all of the sauce.
  4. Set the dish aside to cool while you prepare the potatoes (see Kitchen Notes below).
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F).
  6. Peel the potatoes and place them in a big saucepan filled with cold water. Once the water comes to the boil, add a few teaspoons of coarse sea salt. Cook until the potatoes are tender.
  7. Drain the potatoes.
  8. Using the same saucepan, return it to the heat with some of the milk and/or cream. I tend to start with a small quantity and I keep adding more later as needed.
  9. Once the milk and/or cream has warmed through a bit, return the boiled potatoes to the pan, together with the butter and a good pinch of sea salt.
  10. Use a potato masher to mash the potatoes into a purée. Keep adding milk and/or cream until you have a smooth and spreadable consistency.
  11. Taste the mashed potatoes for seasoning.
  12. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top of the sauce in the baking dish, and use the back of a spoon (or the tines of a fork) to create uneven ridges in the mashed potatoes. This will help the mashed potatoes to crisp up on top.
  13. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the mashed potatoes are golden brown and the sauce underneath is bubbling.

Kitchen Notes

How much sauce and/or mashed potatoes you need depends on how many people you are feeding and how large your baking dish is. For the quantity specified in this recipe, I think it would serve 3-4 people generously.

I recommend making the sauce on the slightly runny side. Once you have topped it with mashed potatoes, the potatoes will soak up some of the liquid. But if you make the sauce too thin and runny, the mashed potato topping will sink into the sauce.

When adding the mashed potato topping, the sauce underneath should be cool or even fridge cold, so that the mashed potatoes will sit on top of the sauce as a separate layer. If the sauce is warm or hot, the mashed potatoes might sink into the sauce.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: Serves 3 to 4
  • Calories: 359
  • Sugar: 15.4g
  • Sodium: 445.1mg
  • Fat: 9.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 49.2g
  • Fiber: 9.6g
  • Protein: 23.4g
  • Cholesterol: 50.6mg

Did you make this recipe?

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15 comments on “Traditional Cottage Pie

  1. Stephanie@ApplesforCJ 27 February 2018

    This is such a classic comfort dish and yours looks amazing! I just realized recently also the difference between cottage pie & shepherd’s pie. I make a vegetarian version and have always referred to it as a shepherd’s pie 🙂

    Reply
    • Eat, Little Bird 1 March 2018

      I used to always call this a Shepherd’s Pie! Now we know 😉 But I wouldn’t be surprised if no one had heard of a Cottage Pie, ha ha!

      Reply
  2. Lois Christensen 28 February 2018

    Oh my word…this sounds amazing and looks delicious! I love anything with mashed potatoes!

    Reply
  3. Jere Cassidy 28 February 2018

    I love cottage pies and yes this is total comfort food. Your looks absolutely delicious.

    Reply
    • Eat, Little Bird 1 March 2018

      Thank you! I think the mere sight of a cottage pie is comforting 🙂

      Reply
  4. Jessica Levinson 28 February 2018

    This is amazing comfort food! What a great dinner for the family!

    Reply
  5. Shadi Hasanzadenemati 28 February 2018

    This is one of my favorite recipes and I find it very comforting. I can’t wait to try your recipe!

    Reply
  6. Alex 28 February 2018

    Oh my… thanks for enlightening us all. I’ve never even heard the term “cottage pie” instead of shepherd’s pie. Looks delicious!

    Reply
    • Eat, Little Bird 1 March 2018

      Ha ha! I think “cottage pie” is definitely less known, especially outside of the UK. But there’s something cosy about the a “cottage pie” 🙂

      Reply
  7. Albert Bevia 1 March 2018

    Comfort food at its best! I love that thick layer of creamy mashed potatoes on top! love your version of this classic dish 🙂

    Reply
    • Eat, Little Bird 1 March 2018

      Thank you! I like to have a good ratio of mashed potatoes to meat 🙂

      Reply
  8. Julia 16 April 2018

    oh it’s amazing! good taste! I really like it! That looks so tender. Ultimate comfort food! YUM!

    Reply

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