Shepherd's pie is a wonderfully cozy recipe to prepare for yourself and your loved ones when a comforting, hot, and nourishing meal is what you're hungry for. My scrumptious version features a rich, saucy mixture of ground beef and diced vegetables topped with a fluffy layer of freshly whipped roasted garlic mashed potatoes, served in individual ramekins!
Shepherd's Pie, Coziness in Every Spoonful
I must've been about eighteen years old when I first tried shepherd's pie, a delicious, classic English dish.
Being new to Los Angeles at the time, I found myself exploring and getting acquainted with all the neat spaces and places that it had to offer my young, impressionable soul, and stumbled upon an area of Santa Monica near the beach which had lots of British pubs and cozy little tea rooms.
During one of my excursions to that area, I decided to stop into one of those quaint little English tea rooms around lunchtime one day, and feeling a bit hungry, I ordered shepherd's pie, something I had never heard of at the time, to go with my little pot of blackcurrant tea.
The description of that shepherd's pie recipe was so comforting and cozy to me, with its rich mixture of ground meat, finely diced carrots, onions and petite peas topped deliciously with a creamy layer of piping hot mashed potatoes.
How could I resist?
Shepherd's pie sounded like a dish that was the epitome of comfort food, and something that my mom would prepare back at home in Michigan. It seemed like it would be just the kind of meal I'd thoroughly enjoy, filled with love and a sprinkle of nurture.
And that's exactly how it tasted to me…
I found coziness in every spoonful of that piping hot, saucy meal, and became a fan of it from that day going forward, which inspired me to eventually prepare my own take on shepherd's pie.
Again, how could I resist? 😉
How to Make Shepherd's Pie
In Britain, classic shepherd's pie is prepared using ground lamb, but you will often find ground beef used in the filling mixture here in the U.S. (This beef-filled version is called “cottage pie” in Britain).
Stateside, the term “shepherd's pie” is used interchangeably for either the lamb filling or the beef filling, and because I personally prefer beef, that is what I like to use for my filling. However, you can of course use ground lamb for recipe.
The meat mixture typically consists of some finely diced veggies such as carrots, onions, and peas, plus some seasoning such as Worcestershire sauce for that classic sweet-savory flavor. This filling is spooned into a prepared baking dish, topped with freshly-prepared mashed potatoes, and baked until hot and slightly golden on top.
I like to prepare my shepherd's pie recipe in individual ramekins for easy serving, and top each with creamy roasted garlic mashed potatoes, making this recipe a touch extra savory, comforting and flavorful!
Here's a peek at my shepherd's pie recipe:
- To get started, I prepare my mashed potatoes. I do this by first roasting off a head of garlic. Once they're cool enough to handle, I mash the cloves into a paste. While the garlic roasts, I cook my potatoes and mash them, then fold in the roasted garlic paste at the end.
- The filling comes next, and this takes just a few minutes. I begin by sauteing the veggies just until softened, then add in my ground beef, seasoning, garlic, and tomato paste, and once cooked through, I thicken things up with a touch of flour.
- I stir in my beef broth/stock, simmer for a moment or two, then finish things with the Worcestershire sauce, peas, and fresh herbs.
- To bake, I spoon the filling into four medium-large ramekins (you can alternately use a medium-large baking dish, if you prefer), top with the fresh roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and bake for about 20 minutes.
- I allow the shepherd's pie to cool slightly for about 5 minutes, then serve.
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 712 calories
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
- 3-4 tablespoons of Olive oil
- 1 onion, diced finely
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced finely
- 1 pound ground beef (85/5 ratio), or ground lamb
- 1 large clove garlic (or 2 small), pressed through garlic press
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Pinch salt
- 1 ½ tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons (slightly heaping) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup warm beef stock/broth
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus a little extra for garnishing
- 1 teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- ½ cup frozen petite peas, thawed
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes Ingredients:
- 1 head garlic, top cut off
- Drizzle of Olive oil
- Black pepper
- 4 small russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 4 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
- ½ cup (scant) milk (or half & half, for richer flavor)
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme
- ½ teaspoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Begin by preparing the roasted garlic mashed potatoes: preheat your oven to 400°.
- Place the head of garlic onto a small square of foil, drizzle with a little oil, and sprinkle over a bit of salt and pepper; wrap the head tightly in the foil, and roast for 40 minutes until soft.
- Once roasted, allow the garlic to cool just until it can be handled, then squeeze the soft cloves from the papers and make a roasted garlic “paste” with a fork or knife; set aside. (Leave the oven on.)
- While the garlic roasts, add the cubed potatoes into a pot and cover with water by about an inch; add a liberal amount of salt (so it tastes like sea water), and put the potatoes over medium-high heat.
- Cook the potatoes until fork tender, about 20-22 minutes; then, drain the potatoes very well.
- Put the cooked potatoes through a ricer, if you have one (otherwise, just mash them very well), and add to them the butter and the milk (or half & half); fold those in and check to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed.
- Add in the roasted garlic “paste”, plus the thyme and parsley, and fold those in to combine; keep the potatoes warm.
- Prepare the filling and assemble the dish: turn your oven up to 425°.
- Place a large pan or skillet over medium-high heat, and add in about 3-4 tablespoons of oil; once the oil is hot, add in the onion and the carrot, and saute for about 3-4 minutes, or until the veggies begin to become tender.
- Add in the ground beef, breaking it up with your spoon into a crumble, and allow it to cook and brown with the veggies until no longer pink, about 4-6 minutes.
- Next, add in the garlic, the black pepper, and the pinch of salt, and stir to combine; once the garlic becomes aromatic, add in the tomato paste and stir to combine, cooking it for about 30-45 seconds just to cook out the raw flavor.
- Sprinkle over the flour and stir to combine, and cook that for about 30-45 seconds, as well.
- Add in the beef stock/broth and stir, and allow the mixture to cook just until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add in the Worcestershire sauce, thyme, parsley, and peas, and stir to incorporate.
- To bake, spoon equal amounts of the meat filling into individual, medium-size ramekins (you could also use a medium-size baking dish, as well) and top each with a generous amount of the mashed potatoes, making a little design in them with a fork.
- Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet (for easier removal), and bake the shepherd's pies for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden on top.
- Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes or so before serving (they will be hot!), and garnish with a few more thyme leaves, if desired.
Tips & Tidbits for my Shepherd's Pie recipe:
- Your choice of ground meat: Because I personally prefer ground beef to lamb, I use that in my filling. But feel free to use ground lamb to make this a classic version of shepherd's pie, or even substitute ground turkey or ground chicken as slightly leaner options.
- Fast-track the mashed potatoes: While adding the roasted garlic into the creamy mashed potatoes offers a little something “extra”, you can certainly skip this step if you prefer to save time. In this case, you'd simply just proceed with preparing the recipe starting with cooking the potatoes, and omit the step for roasting the head of garlic.
- Individual ramekins, or a single baking dish: The individual ramekins I used are roughly 4” across and 2” deep. If you prefer to prepare this recipe in one baking dish, then a medium-size baking dish should work well.
- Prepare ahead for easy shepherd's pie: To make things a bit quicker and easier the day you'd like to serve this recipe, you can make the filling a day or two ahead of time, then reheat before spooning it into the ramekins or baking dish. It's best to prep the mashed potatoes fresh to keep them nice and creamy, but those can also be done ahead if you prefer, then reheated with a touch more milk or half & half added to make them creamy again.
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Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2015, and has been updated with even more love!