Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie…it might be my all-time favorite comfort food, and I never get tired of making it. I am very particular about the kind of shepherd’s pie that I like, though, and that all dates back to my days right out of college, living with my dear friend Cynthia in the world’s smallest studio apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Ah, that apartment — it had exposed brick walls that got red-hot in the winter (why? we didn’t know and were afraid to ask), the world’s dinkiest, oldest refrigerator, and a reclusive next door neighbor named Bruce who was straight out of a Seinfeld episode. We made a combined salary of about $25,000 per year, and probably spent $20,000 of it on rent for this glorious pad, and so our nights out on the town were few and far between, and divided between what is STILL the best pizza place I have ever been to and this Irish joint called Finnegan’s Wake.

Finnegan’s was loud and dark and the floor was sticky and they served the best, cheapest, most delicious shepherd’s pie I’ve ever had. It was made with beef, not lamb, and featured peas and carrots in a thick tomato-ish sauce, all topped with mashed potatoes. (The picture above is before the addition of the potatoes, in case you are wondering. Because once you put the potatoes on top it would look like a picture of, well, potatoes.)

The Finnegan’s version spoiled me forever in terms of shepherd’s pie, and ever since I have been in search of a recipe that stood up to Finnegan’s. (Of course, it might have tasted so good because the rest of the time we were eating cold cereal, ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese out the box, but whatever.)

So this recipe has all those elements, and whenever I have leftover mashed potatoes I make it. By the way, I’m not sure exactly why it is called shepherd’s pie — maybe shepherds eat it? Maybe because – eek – it is usually made with lamb? At any rate, it’s also a good excuse for me to show you the one and only picture I have ever taken of a sheep.

And now that you have all this useful information, here’s the best part, which is the actual recipe.

Shepherd’s Pie
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 pounds freshly ground beef
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 10 ounces frozen peas, thawed
Potato Topping:
  • 2-½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Heat a large skillet over high heat. In two batches, cook beef until no longer pink, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer beef to a colander set in a bowl; let fat drain off and discard.
  2. Add ¼ cup water to the skillet, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to medium; add onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add flour; cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
  3. Add Worcestershire sauce, 2 cups water, and beef. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Stir in peas; cook 1 minute. Divide among eight 8-ounce ramekins or two 9-inch glass pie dishes.
  4. Meanwhile, make potato topping. Spread over pies; use a fork to make peaks. Bake on a baking sheet until tops are browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool slightly; serve.
Potato Topping:
  1. In a medium saucepan, cover potatoes with salted water by 1 inch; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.
  2. In pan, bring milk and butter to a simmer; remove from heat. Return potatoes; mash. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.


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  1. The Broad says

    Since we don't eat red meat, I cannot imagine this with chicken ? lol but I love the story and I love the photo.
    Baby animal photos are always good :)

  2. Larie says

    Oh, thank you! This recipe looks great…all the other Shepherd's Pie recipes I've seen have Encyclopedia-long ingredient lists and sound so labor-intensive. I'm definitely bookmarking this one!

  3. sdn says

    Shepherd's pie is made with lamb; cottage pie is made with beef. (This was told to me by an Old School Brit.)

  4. Kate Morgan Jackson says

    Aha! (but glad I learned this after I posted, or I wouldn't have been able to use my sheep picture. :)

  5. Joanne says

    I have DEFINITELY been to Finnegan's Wake but haven't ordered their shepherd's pie. I obviously need to get on that! Or just make this recipe because it looks delicious.

  6. Sasha says

    Hi Kate
    This recipe (made with beef) in England is called Cottage Pie. Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb and that is pretty much the only difference between the two. To be had with a pint of brown ale. Yum!

  7. smalltownoven says

    My boyfriend LOVES Shepherd's Pie. I've tried out a couple recipes that he's liked but I haven't found one that he loves just yet so this will be my newest audition for his approval!

  8. Mama Peck says

    In our poor newly married years I made what we called Shepherd's Pie often. But my recipe called for a can of tomato soup- this one sounds MUCH better! Thanks for sharing. :) (love the picture!)

  9. Anonymous says

    As an 'old school Brit' myself 😉 I can confirm the shepherd's/cottage split but I must add no self-respecting pie of either type should ever go within a country mile of any type of tomato product! If you make either and add a mixture of grated cheese, breadcrumbs and butter to the top before baking, it miraculously becomes Cumberland pie!

  10. Amy says

    I just popped this in the oven. I can't wait to try it. The recipe I've always used has tomato soup in it and I was so glad to find this doesn't. I did cheat a little and did a mix of ground beef and ground turkey. I also used a mix of red potatoes and cauliflower for the potato topping.

  11. Anonymous says

    Made this last night and my husband and my somewhat picky 5 year old both LOVED it! They raved about it for the whole meal, and my hubby was really happy that there was enough for a second meal out of it :)
    Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe!

  12. viagra online says

    Poor creatures, they have to die in order for us to enjoy a delicious meal, unfortunately that is the cycle of life, thanks for the recipe, it is delicious.

  13. Alison says

    I love this Shepherd’s Pie recipe and it is great on cold winter nights — perfect comfort food! I did make some minor changes, however, that I thought enhanced the dish. I added some chopped bacon and sauteed that along with the beef. It added a nice smoky flavor. I also added some red wine and thyme toward the end as it was cooking down and this made it more flavorful, too. My family loved it — thank you!

  14. says

    This recipe is for cottage pie. Shepherd’s pie contains lamb or slowly braised and shredded mutton…hence the name.Either way it is a soul warming comfort dish. I make both often in winter.

    • Kate says

      Robin, you are absolutely right – I found this out waaaaay after I posted this recipe. But I agree that either way, it’s comfort food! :)

  15. says

    Hi! Your recipe looks so good. Will make it the next time I run out of ideas. After almost 46 years, you run out of ideas & you start inventing. Just made my lap band version of pizza w/eggs & cheese. Who cares what meat you use. These days, cooking is mix & match. As long as the ‘end’ product is good! Will check out your websites’ recipes & thanks for this recipe ~ Carole

    PS-I’ve been in that type of apt. – great kitchen & bathroom. I had to climb over the bed to get into it. He got to use the regular side!!! It was “My Sister, Eileen” revisited!!!!!

  16. Barbara says

    I am making your recipe from 2010 for Shepherd’s Pie. How many does it serve? I can’t find that in the article or the receipe. Thank you.


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