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This Shepherd’s Pie with Tomato Sauce is a hearty and flavorful twist on the original recipe, and it’s perfect for satisfying your cravings on a chilly evening, or on a Tuesday. Or whenever, really. Join me as we dive into the recipe and learn how to create this mouth-watering dish step by step.
Shepherd’s Pie vs Cottage Pie – A Little History
Shepherd’s pie most likely originated in Ireland sometime in the 18th century. There’s no single person or event to trace its history to, but we know it came about in when Ireland was under British control. Traditionally, shepherd’s pie was leftover roast lamb or mutton repurposed with a top and bottom crust of mashed potatoes. This helped stretch the family’s food supply when times were lean.
In the 15th century, England officially conquered Ireland and brought it into the United Kingdom. Ireland was a predominately Catholic country. England was Protestant at the time. This was a huge point of contention, and as the conquering nation, England installed English Protestants and Irish converts as landowners. The Irish Catholics worked the land and lived in extreme poverty most of the time. This is obviously not all there is to that story. I’ll list some articles for further reading at the bottom of this post.
Beef is more expensive to produce than lamb or mutton. Ireland raised quite a bit of cattle for the English, but consumed very little beef. Technically, shepherd’s pie comes form Ireland and is made with lamb or mutton and cottage pie is English and is made with beef. I have always associated shepherd’s pie with ground beef, so that’s what we’re going with, even though technically this is a cottage pie.
This Shepherd’s Pie Is A Little Different
This is one of the very few meals from our college days that Mark, my hubby, and I still make (chicken dip is another). Mark adapted this recipe from a roommate, and I adapted it from him. You’ll notice two very non-traditional ingredients as soon as you read the recipe- tomato soup and ketchup.
Tomatoes usually play no part in shepherd’s pie, but stay with me! It’s really delicious. The tomato soup and ketchup add sweetness, umami, and tanginess to the sauce. It just really works. You’ll also notice a little bit of brown sugar. This helps round out the flavor. Just trust me.
How to Make Shepherd’s Pie
The Mashed Potatoes
If you live in a house where leftover mashed potatoes are a thing, lucky you! Use those! The mashed potatoes never survive long enough to be leftovers around here, so I always just make fresh mashed potatoes for shepherd’s pie. I use a basic recipe with russet potatoes milk, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper. You can absolutely use Yukon Gold potatoes if you wish. It just comes down to preference. Russets will produce a fluffier mashed potato, and Yukon Golds will make a creamier mash.
Cook the peeled and sliced potatoes for about 15 minutes once the water is boiling. Start in a cold pot though. This helps the potatoes cook evenly as the water warms up. After they’re done, drain the potatoes, add them to a medium mixing bowl and mash them with your other ingredients.
You can use whichever mashing method you please. I like to just use a potato masher. Set the mashed spuds aside while you make the filling.
Start by sauteing your diced carrots in a large skillet (12 inches is preferable) for a few minutes. Next add the onion to the pan, and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Then add your ground beef. Cook until browned, another 5-10 minutes. After the beef is cooked, add the can of tomato soup and the ketchup, along with 1/4 cup of water and stir. This tomato sauce is an unlikely hero, but it really brings a sweet and savory balance to the dish. Season with brown sugar, salt and pepper. Taste the filling a few times and adjust the seasoning your liking. After you get the seasoning where you’d like, add the frozen peas and corn.
Assembling the Shepherd’s Pie
When the filling is done, spread it into a 9″x13″ baking dish. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top of the filling, and carefully spread them out. Drag a fork across the top of the potatoes to create some texture, if desired. Brush a little melted butter on top if you’d like, and your shepherd’s pie is ready for the oven! The butter on top is optional.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, then turn the broiler on for a few minutes to brown the potatoes on top a little bit if you’d like. Watch that broiler though! You definitely don’t want burnt potatoes. After it comes out of the oven, let the shepherd’s pie cool for 10-15 minutes before digging in. Letting it cool a little bit will help the filling set up a little bit, and will prevent boiling hot potato and tomato lava from entering your pie hole.
Freezing Shepherd’s Pie With Tomato Sauce
Casseroles typically freeze very well, and this is no exception. If you plan to freeze this shepherd’s pie, I recommend assembling it in a disposable aluminum baking pan, unless you have lots of 9″x13″ pans laying around. After assembly, wrap the top of your casserole dish with a layer of parchment paper to keep the potatoes from sticking to the foil. On top of the parchment paper, wrap in 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Label with the date and the following instructions: To reheat, thaw in the fridge overnight. After thawed, bake on the middle rack of the oven preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes, or until bubbly. Broil at 500 degrees Fahrenheit for a few minutes if desired for a browned top.
Keeps in the freezer for 3-4 months.
Tell Me How It Goes!
This shepherd’s pie is savory, full of vegetables, and makes incredible leftovers! Please share this post and leave me a comment when you make this recipe. This tasty, comforting dish is destined to become a family favorite.
Shepherd’s Pie with Tomato Sauce
- 1 12 inch skillet
- 1 9"x13" baking dish
For the Mashed Potatoes
- 2 and 1/2 pounds russet potatoes see notes
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the Filling
- 1/2 large onion, diced or 1 small onion
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 can Campbell's Tomato Soup
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
For the Mashed Potatoes
- Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches. Don't turn on the heat yet.
- Peel the potatoes, rinse them, cut them in half the long way, and cut them into 1/2 inch half-moon slices.
- Place the sliced potatoes in the pot, and turn the heat on to high.
- Once the pot comes to a full boil, cook the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, or until fork-tender. This means that they are easily pierced with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes into a colander, then put them back into the hot pot for a minute to dry out a little.
- Pour the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 Tablespoons of butter and begin mashing with a potato masher.
- Add the milk, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Continue mashing until your desired consistency is achieved. Set aside.
For the Filling
- Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a little bit of olive oil (or a neutral oil). Add the carrots and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
- Add the diced onion to the pan, and sauté until the onions are translucent.
- Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Drain fat if desired.
- Add the tomato soup and ketchup to the pan. Stir to combine. Add 1/4 cup water.
- Add the brown sugar, sea salt, black pepper, and red wine vinegar to the pan. Stir to combine and let the filling come to a simmer.
- Stir in the frozen peas and corn, and taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
Assemble the Shepherd's Pie
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lightly spray a glass 9"x13" baking dish with baking spray. If you don't have any, don't worry about it. It helps with sticking a little, but isn't strictly necessary.
- Pour the beef and vegetable filling into the baking dish. Smooth the filling into an even layer.
- Dollop large spoonfulls of mashed potatoes all over the filling. Carefully spread the potatoes into an even layer with a rubber spatula, being careful not to disturb the filling.
- Lightly scrape the surface of the potatoes with a fork to create texture.
- Lightly brush the top of your Shepherd's Pie with 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, if desired.
- Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, then turn on the broiler at 500 degrees for 5-7 minutes, or until you have some browned spots on top. Make sure it doesn't burn! Broilers can be sneaky.
- Let cool for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy!