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Shepherd’s Pie with Tomato Sauce: An Upgraded College Favorite

August 28, 2021

Shepherd’s Pie with Tomato Sauce: An Upgraded College Favorite


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Shepherd’s pie originated in Ireland sometime in the 18th century, probably. There’s no single person or event to trace its history to, but we know it came about in Ireland 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, which was pretty much the entire 18th, and 19th centuries if you were an Irish Catholic.

Shepherd’s Pie vs Cottage Pie – A Little History

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. We are making our shepherd’s pie with beef. Sorry, I guess? Ground lamb is not easy to get where I live, whereas ground beef is readily available. My how the tables have turned!

shepherd's pie

This Shepherd’s Pie Is A Little Different

This is one of the very few meals that either of us ate in college that Mark 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 milk, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper. And russet potatoes, of course.

mashed potato ingredients for shepherds pie

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 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.

The Filling

Start by sauteing your diced carrots for a few minutes. Next add the onion, and cook until translucent. Then add your ground beef and brown that. After the beef is cooked through, add your can of tomato soup and the ketchup, along with 1/4 cup of water. Stir that together. Now for the seasoning. Use the brown sugar, salt and pepper amounts in the recipe as guidelines. Taste the filling a few times and season it to 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 glass 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. Brush a little melted butter on top, and your shepherd’s pie is ready for the oven!

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes to warm through, then turn the broiler on for a few minutes to brown the potatoes on top a little bit. Watch that broiler though! After it comes out of the oven, let the shepherd’s pie cool for a few minutes before digging in.

This shepherd’s pie is savory, full of vegetables, and makes incredible leftovers! Please share this post if you like it! It helps me out a lot. Also, pretty please share your pictures with me when you make it! Until next time!

Further reading

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie with Tomato Sauce

Gracious Cooking
This untraditional take on Shepherd's Pie combines mashed potatoes, ground beef, veggies, and a tomato sauce made of tomato soup and ketchup for a savory dinner the whole family will love. It sounds weird, but it's delicious!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 1 hr 5 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine United Kingdom
Servings 12 servings


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 15 minutes, or until fork-tender.
  • 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. Thin the sauce out with the 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.

Assemble the Shepherd's Pie

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Lightly spray a glass 9×13 inch 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.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, then turn on the broiler at 500 degrees for 5-7 minutes, or until you have some browned spots on top.
  • Let cool for 10 minutes, and enjoy!


Shepherd’s Pie makes great leftovers! Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.
I like a lot of mashed potatoes in this recipe, but feel free to use fewer potatoes if you want a thinner layer of mashed potatoes on top. Just reduce the other ingredients in the mashed potatoes accordingly.
Keyword Carrots, Corn, Ground Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Peas, Tomato Sauce

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