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Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie

Old-style pubs have it right: Sitting down to a generous helping of shepherd's pie is a true pleasure; making it is happily simple. We've added sharp cheddar to our mashed potatoes for a snappy topping.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 8
Cheddar-Topped Shepherd's Pie

Source: Everyday Food, October 2008


  • 2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
  • 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)


  1. Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set beef filling aside.

  3. Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper.

  4. Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork, make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Cook's Note

Both filling and topping can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated separately.

Reviews (45)

  • Melanie Haupt 9 Mar, 2015

    Why so bland, Martha? Yeesh. Made this with ground turkey and reduced fat where I could (2% milk, less cheese). Tasty, but only after liberal application of salt and pepper. And hot sauce. And jalapeños.

  • Mary Beth Einerson 2 Mar, 2015

    Three stars as written, but 4 to 5 with adjustments! I had some great ground lamb from my CSA-so guess I can say I made shepherd's pie :-). I browned the lamb first and then added the veggies (wanted the brown flavor and also to make sure that I could remove some of the fat if necessary. Instead of tomato paste I used Sir Kensington Ketchup & increased the quantity by at least double. Also increased the ratio of potatoes slightly-maybe 1.5 times and a combo of half heavy cream and nonfat.

  • ecmotherwell 24 Jan, 2015

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet...and this is delicious regardless of its name (or meat)! ;)
    I made it with ground turkey, adding in minced garlic (two cloves) a healthy amount of smoked paprika, and several glugs of worcestershire sauce. It was a huge success with all the family!

  • randal oulton 4 Nov, 2014

    This looks great, but just a minor note, it's cottage pie, not shepherd's pie. Shepherd's pie is made with ground lamb or mutton (as in shepherd, sheep, bah bah....); cottage pie can be made with any other ground up type of meat. Cheers

  • ddowning 5 Nov, 2014

    Randal: Maybe the "shepard" was from Texas. . .

  • bargainshopper1976 24 Jul, 2014

    I used ground chuck for this one and would definitely recommend that you drain the beef, otherwise the filling is too soupy. Makes a very tasty fall dinner, shepherds pie or cottage pie.

  • jepp98 4 May, 2014

    This is not Shepherd's Pie! Shepherd's pie is made with lamb. Sheep - Shepherd is where the name comes from. A meat/potato pie with beef is called cottage pie. Such a shame that Martha Stewart would make such an error! Go to any respectable restaurant and order a shepherd's pie. You will be served lamb!

  • carolannie123 16 Feb, 2014

    Suggestion: brown the meat by itself and drain well before adding to the vegetables. If you add a beaten egg or two to the filling before baking, then let it stand a few minutes before serving it will set up and cut into neater squares. I also liked to add a healthy grind of black pepper, splash of tabasco if you like a little "zip". Good to make ahead, serve with crisp salad and fresh bread. a popular supper with the teenagers.

  • jessmade4u 9 Feb, 2014

    I'm pretty sure this is not Shepherd's Pie because it is made with beef, not lamb. This is called Cottage Pie. Looks delicious either way! :)

  • cgrant 18 Feb, 2013

    Just made this recipe. I added half a bag of frozen mixed vegetables 2 minutes before the meat was done. Made more and added nutrition. Favorite family recipe thanks Martha.

  • beths228 8 Sep, 2012

    This is a family favorite recipe! We all enjoy it!

  • sigo64 25 Mar, 2012

    Never made Shepherd's pie before although I cook a lot. I added things while I was cooking to make sure it was seasoned well. I season as I go and not at the very end, balances it better it my opinion and you use less salt in the end. Browned the meet before mixing with veggies and added some paprika powder as well as a good amount of pepper. Fresh parsley with the vegetable and meet mixture and a bit of Worcestershire sauce.

  • Japsey 1 Jan, 2012

    Was disappointed with how bland it was... I had to add lots of salt and pepper to it. Since I don't really "cook," I wasn't sure what to add to it. Don't think I will be making this dish again.

  • azzopardiagnes 4 Dec, 2011

    It was a good dinner, nothing special, but quickly prepared and delicious. Our toddler loved it as well, it was easy for her to eat it by herself. The two older kids liked it, too. I will definitely make it every now and then, when I run out of ideas.

  • traderslostart 30 Nov, 2011

    Disappointed that no nutritional stats are included in any of the recipes.

  • mairicampbell0 20 Nov, 2011

    This was a good straightforward evening supper. It was a bit boring and I felt it needed more seasoning, even after I had added 2 minced cloves of garlic with the vegetables. It was ok but not "wow".

  • bronwyncatena 22 Mar, 2011

    I tasted the meet before assembling and added just a little salt and pepper. Glad I did! I am always trying different shepherd's pie recipes because my husband still raves about his ex-girlfriend's mom's shepherds pie. This recipe does not top hers. Of course no recipe ever has (Gordon Ramsay's lamb recipe is the closest I've gotten). In my opinion, it was just okay. It made for a homey dinner. On to the next recipe!

  • jflamaj 16 Mar, 2011

    This was absolutely delicious!! I was a bit concerned by the texture of the mashed potatoes at first, as they were a little soggy, but they settled well!! Easy to make.

  • JerseyPeach50 8 Mar, 2011

    For an amazing presentation, I use individual large ramekins or 5" aluminum pie pans and pipe potatoes.

  • mlclaypool 5 Mar, 2011

    This is technically a Cottage Pie. Shepherd's PIe is made with lamb.

  • ChefVaughan 13 Feb, 2011

    This meal was a mess. I used a 13 x 9 inch pan

  • ChefVaughan 13 Feb, 2011

    This meal was a mess. I used a 13 x 9 inch pan

  • pinkflamingo72 3 Feb, 2011

    This was a fantastic recipe. I didn't have tomato paste so used 16 oz canned tomato sauce and just a few oz water instead of the recommended amount of water. The veggie/meat mixture was quite bland so I added salt, pepper, and special sauce.... Vietnamese fish sauce (!) and it added all the needed body to the mixture. Will definitely be making this again and again!

  • pipskweek 31 Jan, 2011

    Yum! The family loved this. Luckily, i tasted the meat and the potatoes before assembling in the pan. I had to add a lot of seasoning and then it was delish! The potatoes crisped up so nicely. Will definitely make this again!

  • trobert 30 Jan, 2011

    Excellent! I used ground lamb instead of beef. I also cooked it separate from the veggies, which eliminated any excess grease. Also, I cut back on the celery and added frozen organic peas. For seasoning, I used Herbes de Provence and addiitional salt and pepper. I also increased the amount of tomato paste to give it more flavor. Replacing the water with beef broth helps. Last, I used GUYERE cheese instead of cheddar. (only because that's what I had on hand). Great flavors!

  • poundridge 3 Jan, 2011

    We love this recipe too. I make it at least a couple of times every winter. I am goingto try and drain the fat from the beff because it can get a bit greasy. Very tasty.

  • seaglassfinder 17 Nov, 2010

    I should have made burgers and fries. It was greasy (even though I used lean ground beef), so wet and sloppy it spilled all over the oven. And on top of everything else it was'nt even tasty-very bland. Never again.

  • fishface2 5 Jun, 2010

    Outstanding recipe, although it took me a lot longer than 30 minutes. I cooked the vegetables until they caramelized, then added ultra-lean ground beef and browned together. For extra flavor I added some beef concentrate and marjoram. Resist any temptation to use instant mashed; the boiled and drained russets were wonderful. For cheese I used a cheddar and jack blend. Yummy! [P.S. I omitted the onions so that my dogs could eat some.]

  • laughingelf 18 Feb, 2010

    Mom used to make this recipe. We loved it--still do. The only thing different was that she included fresh cut green beans with the meat sauce.

  • lwsourpatch 3 Jan, 2009

    This was good, although my beef was rather liquid, and ended up making the mashed potato wet as well. Also, the beef was a bit bland even though i seasoned it with some salt when the recipe didn't even call for it.

  • kellyann794 28 Oct, 2008

    Was very tasty but will take note to cook meat and strain before adding to sauce. It was a little greasy due to the lack of straining. I would also use a little less celery and add a little more spice. Makes two nights of dinner for my husband, one year old, visitor and me. Definately a new favorite.

  • Nahgem 22 Oct, 2008

    I made the recipe and it turned out great. I used 4 stalks of celery instead of 6 because it seemed like a lot. The consistency of the meat was perfect and it wasn't greasy at all. The potatoes were nice and crispy on the edges. I would highly recommend this recipe and like the idea of using beef broth in place of the water for the meat. I divided up the leftovers into smaller portions to freeze for a later use.

  • LauraWaugh 17 Oct, 2008

    Good dish. Much more Salt and Pepper for flavor (otherwise its rather bland). I also added a tablespoon of minced garlic and substituted the water with chicken stock for added flavor.

    The texture of the meat is supposed to be fine, perhaps others mistook it for mush. One last modification I will make next time is to cook the meat and drain the fat separately, then add it to the veggie mixture so as to get rid of some off the excess grease.

  • sumerjennings 16 Oct, 2008

    Love this, no leftovers. I used instant potatoes (to save time) and added frozen peas came out great. Already have request to make it next week.

  • adiaznampa 14 Oct, 2008

    This is the worst recipe I have ever made!! I had to throw the whole entire meal in the trash!! And being in a one income family "this is not a good thing". I used ground turkey instead of beef and it turned into total mush! Martha had mentioned that other ground meats could be used but ground turkey is not one of them!!!

  • Janet44 13 Oct, 2008

    My entire family (plus in-laws) LOVED this dish. My husband is very picky (and I have 3 children-3, 5, and 8 yrs). I will make this every other week now. Extra S/P, extra sharp white cheddar. No water.

  • BarbC09 12 Oct, 2008

    This looks delicious and I think it would taste great! I'm wondering how it can cost $17 to make? ALDI has great food at less expensive prices.

  • shannanmarc1 12 Oct, 2008

    pretty good!! just make sure to add cup of water first and then add the flour and tomato paste because for me there werent enough juices in pan. my topping didnt crust over either, I think I added too much milk. I added extra salt and pepper and some creole seasoning for spice. Even my picky child ate the veggies. Next time I will add regular cheddar cheese to the beef mix, I think that's what was missing.

  • HHolly 11 Oct, 2008

    ..cut me off again! ....and dog will eat good for the next week. Will NOT make again.

  • HHolly 11 Oct, 2008

    ..cut off my comment- ...we were very,very disappointed. Very bland, potatoes never crusted. Not greasy in pot, but finished casserole was (maybe from cheese?). Out almost $17, on plus side celery was NOT too much

  • HHolly 11 Oct, 2008

    Well, made this in spite of no response to my quest. about celery amount (other ? mistake as milk in potatoes). Erred by not 1/2ing recipe 1st time; calculated it cost $16-$17 to make

  • HHolly 9 Oct, 2008

    I want to try this recipe but am questioning the amount of celery because it just seems like a lot, though I guess one stalk of celery to one carrot would balance out in the end. Also, could I make this using beef broth instead of the whole milk called for in the original recipe?

  • RS01 9 Oct, 2008

    Great food, I grew up in England and shepherds pie was a popular meal in our house. I think the original recipe called for lamb not beef, but both are great. I agree with thekiller, I freeze individual portions for future quick and easy meals.

  • TheKiller 8 Oct, 2008

    Absolutely. I like to freeze them in single portions and defrost in the fridge. Another tasty idea for leftovers could be spicing it up and rolling some into a burrito maybe with cumin, hot sauce, and guac!

  • smatchi 8 Oct, 2008

    Can this meal be frozen?

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