Esther the Zester | Spin on cottage pie a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day – Times-Standard

Try making cottage pie, a twist on shepherd’s pie that uses beef instead of lamb, as a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. And there are plenty of personal twists to try and make it your own. (Esther Kennedy/Contribution)

St. Patrick’s Day is Friday, and since Irish blood runs in my veins, I like to enjoy food on this holiday, whether it’s preparing green foods, cooking Irish dishes, drinking green ale, or occasionally enjoying an Irish whiskey or Bailey’s with ice

Rather than taking the time to make corn and kale, I decided to make my own contribution to shepherd’s pie this year. My version is a far cry from a traditional shepherd’s pie, as it’s technically ricotta pie, but it’s just as delicious.

The main difference between shepherd’s pie and a cottage pie is the meat: ground lamb is traditionally used in shepherd’s pie, and ground beef is used in a cottage pie.

Shepherd’s pie includes onions, carrots, peas and is topped with fluffy mashed potatoes. The ricotta pie typically includes the same vegetables and topped with cheesy mashed potatoes.

Besides cottage cheese pie which is one of my favorite dishes, goulash is also up there, so this recipe mixes both dishes with a bit of spicy flavor. Full disclosure: I hate peas with a passion! It goes without saying that there are never any peas in my house and if I eat at a place that puts peas on a plate, all the peas (yes, I mean just one), will be pushed to the side of the plate.

Cheesy mashed potatoes are always in my college pie, and I sometimes add a tablespoon or two of sour cream to cheesy potatoes (I chose not to include the sour cream this time) to make it extra creamy. I also combine the mushrooms with the meat and deglaze the pan with the red wine. I also like layers of flavor, so this recipe calls for four layers.

Enjoy grabbing this recipe to help you create your own twist on this amazing dish. Have a fun and safe St. Paddy’s Day and live spicier!


3 large red potatoes

2 large carrots, chopped

2 cups mixed mushrooms, chopped (bell and portobello is a good combination)

4-6 drops of Worcestershire sauce

2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 pound of 80/20 ground beef

1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (plus a handful for garnish, optional)

1 14.5-ounce can of beef broth

1 cup of milk

1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained

1/2 yellow or orange bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

1/4 cup Parmesan (more for garnish, optional)

1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (more for garnish, optional)

5-6 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons of paprika

Your favorite wine for deglazing (I used cabernet)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt (plus a little more for seasoning the water)

A few drops of your favorite hot sauce, optional (I use Humboldt hot sauce)

When you cut the cottage cheese pie, there is a savory filling of vegetables and herbs. (Esther Kennedy/Contribution)


In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Once the butter has melted, add the chopped mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil if needed), and sauté another 3 to 5 minutes until moist of the mushrooms will not be cooked. Pour the mushroom mixture into a bowl and cover with foil; set aside and clean pan.

Combine 1-2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil; melt butter over medium heat. Saute chopped onion 5 minutes or until translucent; add the chopped carrots, bell pepper, thyme and paprika. Cook the vegetables with the spices for 5-7 minutes – the carrots and bell pepper will still have a slight crunch; it’s perfect for texture in the dish. Add 2 minced garlic cloves and the tomato paste; cook for 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan (take your favorite red wine and slowly swirl around the pan 1-2 times) and cook the wine at least halfway through. Slowly add the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, a pinch of salt and pepper and simmer for 15 minutes.

After the meat mixture has simmered for at least 15 minutes, add the thawed and drained corn, hot sauce (optional), and cooked mushrooms and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes. Personally, I like to add a handful of grated cheese because everything tastes better with cheese. Once the time has elapsed, turn off the heat but don’t worry when the mixture is still liquid, it’s fine.

In a separate saucepan, slowly heat the milk over low heat, stirring frequently and just when it reaches the “lukewarm” stage, remove it from the heat. Be very careful not to overheat the milk.

Fill a separate large pot (sorry about all the dishes, but hopefully there’s a dishwasher in the house) with cold water. Wash and peel the potatoes and cut them into evenly sized one-inch cubes and immediately place the cubes in the water. Salt the water freely; simmer until potatoes are tender. Drain the cooked potatoes, then return them to the pot, but don’t put the pot back on the hot stove just yet. Mash the potatoes and put the pot back on the stove. Add 1 minced garlic clove, cheddar cheese, Parmesan, 2 tablespoons butter, and season with salt and pepper. While stirring, slowly add the milk 1/4 cup at a time.

Note: Not all of the milk may go unused because it’s about how creamy each palate wants potatoes, so there’s no wrong answer as to how much or how little milk you incorporate into your potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In an 8×8 casserole dish or 7-inch round baking dish, use a slotted spoon to build the first layer of the pie with the meat mixture and then sprinkle with the paprika; the second layer is mashed potatoes that are smoothed over like icing on a cake; repeat both layers. There may be more meat in it and it makes for incredible leftovers reheated, topped with loads of cheese, and scooped into every perfect bite with Fritos.

Cook for 15-18 minutes. Leave to rest for 2 min. Cut and enjoy!

Esther Kennedy is a Myrtletown resident and recipe creator. You can be contacted at [email protected] or on Facebook at