My Recipe Box

Sweet Potato Cottage Pie


Serves 4-6

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 114

A cottage pie is like a shepherd’s pie, except that it’s made with beef, not lamb. Here, a hearty filling of ground beef, salty olives, savory tomatoes, and warming spices like chile powder, cumin, and cinnamon rein in the sweetness of the creamy sweet potato topping.

For the topping
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lb. total)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk 
  • 3/4 oz. (1/4 cup) finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • Kosher salt and
  • Freshly ground black pepper 
For the filling
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 medium celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)  
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1-1/2 cups) 
  • Kosher salt 
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced 
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin 
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano 
  • 1 tsp. ancho chile powder or other pure chile powder 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • 1-1/2 lb. ground beef (85% lean) 
  • 1 14-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pimento-stuffed green olives 
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped raisins or dried cranberries
Prepare the toppping

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Slice the sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and set them cut side down on the baking sheet. Roast until very tender, about 30 minutes 

When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into a medium mixing bowl. Add the milk, cheese, butter, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper and beat with an electric hand mixer on low speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Set aside. 

Prepare the filing

Heat the oil in a 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion, and 1 tsp. salt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, fragrant, and starting to turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, chile powder, and cinnamon and cook for 30 seconds. Add the beef, season with 2 tsp. salt, and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Tilt the pan and spoon off all but about 1 Tbs. of the fat; return the pan to the heat. 

Pour the tomatoes and their juice into a small bowl and crush them with your hands or a fork. Add the tomatoes to the meat and cook, uncovered, until thick, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the olives and raisins and cook for another minute; season to taste with salt. 

Assemble and bake the pie
You can use another size dish for baking the pie, but keep in mind that the thickness of the meat and sweet potato layers will change, which may affect the baking time.

Transfer the beef mixture to a 9x9-inch baking dish. Spread the sweet potatoes over the top in an even layer. Bake until bubbling around edges, about 30 minutes. Switch the oven to a high-broil setting and position the rack about 6 inches from the broiler element. Broil the pie until the sweet potatoes are a bit browned, 2 to 4 minutes. 

Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving. 

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 460, Fat (kcal): 23, Fat Calories (g): 210, Saturated Fat (g): 9, Protein (g): 27, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 11, Carbohydrates (mg): 36, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 1.5, Sodium (g): 1340, Cholesterol (g): 85, Fiber (g): 6,

Photo: Scott Phillips

Cozy comfort food! This one going into the regular rotation.

This was wonderful. I went into it with a bad attitude, what with the raisins and cinnamon, so what a great surprise to find it so tasty. My drop-by company loved it, too.

Excellent, and adaptable for many occasions. I made it the night before and increased the quantity to serve 6 - 8 people...It was flavourful and appreciated for its fine flavour, texture and spices. Definitely a winner and the ingredients are adaptable.

Love this! It's now a family favorite for my family and a couple of my friends!

Refreshing take on shepards pie

we liked this a lot. the filling reminded me of an empanada filling, unusual for a cottage pie. I used ground turkey instead of beef. rather than roast the sweet potatoes, I simmered them in the milk, butter, etc for about 20 minutes in a covered pot...then mashed them right in the pot.

An exotic enhancement to the humble meat pie. Great to prepare ahead for company.

A delicious take on cottage pie. Easily my favorite casserole recipe; the spices are pitch perfect. I always leave out the olives but include everything else, especially home canned roasted tomatoes while my supplies last.

This is now one of my favorite recipes - I used the dried cranberries and Italian salad mix of olives, pearl onions, and peppers instead of just the pimento stuffed olives (you can find both at the deli bar in the grocery store).

We didn't like this. I thought it was going to be great based on all of the excellent reviews, but it was very blah. The flavors didn't stand out. I used good ingredients; organic sweet potatoes, grass fed beef, expensive imported parmesan, Frontier organic spices. I didn't use fresh oregano, maybe that would have helped. There's just two of us and neither wanted to eat the leftovers. What a waste!

We thoroughly enjoyed this dish. It was delicious, plus easy to prepare. This is going into our weekly rotation. It's also a great make ahead dish. I prepared exactly as directed, but I will try some tweaks. I'm going to try adding some tomato paste to the softened vegetables and deglaze with wine. I think a bay leaf added with the meat would work, too.

This has been a hit everytime I've made it. As someone else wrote, our dinner guests helped themselves to thirds. It's a dish you can successfully make a day ahead and then pop in the oven for 30 minutes to heat up. Like others, I made some adjustments. First, I drastically cut back on the salt which seemed like a seriously unhealthy amount in my book, especially given the olives. Second, I substituted the ground beef with lean ground chicken or lean ground turkey. Finally, I cooked up the meat separately, poured off the fat, then added it to the vegetables to reduce fat but not flavor. We served it with a kale, red cabbage, and julienned carrot combo and baked apples for dessert. This made a really lovely autumn meal.

I chose to adapt this to a vegetarian recipe by substituting red beans for the meat. I did increase the other veggies for the mirepoix (carrots, onions and celery) slightly. Once the mirepoix was sautéed, I added the presoaked beans and about 2 cups of vegetable broth. I cooked this down, adding more broth or water as needed, until the beans were tender and the liquid was mostly evaporated, about 20 minutes. At that point, I continued with the recipe as printed. Based on other reviews, I also cut the salt significantly and never missed it. It was fantastic- filling, hearty, and delicious on a cold winter night. I will try it next time with meat to compare, but this recipe is definitely a keeper as a midwinter vegetarian meal.

My husband and I loved this; it's now our favorite version of cottage pie. The seasonings in the filling along with the sweet potatoes are a fantastic combination.

After two bites my husband said it was his new favorite meal! Guess I will be making it again. Might try it with ground turkey. Great combination of flavors. We do agree that you need to cut back on the salt.

I made this without dried fruit, as I didn't have any, and it probably would have helped balance the flavors with the sweet potatoes. Loved the flavor of the meat (with less salt) by itself, it was like piccadillo. But there weren't enough sweet potatoes to go with it, so it didn't quite meld. Next time I"ll use more, as I like the idea of this dish.

Ok, seriously? 3 teaspoons of salt is waaaaaayyy too much. I only used 2, thinking I'd be conservative, and it was still too salty; 3 would likely have been inedible. Sprinkle the vegetables LIGHTLY with salt; do the same when you add the ground beef. The olives add enough salt on their own, so this should be enough salt for the dish. Salt aside, we enjoyed the flavors.

My husband and I both loved this. I followed the recipe exactly and the only change I made was I used fire roasted canned tomatoes instead of plain canned tomatoes. We both found it too salty (and I didnt' even add salt to the sweet potato topping). I would start with 1/3 the salt. You can always add more salt later just before you assemble in the dish for baking.

After all the fancy and refined dishes I've made in the past six months, this one has garnered the most applause. Everyone had thirds. The finished product looks like a standard casserole, but when people bite into the sweet potato and taste the cumin and cinnamon, they just go nuts. Made one with the olives and raisins and one without, they loved the one with better. Made it hours in advance and just kept it warm. Removed the foil and baked for 10 minutes more to make the top a little crusty. People piled it on bread and made sloppy joes out of it. I was amazed.

Delicious! Made it for lunch and had the leftover for dinner too. I am not a sweet potato fan but this recipe is a keeper. Followed the recipe almost exactly, the only thing I changed was that I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned b/c I NEVER used canned. Just boiled them to peel then smashed them up with a fork. Wouldn't change anything about this recipe. BTW if you can't handle spicy food reduce the chile powder. Mine came out a bit on the spicy side but I am not sure if it b/c of the chile powder I used from Mexico.

Wonderful warm spice flavor. I had no sweet potatoes, but did have a butternut squash to use up. Roasted it as suggested for sweet potato and added one baker potato to roast. Mashed them together as per instructions. YUM!. Now in my recipe favorites box

I've made this recipe twice and both times it was amazing! The only substitution I made was using ground chicken instead of ground beef. An incredible mix of flavors, one that I will be returning to again and again.

This was a fantastic dish! I made it last night and I loved it and so did my husband (he got two helpings)! I used fat free evaporated milk instead of whole milk, less cheese (just a bit sprinkled on top), venison instead of beef, and capers instead of olives. It came out very flavorful and rich - even after all of the changes I made to make it a bit more healthy! Yum yum yum! :)

This is a real winner recipe. It is a great fall/winter dish. I used raisins and cranberries together and they were wonderful. Also I think that dried cherries would be nice. My sweet potatoes didn't seem very sweet today so I added some maple syrup to them. This is an easy dish to prepare ahead of time. I can't wait to make it again!!!

Excellent and fun dish to prepare. I made my own ground beef from boneless chuck (I quit buying market ground beef). Added one chicken andouille sausage ground into the beef to add a bit of spice and slight heat. Nice offset to the sweetness of the potatoes. Added this to my "do it again" list.

Made this recipe as written. I used dried cranberries instead of the raisins. Well worth the time to put together, which I didn't think was that bad. We really liked it.

We really liked this recipe. I made several modifications, only to make it more healthy (left out butter, 2% milk, leaner meat). Otherwise, the only lazy things I did were use frozen chopped onion and a can of diced tomatoes instead of whole, and I did not chop the golden raisin medley from Trader Joes. I used a potato masher instead of the mixer. My family really liked it and I had almost everything on hand. Perfect Sunday supper. (Too much work for a weeknight, but not too much for a Sunday afternoon!)

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