Shepherd’s Pie with Butternut Squash and a surprise vegetable

As if butternut squash isn’t enough of an outlier in Shepherd’s Pie…

Shepherd’s Pie is one of my fondest memories of meals my mom cooked when we were kids.  Hers was always made with ground beef, frozen peas and mashed potatoes.

As an adult I’ve experimented some, depending on what I have on hand.  I’ve used ground elk, I’ve used chunks of left over roast.  Instead of peas, I’ve used green beans once or twice, and maybe even a mixture of peas and carrots.  But nothing too far out there.

And ALWAYS, it is topped with mashed potatoes.  Maybe home made, maybe instant, but it didn’t occur to me to use anything other than mashed potatoes.  I’m actually a little disappointed in myself that using squash pureé didn’t occur to me sooner.  😦

Browsing online one day, Bonnie at Recipes Happen adapted a Shepherd’s Pie with Butternut Squash recipe to use mashed sweet potatoes.  🙂  This totally sounded like a winner and I had a large butternut squash or two that needed a purpose.

Roasted Mashed Butternut Squash

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 T.  half and half
  • 1 T. unsalted butter

First, we roasted one butternut squash by scooping out the insides, spraying the cut side with non-stick cooking spray and roasting face down on a foil lined baking sheet in a 425° oven for about 35-40 minutes.

Roasted Squash

Roasted Squash

When the roasted squash had cooled somewhat, we scooped out the squash and mashed it with the butter and the half and half (which was left over from holiday cooking and NOT something we normally have in our house).  I’m trying to get it out of here!

While the squash was cooling, we prepared the meat that forms the based of the pie.

Mashed Squash (AKA squish)

Mashed Squash
(AKA squish)

Meat Filling:

  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 lb ground beef
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • dried sage and thyme, pinches
  • 2 T. flour
  • 2 c. tomato sauce

Heat a large pan coated with cooking spray (we used the big cast iron pan which already had a coating of bacon fat in it).  Cook the onion until tender, and add the garlic and cook until aromatic.  Add the ground beef, cooking and breaking it up until the meat is all browned.  At this point I added the sage and thyme (both of which came from my CSA boxes!) and sprinkled the flour over the meat mixture.  Mix this until the flour evenly coats the meat, then add the tomato sauce and simmer until most of the liquid is cooked off.  Place the meat mixture in the bottom of a casserole coated with cooking spray.

Base Layer

Base Layer

Now is where things got a little freaky with my Shepherd’s Pie.

I was rifling through the refrigerator looking for a vegetable for the middle layer, and my 11 year old reminded me we had a bag of frozen okra in the freezer and maybe we could try that.  WHAT!?  After my head stopped spinning around and I made sure she wasn’t feverish, I agreed to give it a shot.  My kids had eaten okra before and didn’t mind it because okra doesn’t really have much flavor of its own.  (Now that I think about it, maybe she was afraid I would try to use greens, and she was creating a diversion before I got THAT idea in my head).  🙂


We cooked the okra in the microwave according to the instructions on the package, and spread them whole on top of the ground beef.  I was pretty sure the okra wouldn’t cook enough while the Shepherd’s Pie was in the oven.  We were out on a limb as it was, I didn’t want to serve undercooked okra in my pie.

Whole Okra

Whole Okra


On top of the vegetable layer (my feelings will not be hurt if you choose something far more normal), we spread the mashed butternut squash, and then sprinkled shredded cheese on top.

Oven Ready

Oven Ready

I cooked the whole pie in the oven at 375° for about 30-35 minutes, until the cheese on top of the pie was browned.

IMG_1047Actually, it was good.  🙂  The fifteen year old wasn’t thrilled with the okra, he decided to be picky about texture.  But we didn’t have much in the way of left overs.

About csamom

Living in Eastern Washington State for the past 15 years, I appreciate the wonderful produce we have available here. I am a working mom, with the typical active family. We have two children, a cat, a fish, and a snake.
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6 Responses to Shepherd’s Pie with Butternut Squash and a surprise vegetable

  1. That’s brilliant! I think your girl is quite clever, regardless of her motive for suggesting the okra.
    I grew up with cheese-less Shepherd’s pie–but would make this merely because it sounds delicious. Too bad I have no okra–I used to blanch and freeze the okra from the old farm share in VA, but haven’t gotten any here in Ohio.


    • csamom says:

      We have actually grown our own okra before, but I only got three or four pods. I end up using them to thicken stews or soups. My husband has cooked them in cornmeal, with a pretty good reception from the peanut gallery. 🙂

  2. Tammy says:

    My kids would die if I put okra on this dish. When it’s in season (summer) I am constantly trying to sneak it into everything.

    • csamom says:

      I would not have tried this if it hadn’t been my daughter’s idea. I’m pretty aggressive about sneaking vegetables into a variety of dishes, but this was far beyond my zone of comfort. It was too identifiable.

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