The potato crust on Meatball Mash hides a wealth of vegetables and meat to fill growling stomachs.
The potato crust on Meatball Mash hides a wealth of vegetables and meat to fill growling stomachs. (Mel Barber — mbarber@yorkdispatch.com)

Shepherd's pie isn't a hard meal to start with, but let's get real here: Some days, even browning the meat is too much to ask.

But the nice thing about shepherd's pie is how forgiving it is. Toss meat in a dish, slap mashed potatoes on top and heat it up and you can get away with calling almost anything shepherd's pie.

So here's a shepherd's pie for the slackerist of slackers.

The recipe begins with throwing open the pantry and the freezer in a hunt for vegetables. I don't eat shepherd's pie without peas and corn. You might consider carrots, green beans — even broccoli and cauliflower. I can't stress this enough: Whatever vegetables you have on hand are the right ones for this dish.

Because we're going super-slacker here, the meat comes from pre-cooked frozen meatballs and the potatoes come from a box (unless you have leftover mashed potatoes, in which case, you're ahead of the game).

The dish requires a minimum of tending, too. A few minutes at the stove, and then you can dump it in a casserole dish and let it bake. Unless you're an obsessive oven-watcher, you'll have the active part finished in 15 minutes and put dinner on the table in 45. Not bad for a weeknight.

Meatball Mash

1 cup frozen chopped onions and green peppers

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 6-oz. can tomato paste

20 frozen meatballs

1 12-oz. bag frozen mixed vegetables of your choice

1 15-oz. can peas, drained

1 tablespoon oregano

1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons flour (or cornstarch)

Pepper to taste

4 to 5 cups mashed potatoes (can be from scratch or box/bag flakes)

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a skillet, cook onions and peppers over medium heat until onions begin to brown. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, meatballs, mixed vegetables and peas.

Bring the mixture to a boil.

With 12 servings, Meatball Mash can feed a whole squad.
With 12 servings, Meatball Mash can feed a whole squad. (Mel Barber — mbarber@yorkdispatch.com)

Stir in oregano, beef bouillon and salt. Add flour or cornstarch to thicken. Add pepper to taste.

Keep the mixture at a low boil while preparing the potatoes in the microwave according to package instructions.

Pour the meatball mixture into an ungreased 10x15x2 or 3-quart casserole dish.

Add the eggs to the mashed potatoes, stirring to combine.

Layer the mashed potatoes over the meatball mixture

Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned.

Makes 12 servings.

— Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.

RELATED: The Food for Thought blog has a taste-test comparison of the meatballs used in this recipe.