While Hartree–Fock theory is well established as a fundamental approximation for interacting fermions, it has been unclear how to describe corrections to it due to many-body correlations. In this paper we start from the Hartree–Fock state given by plane waves and introduce collective particle–hole pair excitations. These pairs can be approximately described by a bosonic quadratic Hamiltonian. We use Bogoliubov theory to construct a trial state yielding a rigorous Gell-Mann–Brueckner–type upper bound to the ground state energy. Our result justifies the random-phase approximation in the mean-field scaling regime, for repulsive, regular interaction potentials.