Ground venison is super versatile, but it’s easy to get in a rut with it. If you need a break from the old standbys of tacos, spaghetti, chili and burgers, I’ve got you covered with two recipes.
Bacon Venison Rolls
This is sort of a take on meatloaf, but with plenty of cheese and bacon, it’s more kid-friendly (and very low-carb, if that’s your thing). This recipe makes two rolls, so I often bake one and freeze one to bake later on one of those I-don’t-feel-like-cooking nights.
2 lbs. ground venison
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup ketchup
2 T Worcestershire sauce
4 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup finely chopped onion
2 T grated Parmesan
1 t salt
12 strips of bacon
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine all ingredients except the bacon and mix until well blended. Shape into two six-inch logs.
Lay six strips of bacon side by side on a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper, so that the slices are slightly overlapping each other. Place a venison log on top of the bacon at one end and use the paper to help roll it up so the log is wrapped nice and tight in bacon. Repeat with the rest of the bacon and the second log.
Place rolls in a 9x13 pan lined with foil, or on a wire rack in a roasting pan. Bake 45-50 minutes.
Venison Bolognese Sauce
Years ago, I took a food tour in Bologna, Italy, the home of the world-famous Bolognese sauce. The tour guide shared this recipe with me. Of course, I’ve modified it to use venison instead of beef, and I had to do all the metric conversions to wind up with measurements I could use. This is one recipe where a little fat mixed into your venison is a good thing—this sauce needs some fat to help it coat noodles nicely. But if your venison was ground without fat, as mine usually is, you’ll have enough from the bacon to make it work.
Italians serve this with large, thick pasta, primarily tagliatelle, and when I’m feeling really ambitious, I make noodles from scratch to really bring this recipe to the next level. The sauce is also good over gnocchi, spooned into zucchini boats, or even just spread over thick, crusty bread.
The cream is optional; it’s probably not strictly traditional depending on who you talk to, but I really like it.
Set aside the better part of an afternoon to make this sauce. The mincing is the most tedious part. Your bacon or pancetta will mince much more easily if it’s partially frozen.
2/3 lb. ground venison
1/3 lb. pancetta or bacon, finely minced
1.8 oz. minced carrot
1.8 oz. minced celery
1.8 oz. minced onion
10 oz. tomato sauce
3 oz. dry white wine or chicken stock
3 oz. whole milk
Optional: 3 oz. heavy cream
Cook the bacon or pancetta over medium-low heat in a heavy Dutch oven until the fat is rendered out (but don’t let it get crispy). Add 3T olive oil and the vegetables. Fry gently until tender.
Add the venison and stir to break it up as it cooks. When it is just done, add the wine or stock. Cook, stirring constantly, until completely evaporated.
Add tomato sauce and cover. Turn the heat down and simmer for two hours, adding broth as needed to keep the pan from getting too dry. You want it to to stay ever-so-slightly soupy, like sloppy joe mixture—if it looks dry like ground beef, it’ll burn.
Stir in milk and cream. Taste and season as needed.
Serve over tagliatelle or your favorite thick pasta. According to my food guide, Italians would never dare serve this sauce with a thin noodle like spaghetti, but you’ll get no judgement from me!