This is the perfect pasta recipe to utilize excess ground venison and wild hog still in the freezer

This pasta recipe takes delicious to the next level with a savory ground venison and wild hog meat sauce. (Photo courtesy of “Florida Sportsman”)

When making a guest list for a dinner party where this wild game pasta recipe will be served, DO NOT invite anyone who gives you venison or wild hog meat. They will likely ask for the recipe to cook it themselves; your organic protein source will disappear!

Serves: 6-8
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 4.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground venison
  • 1 pound ground wild hog
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 pound smoked bacon
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups water (or red wine), divided
  • 1 pound pasta (rigatoni, orecchiette, penne)
  • Fine-chopped Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. In a food processor, pulse the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes and 1/4 cup parsley until finely chopped; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

2. Purée tomatoes with juices in processor; set aside.

3. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat; add sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned. Add ground meat and bacon, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate.

4. Increase heat to medium-high. Add reserved vegetable mixture to drippings in pot, season with salt and cook, stirring often, until golden, about 8-10 minutes.

5. Stir tomato paste and 1 cup water (or red wine!) in a small bowl; add to pot. Cook, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, about 6-8 minutes.

6. Add reserved meat and tomato purée and 1 cup water (or red wine!). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, adding more liquid as needed to keep meat nearly submerged, until meat is tender, about 4 hours. Season with salt to taste.

7. About a half-hour before serving, boil pasta in lightly salted water until al dente, or slightly chewy. Drain and add to sauce, stir and continue to cook.

8. Serve in individual bowls, garnished with the remainder of the chopped parsley and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.

The backbone of this homemade wild game ragu pasta sauce is a combination of ground venison and wild hog. (Photo courtesy of “Florida Sportsman”)

About this Recipe
If you’re French, a slow-cooked stew of meat and vegetables is a ragout. Here, in the New World, led astray by the name of a commercial spaghetti sauce, it’s ragu. In either instance, this wild game version is worth the effort.

I’m not a hunter of anything bigger than an Osceola turkey, but I’m lucky to be on the receiving end of wild meat gifts from my hog and deer hunting buddies. And when my freezer starts to overflow with packages of ground venison and wild hog, I start thinking “ragu.”
You need to set aside an afternoon to make a proper ragu. The cutting, chopping and browning don’t take long, nor does it take lots of specialized kitchen equipment. A large covered skillet and a pot to boil a couple of quarts of water will do.

If you’re cooking tonight’s dinner, start at noon. Another option is to cook the sauce, hold on preparing the pasta, and chill in the fridge or freeze for later. You’ll be amazed how well this wild game pasta sauce tastes after it has rested a day or so. FS

This recipe was first published in Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2015 issue.

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