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Game Dishes: Deer Sausage and Elk Meatballs

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People hunt for many reasons, with a popular one being the meat obtained from a harvest. Venison obtained by a hunter provides clean, lean and sustainable protein for you and your family. There is also a sense of pride to be a part of the field to table food cycle for your own consumption.

While some enjoy the tenderloins and make jerky or pepperoni sticks from their deer or elk as a hunting season treat, others have the animal butchered into other cuts to take the place of other store-bought meats. Those that use hunting as means to fill the freezer will have ground meat and sausages on-hand throughout the year.

Due to the very lean nature of venison, ground meat is often mixed with some beef or pork fat for flavor and easier cooking. However, even with the added fat it is still much leaner than store bought beef or pork sausage. Whether you process your own game or have a processor do the work, it is important to know what kind of ratio you have and compensate appropriately when cooking.


Hot deer sausage and ground elk from the freezer.

A good meatball can be used for different dishes such as meatball subs or Swedish meatballs, but there's nothing as iconic as spaghetti and meatballs. This recipe will make about two dozen home-made meatballs to go with your favorite pasta and sauce combination.

The half sausage/half ground meat mixture in this recipe works well to enhance flavor and keep things moist with the sausage. If you don’t have sausage made out of your venison, either add some extra fat to the regular ground meat or use some pork sausage. If you like a little spice, consider using hot sausage or adding red pepper flakes for a kick. Experiment with different seasonings and ingredient mixes to create your own special recipe.


1 lb sausage (featured deer hot sausage)

1 lb ground venison (featured ground elk meat)

¾ cup grated parmesan cheese

1 ¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs

3-4 cloves of minced garlic

½ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 tablespoons Italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper

1 jar of your preferred pasta sauce, or 3 cups of mom’s secret family recipe pasta sauce

Olive oil for cooking

Preparation and Cooking

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine meats, cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, milk, Worcestershire, oil and seasonings. Season with salt and pepper, being careful not to add too much salt as the parmesan cheese brings a salty taste. Mix ingredients by hand until mixture is evenly distributed (nitrile gloves instead of bare hands can keep this from being very messy). The consistency should be a little wet and the mixture should mainly stick together without falling apart. Add a little extra milk if too dry.



Gloves prevent the meat mixture from sticking to your hands and save on cleanup time.

Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, measure out mixture and roll into medium sized meatballs.


Rolled and ready to cook.

Heat a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil as needed, then place meatballs with at least ½” to 1” spacing in skillet. Sauté 2-3 minutes per side, being sure to not let a hard crust form. In a deep glass baking dish, spread some sauce on the bottom. As meatballs finish, place them into the baking dish and continue sautéing until all are finished. Once done, pour the remaining sauce over the meatballs, making sure they are all covered.


Brown all sides to lock in juices and flavor. This will help keep the meatballs together.

Place into oven and cook for 20-30 minutes. Meatballs should be 165 degrees F internal temperature.

If cooking at the same time as pasta, set up a large pot of water to boil. Once the water is boiling, add salt and pasta and cook to al dente or preferred texture.

Once meatballs are done, remove from baking dish and save the sauce. Combine remaining sauce with pasta and some grated parmesan cheese (as preferred). Place pasta on plates with meatballs on top.


Out of the oven and baking dish, ready to serve.


The payoff: spaghetti and homemade deer sausage and elk meatballs.

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