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venison meatballs in red sauce

Tender Venison Meatballs with Red Sauce

  • Author: Jess Pryles
  • Yield: Makes 16 x 2" meatballs 1x



For the sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

one chopped onion

4 cloves chopped garlic

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 x 28 oz cans of peeled tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chicken or veggie stock

1 parmesan rind (optional)

For the meatballs:

2 lb ground venison with 20% added fat (OR see note 3 below)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons onion powder

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. Start by making the sauce: heat the olive oil in a large heavy based pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook until they start to brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and oregano, and cook down an additional 3-5 minutes.
  2. Add in the peeled tomatoes, crushing with a spoon to break them up a little. Add the salt and the stock. Use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until a smooth consistency is achieved. (alternatively you can smooth out the sauce at the end of cooking in a blender).
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add in the parmesan rind (if using). Cover, and simmer for 4-5 hours until the sauce has reduced and deepened in color. You can remove and discard the parmesan rind after 1-2 hours. Add additional salt to taste.
  4. In a small bowl or container, combine the breadcrumbs and the milk. Stir and mix well, then allow to sit 5-7 minutes until all the milk is absorbed.
  5. *If using pre-made sauce, start heating it an a large saucepan or high sided skillet over medium heat.
  6. In a large bowl, combine venison, breadcrumb mixture, salt, oregano, garlic, onion and parmesan. Work quickly to combine the mixture well, but do not overwork the meat.
  7. Form the meat into 2″ balls, then drop them into the warm red sauce. Cover the pot/pan, and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 60-90 minutes until the meatballs are tender.
  8. If the sauce is getting too thick during cooking, add some extra stock or water, 1/4 cup at a time.


  • Note 1 : the sauce takes about 5 hours to cook down. You can make it in advance if you prefer.
  • Note 2: if you are using pre-made or store-bought sauce, you’ll need about 4-6 cups (32-45 oz). If not making sauce from scratch – start at step 4.
  • Note 3: if you aren’t using venison with added fat, use 1 lb ground venison AND 1 lb ground non-lean pork or 80/20 beef.
  • Category: venison, main course
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: venison, main course, meatballs