Recipe: A Venison Take on Ragu Bolognese

A classic ragu bolognese with a homemade pasta is one of my top 10 favorite dishes to prepare as well as eat. It’s my gauge for the authenticity of an Italian restaurant and unfortunately I’ve had very few in the USA that come close to the real thing. A recent trip to  enjoy the beautiful colors of autumn in Vermont inspired this twist on a classic bolognese. I used a cooking method similar to what one might see in a more classic version of the recipe, but a few substitutions made for a crowd favorite.

I didn’t snap any photos while I was cooking. The kitchen in the cabin was chaotic and the wine was flowing! I should mention that I used larger chunks of carrots/celery/onion in the mirepoix as I wanted to add a bit of texture/rusticness to the dish. The small pot on the back right burner of this stove is showing a vegetarian version of the same dish. I’ll redo that one and post the recipe at some point, complete with a homemade veggie stock that only takes an hour or so to put together!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lb ground venison
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 8 oz ground sirloin
  • 3 pieces bacon or 6 oz pancetta
  • 2 cups mirepoix, chopped to your liking (I like big chunks in this version, in classic Bolognese the smaller the pieces the better
  • 1 glove garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped wild mushrooms
  • 1/2 bottle white wine, Chardonnay works well
  • 1 cups venison or beef stock
  • tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp toasted fennel seeds, finely crushed (optional but I love a tiny bit of fennel with venison)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • salt, pepper, EVOO
  • 1-2 lbs pasta, a wider noodle (pappardelle or taglitelle) is preferred but in this version I used linguini
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • fresh parmaggiano-reggiano for serving

Instructions

  1.  In a large enamel coated dutch oven (or equivalent) melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat
  2. Add bacon (or pancetta) and cook until browned, then remove keeping the fat in the pot
  3. Add mirepoix (pinch of salt/pepper) and cook until translucent, or about 10 mins.
  4. Add in ground pork, venison, and sirloin (pinch of salt/pepper) and break down constantly with a wooden spoon to get very small pieces of meat. Cook until slightly browned.
  5. Add mushrooms, stir 2 mins, then add 1/2 bottle white wine and cook down to 1/2 the liquid volume
  6. Add 1 cup stock,  garlic, tomato paste, milk and again reseason with salt/pepper/spices. Re-add the bacon/pancetta to the mix.
  7. Let simmer for 2-3 hours or until desired consistency (very little liquid, a nice thick, sticky meat sauce).
  8. Serve with al dente pasta with a pinch of chopped fresh parsley and a dolloping of fresh parmaggiano-reggiano!

This is a simple dish to make, just takes some time to let things come together. Serve with a nice Chianti, Dolcetto, or something from the Cotes du Rhone region. There is no better time of year than autumn/early winter to enjoy this dish.

Buon Appetito!