Venison and Wild Pork Lasagna

I must say that I, like countless others, cannot imagine life without pasta.  It simply wouldn’t be worth living.  Bread, too.  And anything with gluten.  That said, I questioned whether or not I should even bother providing this recipe.  Surely, everyone has a recipe for lasagna!  Perhaps you do.  Not the frozen kind in a box!  Not even the kind with cottage cheese!  The real deal.  With real ingredients.  Why not include meat that you have harvested yourself!

I have discovered in talking to other deerslayers and their wives that they simply haven’t broadened their scope of wild game recipes to include pasta dishes… yet!  Everyone chicken-fries backstrap and a few grill some tenderloin.  Many send their meat to a processor and bring home some summer sausage and some packaged steaks.

I’ve said from the start that it’s been my goal to broaden the culinary horizons of  deerslayers and their families.  Venison and wild pork are wonderful in so many recipes.  I mentioned before that this year we mixed all of our ground venison with pork, 50/50, mainly because we ended up with less venison than pork.  The wild pork is still pretty lean but adds a nice complexity of flavor that I really like.  In addition we ground plenty of 100% pork because I love breakfast pan sausage. Packaged in one-pound zip bags, labeled, pressed flat for easy storage, and frozen, these become an easy go-to for countless meals. Meatloaf, hamburgers, spaghetti, lasagna, meatballs, or anything that you would use ground meat for.

Venison and Wild Pork Lasagna

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1 lb. ground venison/wild pork mix (or beef)

Tommy’s salt & pepper mix

9 lasagna noodles

olive oil, a few glugs

6 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tsp. dried thyme approx.

28 oz. crushed tomatoes (2 cans)

red wine, a splash

red pepper flakes

32 oz. ricotta cheese

2 eggs

salt & pepper to taste

2 tsp. Italian herb mix

16 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn

fresh basil

1. In a hot cast iron skillet, saute garlic and dried thyme in olive oil.  Add crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, red wine, salt and pepper.  Simmer for about 30 minutes on low heat.

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2. In another skillet, brown ground meat, seasoned with salt and pepper mix.  Ground venison does not need to be drained. There is no fat to render out.  It will, however, release some water.  I always leave it in since it is like a delicious stock. Add  tomato mixture to browned meat.  Continue simmering.

3.  In a bowl, mix ricotta cheese, two eggs, salt, and thyme until smooth.

4.  Prepare 9 lasagna noodles according to package directions

.*PLEASE NOTE THAT MY JUNIOR DEERSLAYER, BLESS HER HEART, ACCIDENTALLY PICKED UP LASAGNA NOODLES THAT DON’T NEED TO BE BOILED AHEAD.  FYI…. DON’T USE THESE. We found them lacking in texture and “toothiness” that pasta lovers know and recognize.

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Set up a work station with noddles, ricotta mixture, meat sauce, and mozzarella

5.  In a 9 x 13 baking dish, layer 3 lasagna noodles across the bottom. Spread half the ricotta mixture atop the noodles.  I use a rubber spatula for this.

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Cover the ricotta with  approx. 1/3 of the meat sauce, followed by a layer of torn mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella should be dried on a paper towel.

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Continue the layering process until the 3rd layer of lasagna noodles has been spread. This is the top layer and should be spread with remaining sauce to cover noodles completely.  It is important that the noodles be covered completely so that they do not dry out.  Mozzarella should top the lasagna to your liking.

6.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 1 hour or bubbly and cheese is melted.

7.  Allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving to allow lasagna to set so moisture can be reabsorbed and cutting will be easier.

8. Enjoy!

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