Tag Archives: Italian food recipes

Spicy Marinara Venison Burgers


The other day, a wine-induced conversation ensued in the Deerslayer household regarding the best of all culinary goodness . Is pasta better than pizza?  Is seared venison tenderloin superior to chicken-fried venison steak? In our family, I have to admit that pasta, cheese, bread, and garlic topped the list since junior deerslayers were voting as well (only one is old enough to partake in the wine, however). Of course, because we are a deerslayer household, wild game made it into the top 10.

One of the daughters makes a killer spicy marinara that is a favorite addition to pasta and wild game alike. With that in mind, a little brainstorming resulted in the following recipe. Beautifully seasoned venison, sliced mozzarella, fabulously flavorful marinara, crusty ciabatta, and peppery arugula came together to create the perfect combination of flavors, the consummate burger.

Spicy Marinara Venison Burgers

(1 lb. of ground meat makes about 3 burgers)

The Sauce

Balsamic glaze is a good way to add intense flavor without adding too much liquid. Balsamic vinegar can be used but you might need to simmer for a few extra minutes.

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onion

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

¼ tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. dried oregano

1  28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

¼ red wine

a blop of balsamic glaze (about a tbsp) (I used balsamic glaze because that’s what I had.  Balsamic vinegar will be fine, too)

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

In a high-sided cast iron skillet, saute′ finely chopped onion in olive oil for a couple of minutes.  Add cayenne, white pepper, and oregano.  Stir around to let the olive oil work its magic on the spices.  Add garlic and continue to stir for about a minute.  Don’t let the garlic brown.

Add tomatoes, wine, balsamic glaze or vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer while you assemble the burgers.

The Burger


1 lb. ground venison (or elk, nilgai, or wild pork)

2 tbsp. chopped garlic

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 egg

1 tsp.dried oregano, crushed in your palms

fresh mozzarella, sliced, brought to room temperature


Combine all ingredients expect mozzarella in a bowl.

Each burger will require two very thin patties of the same size. Place mozzarella on one patty. Leave room around the edge to seal shut.

Making the meat patties on plastic wrap allows me to shape and move them around easily.

Place one meat patty atop the other.

Press around the edges to seal the mozzarella inside.

The cooking method you use to prepare the meat is up to you. The burgers can be grilled or cooked in a hot skillet or griddle.  Because the meat is so lean, be sure to use a little oil to prevent the patties from sticking to the cooking surface.  I used a hot cast iron skillet, being sure to allow meat to sear, then lowering the heat enough to make sure that they heat through and melt the cheese.

Assembling the Burgers

Ciabatta Rolls

Olive oil

Cooked Meat Patties

Spicy Marinara


Thinly sliced red onion (optional)

Drizzle olive oil on split ciabatta rolls. Toast under the broiler or on the grill for a few minutes.

Assemble burgers on a bed of arugula placed atop the toasted ciabatta. Liberally spread spicy marinara over the meat. top with thinly sliced onion, if desired.


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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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