It seems every family has their rendition of a heritage meatball recipe. Heck, if you ask anyone in any country around the world, they would tell you that their family has “the best” tried and true meatball recipe. The one ingredient that everyone can agree upon is a meatball must have MEAT...even fish, yes, fish, shrimp and even anchovies.
In America, we are privileged with the right to hunt whitetail deer which, to me, create the best meatballs known to exist. Venison has an earthy flavor perfect for the permeation of simple seasonings such as garlic, rosemary and parsley. Pork is added to this recipe to add a bit more flavor and fat, for a flavorful, rich taste and the moistest meatball possible.
While these meatballs are delicious over polenta or grits, they work beautifully served over rice, potatoes or pasta. They are also sensational stuffed in a crusty baguette for a leftover lunch.
- 6 cups day-old bread, cut into ¼-inch cubes
- ½ cup milk
- 2 large onions, peeled and quartered
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- Olive oil for sautéing
- 1 pound ground venison
- 1 pound ground pork
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 ½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp Kosher salt as needed
- 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup chopped Italian parsley, plus more for plating
For the Sauce
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Quick-cook polenta or grits
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- In a shallow pan, soak the bread in the milk for 2 minutes. Squeeze the bread to remove excess moisture and place the bread in a large bowl.
- In a food processor, pulse the peeled onions and rosemary leaves then place them into a large frying pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and allow the liquid to evaporate from the mixture for about 20 minutes or until the onion mixture is lightly caramelized.
- Meanwhile, add the venison, pork, eggs, garlic, cheese, salt, pepper and parsley to bread. Once the onions are caramelized, add them to the meat mixture and lightly mix all the ingredients until incorporated. Divide into 18 equal-sized meatballs a little larger than a golf ball.
- In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the meatballs, in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, and cook until brown on all sides for about 10 minutes. Remove cooked meatballs to a plate.
- For the sauce, drizzle olive oil into the same skillet used to make the meatballs. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, wine, tomatoes and red pepper flakes to the skillet and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the polenta according to the packet instructions until you have a creamy consistency, adding the butter and grating of parmesan at the end.
- Gently toss the meatballs through the sauce and serve over the polenta. Scatter a few extra parsley leaves over the dish along with an extra sprinkling of parmesan cheese, if you like.
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