I got inspired to cook this hearty ragú one cold, stormy Saturday afternoon; it with the perfect red wine and dinner party weather. I’d had this chunky slab of wild stag meat sitting in the freezer for a couple of weeks, but hadn’t managed to do anything with it - a rich venison pasta isn’t really a summertime dish. So I was pretty stoked when this wintery day came along out of the blue.
Venison is it’s one of the leanest meats you can get (less than 2% fat, no marbling etc.) and although it’s meant to be quite tender, I’d been warned about how dry it can be if you don’t cook it right. This is why I thought creating a venison ragú (always cooked long and slow) would be the safest bet.
I adapted this recipe from a few sources. I couldn’t actually find one that used venison, so I’ve added pork fat to make up for the lack of it in the meat. The key is in the slow cooking.
🦌 Ingredients for (stag) ragú
Salt & pepper to season
Bacon fat or speck, chopped very fine
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, chopped fine
4 celery stalks, chopped fine
800g crushed canned (Italian) tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1 cup red wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 dried bay leaves
Splash of reduced Balsamic vinegar or large pinch of brown sugar (sweet balances the acidity)
Extra beef stock, salt and pepper (as needed)
1. Cut venison into large chunks, pat dry and season with salt and pepper
2. Heat splash of olive oil over high heat in a heavy based pot, brown the meat and remove to rest on a plate.
3. Turn the heat down and add the fat, onion and garlic. Stir until golden.
4. Add the carrots and celery and sauté slowly for a further 5 minutes.
5. Add all remaining ingredients and return the venison to the pot (top up with extra water/wine/stock if needed - meat should be covered).
6. Simmer (very low heat!) for 3 or 4 hours, stirring occasionally, or until meat is tender enough to shred (mine took 4 hours… I think stag may be a little tougher).
7. Remove meat and shred with 2 forks. Return to the pot and simmer on low for 30 minutes until sauce is reduced and thickened.
8. Cook fresh pappardelle pasta until it’s al dente, then serve in a large sharing bowl with the ragú spooned over it, and shaved Parmesan cheese on top.
🦌 A note on hunting wild venison …
When my brother isn’t fishing or diving for cray (and other creatures from the deep), he’s hunting wild deer in the Victorian countryside. Although it may be confronting to see the hunt pictures or think about someone shooting Bambi, wild deer is a sustainably sourced and ethical meat; naturally grown, naturally grazing and free to roam free range. Good for you and good for the environment. And you know what you’re eating has had a pretty happy life eating grass and doing whatever else deers do.