Venison Meatballs in Mushroom Sauce

This recipe is a good way to introduce people to game. The dried mushrooms enhance the flavour of the meat. The meatballs can be made ahead and reheated while the pasta is cooking. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.This recipe can also be made with ground beef.


One 20 g pkg dried porcini mushrooms
1 lb (500 g) ground venison
1 tbsp (15 mL) plus ¼ cup (50 mL) chopped parsley
1 tsp (5 mL) fresh thyme leaves
½ tsp (2 mL) ground coriander
½ tsp (2 mL) Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp (45 mL) canola oil
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, halved and finely sliced
1 cup (250 mL) dry red wine
1 large sprig thyme
One 14 oz (398 g) can Italian tomatoes, coarsely chopped
8 oz (250 g) cremini mushrooms, trimmed
One 450 g pkg dried pasta
Olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional


  1. Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl and pour over 1 cup (250 mL) boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms and squeeze out excess liquid. Carefully strain the soaking liquid through a sieve, discarding any solids and sand. Set aside the strained liquid. Finely chop the soaked, squeezed mushrooms.
  2. Put the ground venison in a bowl and add chopped mushrooms, 1 tbsp (15 mL) parsley, thyme, coriander and salt, then season with pepper. Mix well. Fry a small spoonful of the mixture to check the seasoning. Form the mixture into balls about 1½-inches (4-cm) in diameter (you will have about 24).
  3. Heat 2 tbsp (25 mL) oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the meatballs and sear quickly. Shake the pan to help prevent the meatballs from sticking (don't worry if little pieces of meat stick, they will be incorporated into the sauce).
  4. Transfer meatballs to a plate. Lower heat under pan and add the remaining oil, shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, for 3 minutes or until the shallots are slightly softened and you can smell the garlic. Add the wine and bring to a boil to deglaze the pan by scraping up the browned bits from the bottom. Remove from the heat.
  5. Add the mushroom soaking liquid, thyme, tomatoes and their juices, along with the meatballs to the pan. Halve or quarter the cremini mushrooms, depending on their size, and add them to the meatballs. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook gently for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook another 30 minutes.
  6. Fifteen minutes before the meatballs are finished cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well and toss with a little olive oil. Remove the thyme sprig from the meatballs and stir in ¼ cup (50 mL) chopped parsley. Serve over the cooked pasta.

Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course