Friday, October 11, 2013

Recipe: Baked Penne with Deer Meat

I never thought I'd get to the point where I enjoyed eating deer meat. I am by no means a vegetarian, yet I cringe at the thought of something dying so I can eat. I just think I've become so disconnected from the animal and the actual food on my plate that it makes it easier to gorge on beef in all it's yumminess. I think society, as a whole, has too.

Thanks to PETA and the million books, videos and blogs out there exposing the meat industry and all it's disgusting cruelty, I've turned to appreciating deer season. Do I love that the hubs leaves before the owls have gone to bed and is dog tired in the afternoon when he gets home? No. Do I love the washer being full of wet camo but I can't touch it because it's been unscented? No. Do I love all our money going to Cabela's and Academy? Um, heck no. 

But I do like the freezer being full of free-range deer meat. And I appreciate my husband's true dedication to hunting properly and with respect to each animal, taking only as much as we'll eat during the year and leaving the best animals to produce for the herd. And honestly, when ground deer is added to recipes in place of beef, I can't even tell the difference. And my toddler? Loves it. For awhile, it was actually the only meat he would eat!

Here's one of my favorite dishes for cooking ground deer. It's adapted from an old Weight Watchers ground turkey recipe and tweaked by some Pinterest ideas and, ultimately, just became something I make without too much measuring (and using whatever I have on hand). I also use organic cheese when I can find it, and always BPA-free canned tomatoes.

{I usually let it melt longer and the cheese almost brown before pulling it out, but we were hungry!}

Baked Penne with Deer
  • 1lb ground deer meat
  • 1 large can organic tomato puree
  • 1 small can organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced (optional)
  • 1 bag Italian cheese mix
  • 1 bag part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 box whole grain noodles (I prefer penne but ziti also works)
  • Salt, pepper, garlic and oregano to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • 9x13 casserole dish
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Boil noodles according to package directions.
  3. Meanwhile, brown deer meat in a skillet using your oil preference. I add a dash of salt and pepper. Add the onion here if you want (my toddler hates onion so we omit it now).  
  4. Once meat is browned, drain the fat. Add in the tomato puree and the diced tomatoes. Add a dash of garlic and oregano. Stir, cover and simmer on low until noodles are ready.
  5. Drain noodles.
  6. Now it's time to layer your ingredients in the casserole dish. There's no real exact science to this, and you might have some of the noodles and cheese leftover. Start with a really thin layer of your meat sauce on the bottom. Next, add a layer of noodles. Add a layer of meat sauce. Sprinkle generously with the cheeses, mixing the Italian and mozzarella. Sprinkle with oregano. Repeat! Add a nice layer of noodles, meat sauce, cheese, repeat until your dish is full. Sometimes I get two layers, sometimes three. 
  7. Make sure your final layer of cheese is a good one! Sprinkle with oregano.
  8. Bake in the oven on 350 for 20-30 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. I like mine almost browned on the edges :).
  9. Once done, let sit for 10 minutes or so, otherwise it'll fall apart when cut.
  10. Serve and enjoy!

I usually serve it with a salad or steamed broccoli, and we always have plenty of leftovers for dinner the next day (and sometimes lunch, too). 

Each time I make it, I do something a bit different and it always turns out yummy. Like I said, my kiddo hates onions so we don't use it now, but they are super tasty if added. Sometimes I'll find a can of italian spiced tomato puree and that's awesome, too. You could even add fresh minced garlic at the meat-browning stage.

If you're skeptical about ground deer, this is the perfect recipe to try it. Or, you could always substitute the deer for beef, just be sure to drain all the excess fat.

Happy weekend!


Gwen said...

I feel exactly the same as you regarding deer/elk. I never was a big meat eater and never would have dreamed of trying elk until a couple of years ago. My best friends hubby is a hunter and the had an 'elk party'. I actually loved it at first bite! So tender and lean and not 'gamey' like I imagined.

Katie said...

Hi Gwen! What a neat idea. Glad to know elk is good too ~ the hubs would love to go on an elk hunt next year. We'll see! :)

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