This simple and satisfying venison pasta bake is an easy and crowd-pleasing way to use up ground venison. A make-ahead miracle!
We often get creative at home trying to find ways to use up ground venison after hunting season. With a toddler and non-hunting family members around, a crowd-pleasing venison pasta bake is always well received. What’s not to love about a saucy, cheesy bake packed with al-dente pasta and filling deer meat!
Growing up, we’d go out on Saturday nights to a local Italian joint down the road. I remember climbing into my seat, getting out a pack of crayons and ordering baked ziti and a tall glass of milk. What could be more comforting as a kid?
Now that I have a toddler at home to feed, I’m always on the hunt for cozy recipes I know she’ll love. She’s not inherently picky, but she loves anything to do with pasta, so this venison pasta bake is just perfect for our family. And if I’m preparing for a busy week, I can make it ahead and set it in the fridge or freezer until I’m ready to cook. Wins all around, tbh.
What’s in venison pasta bake?
The ingredients for this recipe are super simple.
- Ground venison
- Sauce – you can use my recipe below or your favorite storebought kind
- Olive oil
That’s IT 🙂
What type of pasta you should use
For this recipe, I really like using ziti, penne, or rigatoni. Of course, you can use up what you have on hand and gluten-free pasta will work just fine with this.
Can you use storebought sauce? Or is homemade better?
Glad you asked :). Storebought sauce is just fine. Grab 2 jars and you’re set. However, if you’re using storebought sauce, you’ll want to add some balsamic or red wine vinegar to your ground venison after it browns. It deglazes the pan and adds a zip of acid that’s perfect with deer meat.
How to make venison pasta bake
All you have to do to make this is:
- Brown venison and make your pasta sauce if you’re doing homemade
- Preheat the oven
- Boil and cook pasta
- Mix the pasta, sauce + venison, ricotta cheese + some of the parmesean together
- Pour half of the pasta mixture into a baking dish and cover with half of the mozarella. Pour over the reamining pasta and top with the rest of the mozarella and parmesean.
- Bake & enjoy!
Storing and make ahead instructions
Assemble the pasta bake, cover, and place in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer. If refrigerating, cook as suggested and add an extra 10 minutes of cook time. If freezing and cooking later, let the bake thaw in the fridge 24 hours prior to baking. Cook as suggested and add an extra 10 minutes of cook time.
More Venison dishes to love:Print
This simple and satisfying venison pasta bake is an easy and crowd-pleasing way to use up ground venison. It can even be made ahead!
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. pasta (ziti, penne or rigatoni work best)
About 6 cups sauce (from scratch recipe below) OR 2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce (see note)
¾ cup ricotta cheese
1 cup parmesan
2 cups mozzarella cheese
To make sauce from scratch:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1–2 carrots, finely diced
4–5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 and ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar
1 (28oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14oz) can tomato sauce
Start by making the sauce (see notes if you want to use store-bought sauce)*. Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and saute until the edges start to brown.
When the onion starts to brown, add the ground venison and brown that. Then, add the garlic, Italian seasoning, sugar, salt, pepper, and tomato paste. Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes before deglazing the pan with the vinegar.
Finally, add the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce and let the sauce simmer covered over low heat while you prepare the pasta.
Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease a 9×13-inch (or large) baking dish with olive oil.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta. Drain and set aside. You can toss them in a little bit of olive oil if they’re sticky so they don’t clump together.
Mix together the cooked pasta, sauce, ricotta, and 3/4 cup of the parmesan cheese.
Pour half of the pasta into the baking dish and top with half of the mozzarella cheese. Pour in the remaining pasta and top with the remaining parmesan and mozzarella. If you’re making this ahead of time, cover and place in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer. See notes for adjusted cooking times for making ahead.*
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the bake is bubbling and the cheese is melted.
- For using storebought sauce: if you’re using storebought sauce, simply brown the meat in 1 Tbsp of oil. Deglaze the pan with 2 Tbsp. balsamic or red wine vinegar and pour in the premade sauce when it’s cooked. Then follow steps 4-8.
- To make ahead: follow steps 1-7 and cover and place in the fridge for up to 2 days or in the freezer. If refrigerating, cook as suggested and add an extra 10 minutes of cook time. If freezing and cooking later, let the bake thaw in the fridge 24 hours prior to baking. Cook as suggested and add an extra 10 minutes of cook time.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Oven/Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian American
Keywords: pasta, pasta bake, venison
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