Italian Meatballs made with wild game meat. These meatballs are made using ground elk meat.
They are light and full of flavor and perfect for adding to a marinara sauce and eating with spaghetti or adding to a meatball sandwich.
Why make this recipe
I have finally made the perfect Italian style meatballs. I've made them in the past, but they have always been way too dense to be called good. These meatballs were so light and tender. And the seasoning!!! I think I nailed this one to perfection!
For these meatballs I used ground elk meat. It's what we have in the freezer and I use it in place of ground beef in just about every recipe. I also use elk meat in this Mongolian Beef recipe.
I know not everyone has ground elk, but not to worry! You can use ground beef. Or you can use an even mixture of ground beef and ground pork. Traditional Italian meatballs call for a combination of ground beef and pork.
For those of you with hunters in your family, you could also use ground venison.
Wild game is very lean, so trying to keep these meatballs tender and moist is tricky. But I figured out a couple of techniques! These techniques work for whatever type of meat you use.
How to make meatballs
- Combine the breadcrumbs, milk and seasonings. Gently stir in the meat
- Let the mixture rest for a bit and give it one final mix before forming the meatballs.
- For shaping the meatballs, I used a small cookie scoop. It forms perfect, consistent sized meatballs.
- Bake at 400 degrees for exactly 15 minutes. I actually didn't think they were cooked through until I split one in half to check. Depending on the size of your meatballs, I would start at 15 minutes, check to see if they are done. If not, bake for 5 more minutes and check again. Overcooking will dry the meatballs out.
- Use your favorite type of ground meat. I use ground elk or venison You can also use a lean ground beef or ground turkey.
- Use very small fresh bread crumbs
- Use fresh bread, not dried. I used some day old hamburger buns from my homemade buns.
- Once the meat is added to the mixture, try not to over work the meat. Just mix it until the seasoning is well incorporated.
Cooked meatballs can be used for spaghetti in tomato sauce. I placed these in hot marinara sauce about 10 minutes before serving so the meatballs were heated through.
You don't want over cooked meatballs. Just enough time in the sauce to heat them through.
Yes, these meatballs can be frozen. Once cooked and cooled, the meatballs can be placed in a single layer in a freezer bag and frozen for future use.
I often like to make a double batch and freeze several for later. There's nothing better than having ready made meatballs whenever you need them.
Another meatball I also make is cocktail meatballs which are perfect for serving as an appetizer!
These meatballs are perfect for using in my crock pot spaghetti and meatballs.
If you make this recipe, I’d love to hear about it! Leave a comment below and snap a picture and tag me on Instagram @beyondthechickencoop
Check out all my wild game recipes.
- 4 cups fresh bread (cut into small pieces)
- 2 cups milk
- 4 pounds ground elk meat (or ground beef)
- 4 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 Tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 Tablespoons salt
- 1 Tablespoon white pepper
- 1 ½ Cups grated Parmesan cheese
- Put bread crumbs into a large bowl Pour milk over top and let sit until fully absorbed. If bread is still dry, add a bit more milk.4 cups fresh bread, 2 cups milk
- Add garlic through white pepper. Mix4 cloves crushed garlic, 1 Tablespoon dried oregano, 1 Tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 Tablespoon dried basil, 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 Tablespoons salt, 1 Tablespoon white pepper
- Add in ground meat, mix lightly.4 pounds ground elk meat
- Add Parmesan cheese and mix lightly1 ½ Cups grated Parmesan cheese
- Use small scoop to form meatballs. Place on a lightly sprayed tray.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Check to make certain they are cooked through.
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and should only be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. To obtain the most precise nutritional information in a provided recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the exact ingredients you are using when preparing the recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.
I tried and tried to make meatballs out of ground turkey, but they failed each time. This recipe was a success!!!! Thank you!
Hooray! Turkey is a lot like elk meat - both are really lean. I'm so glad you tried this with ground turkey and that it worked out perfectly! I'm doing the happy dance! 🙂