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Italian Meatballs

Italian style meatballs made with ground wild elk meat. This recipe can be made with any type of game meat or domestic meat.

Ground Elk Meat transformed into a delicious meatball.

This recipe was originally published in April 2015. The pictures have been updated and a few, minor adjustments to the recipe have been made. 

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!

Bake Italian Meatballs made with ground elk burger

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 know not everyone has ground elk….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.

Italian Meatballs

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.  First I used very small fresh bread crumbs soaked in milk.  Next,  once the meat is added to the mixture, try not to over work the meat.  Just mix it until the seasoning is well incorporated.  Then let it rest for a bit and give it one final mix before forming the meatballs.  For the meatballs, I used a small scooper.  It forms perfect, consistent sized meatballs.  Lastly, I baked 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.  Over cooking will dry the meatballs out.

For the bread crumbs, you want fresh bread, not dried.  I used some day old hamburger buns  from my homemade buns.  I love using up all the leftover food I have and I also love using food that I know what’s in it.  You can use any kind of bread.  Keep in mind that you might want to use something mild tasting.  A heavy wheat or rye will be tasted in these meatballs.  Also if you are using a crusty artisan bread, you might want to remove the crust.  I think it would be difficult to soften the tough crust typical on an artisan bread.

Ground elk meat turned into delicious Italian Style Meatballs

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. Again, you don’t want over cooked meatballs.  Just enough time in the sauce to reheat them. These would also be awesome in meatball sandwiches!

Once cooked and cooled, the meatballs can be placed in a single layer in a freezer bag and frozen for future use.

Baked Italian style meatballs.

5 from 1 vote
Italian Meatballs
Print
Italian Meatballs
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 
Italian Style Meatballs
Course: Dinner
: Italian
Servings: 90 small meatballs
Calories: 66 kcal
Author: Kathy
Ingredients
  • 4 cups fresh bread crumbs cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups milk
  • 4 pounds ground elk meat
  • 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 1/2 Cups grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. 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.
  2. Add garlic through white pepper. Mix
  3. Add in ground meat, mix lightly.
  4. Add Parmesan cheese and mix lightly
  5. Use small scoop to form meatballs. Place on a lightly sprayed tray.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Check to make certain they are cooked through.
Recipe Notes

May substitute ground elk for ground venison or ground beef.

Meatballs may be frozen after baked and cooled.  

Nutrition Facts
Italian Meatballs
Amount Per Serving
Calories 66 Calories from Fat 18
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 3%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 15mg 5%
Sodium 192mg 8%
Potassium 90mg 3%
Total Carbohydrates 4g 1%
Protein 5g 10%
Vitamin A 0.7%
Vitamin C 0.3%
Calcium 4%
Iron 5.1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Laura
    April 16, 2015 at 4:07 am

    I can’t wait to try your meatball recipe, I have totally bombed meatballs in the past! Not sure if husband will give me another chance!! He’s a big hunter so I think I’d like to use venison for these, he has gotten an elk in the past but I had no clue what to do with it! My 5 year old daughter is just thrilled with your little chix pix.

    • Reply
      Kathy
      April 16, 2015 at 7:47 pm

      I was banned from meatballs for a while….just finally thought it was time to get past my hockey pucks and I am so glad I ventured out again! Give them a try!!!

  • Reply
    Kimberly @ KimRidge Farm
    April 16, 2015 at 5:04 am

    These meatballs look wonderful. Thank you for sharing your recipe. I used to bake my meatballs and they came out very rubbery. I stopped baking them. Now I slowly simmer my meatballs in a consomme. My mom used to make it that way. And “A Taste of History” does it this way as well.

    I am going to give it another go with baking. And I’ll be careful not to over bake. Thank you again. This recipe is definitely a keeper. My stomach is growling at me.

    Kimberly

    • Reply
      Kathy
      April 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm

      I hope you give them a try. I need to try simmering the meatballs! Something new to try every day!

  • Reply
    Gerlinde
    April 17, 2015 at 7:52 am

    Your meatballs look very good. I wish I had meat from wild game but I don’t. I also like to simmer some of my meatballs. I add them to soups or make them with a white sauce and veggies, like Kohlrabi.

    • Reply
      Kathy
      April 18, 2015 at 5:32 am

      I definitely need to try simmering meatballs. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Adina
    November 29, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Wow! The idea of having regular elk meat in the freezer sounds so exotic for me! 🙂 I have never eaten elk and have only seen some once in an animal park, I was impressed with their size, never knew they were so tall. The meatballs look so tempting, I planned to make some next week (my daughter’s wish), so I could try to spice them your way, I especially like the use of fennel.

    • Reply
      Kathy
      December 3, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      Meatballs are delicious! Don’t be afraid to substitute ground beef for the ground elk.It works well with just about any kind of meat.

  • Reply
    Ashley@CookNourishBliss
    November 29, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Elk meat!? I can’t say I’ve ever tried it but am so intrigued! I love a good meatball and these are making me hungry!!

  • Reply
    lisa
    November 30, 2017 at 7:07 am

    I’ve never eaten elk before, but my girlfriend just moved to Colorado and she says its really good. Next time I visit her…

  • Reply
    stacey @ The Sugar Coated Cottage
    November 30, 2017 at 8:32 am

    Is there anything better than meatballs? These looks so tasty! To be honest I have not tried Elk meat but it sounds just as good a beef! Great pics! Take care.

  • Reply
    Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
    November 30, 2017 at 6:14 pm

    My husband’s favorite comfort food is spaghetti and meatballs Kathy! Wow, ground elk? I’ve never tried that!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      December 3, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      Total comfort food. You can use ground beef instead of the elk! 🙂

  • Reply
    Karly
    November 30, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Meatballs are the way to my heart, I’m tellin’ ya. These look SO good- I think I could eat them every day!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      December 3, 2017 at 4:06 pm

      Thanks, Karly! I’ve got a bunch in my freezer just waiting to be eaten!

  • Reply
    David @ Spiced
    December 4, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Oh man, I missed this post a couple of days ago, Kathy…but I’m glad I caught it today! I love a good Italian meatball (heck, Laura’s family is Italian, so I better love meatballs)! I must admit that I’ve never cooked with ground elk, but I’m sure lean beef would be perfect fine here. Meatballs are one of my all-time favorite comfort food meals…you can do so much with them! In fact, I’m pretty sure I spied a post on meatball sandwiches up next…and I’m about to hop over and check those out! 🙂 Looks delicious, my friend!

    • Reply
      Kathy
      December 5, 2017 at 5:52 am

      Yep! You can totally use ground beef. Meatballs are total comfort food!

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