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, and 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 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 overwork 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 overcooked 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 and in meatball pasta bake!
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.
David @ Spiced says
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!
Yep! You can totally use ground beef. Meatballs are total comfort food!
Meatballs are the way to my heart, I'm tellin' ya. These look SO good- I think I could eat them every day!
Thanks, Karly! I've got a bunch in my freezer just waiting to be eaten!
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen says
My husband's favorite comfort food is spaghetti and meatballs Kathy! Wow, ground elk? I've never tried that!
Total comfort food. You can use ground beef instead of the elk! 🙂
stacey @ The Sugar Coated Cottage says
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.
I've never eaten elk before, but my girlfriend just moved to Colorado and she says its really good. Next time I visit her...
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!!
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.
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.
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.
I definitely need to try simmering meatballs. Thanks!
Kimberly @ KimRidge Farm says
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.
I hope you give them a try. I need to try simmering the meatballs! Something new to try every day!
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.
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!!!