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Venison Meatballs, Greek Style

This is a riff off traditional spaghetti and meatballs, with a Hellenic touch. It jazzes up one of my favorite comfort foods with a bit more garlic, a bit more sweetness and a chewiness from the bulgur wheat. These are not the fluffy meatballs of an old “red sauce” restaurant, nor the dry orbs that most wild game meatballs become. Any meat works here, by the way. Serve this with spaghetti and grated mizithra cheese, if you can find it. Pecorino or parmesan is just fine, too.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Greek
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Serves 8 people
Author Hank Shaw

Ingredients

MEATBALLS

  • 1 1/2 pounds 1 1/2 pounds ground vension
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
  • Olive oil for frying, about 1 cup

GREEK TOMATO SAUCE

  • 1 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 minced onion
  • 1 can anchovies in olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sweet red wine, Port or Mavrodaphne
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, crushed
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Start by getting the meatball mixture ready. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to let the bulgur absorb moisture. Two hours is better.
  2. To make the sauce, drain the olive oil from the anchovies into a large saute pan. Over medium-high heat, saute the onions until they are translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add anchovies, mash in the pan and combine with the onions. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook this until it turns a deep maroon, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and stir to combine. Add the cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, combine well and add the oregano and salt. Cook this uncovered over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. If you feel adventurous, run this sauce through a food mill on a medium setting – after you remove the cinnamon stick. Keep warm while you make the meatballs.
  4. To make the meatballs, take the meat out and knead it until it forms a cohesive mass. Take an ice cream scoop or tablespoon and make your meatballs.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs well in batches so you don't crowd the pan. Set each browned meatball in the sauce to simmer as they come ready. When they are all in, cover the sauce and simmer gently over low heat for 15 minutes before serving.