By Michael Pendley
Comfort food just hits the spot sometimes, and this Stuffed Shells with Venison Meat Sauce recipe is about as comforting as it gets. Generously sized pasta shells get stuffed with a blend of cheeses and topped with a slow-simmered, meaty red sauce and even more cheese before being baked till golden and gooey. Serve with a slice of garlic bread and a nice salad for a complete meal.
2 pounds ground venison
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½-teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼-cup tomato paste
Handful fresh basil, chopped
2 cups shredded four-cheese Italian blend for topping
16 ounces jumbo pasta shells
1 tablespoon kosher salt
32 ounces cottage cheese
32 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
6 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
2 garlic cloves minced
1 teaspoon salt
Start the recipe with the sauce. In a heavy pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, shallot and garlic. Stir constantly to prevent burning the garlic. Once the garlic and shallot have softened, about two minutes, add the ground venison. Stir well to combine,then continue cooking until the meat has browned.
Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, water, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for one hour. Add the fresh basil, stir well, and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, bring salted water to a boil in a large stock pot. Add the jumbo shells. Boil for six to eight minutes until just soft enough to bend; leave it al dente since it will continue to cook as the dish bakes. Once the pasta is ready, remove it from the pot and shock under cold water to stop the cooking process. Shake the pasta well to drain and set it aside.
In a large bowl, blend all the stuffing ingredients well. Use a spoon to fill each shell with cheese blend, then place it into a large baking dish.
Once all of the shells are filled and in the pan, pour over the meat sauce, using the back of a large spoon to smooth it over the cheese-filled pasta and work it down between the shells.
Top the dish with two cups of shredded Italian four-blend cheese or mozzarella cheese. Place into a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
Try Out More Recipes with NSSF’s Game Meat Cooking Series
Where hunter and classically trained chef Georgia Pellegrini shares recipes from her book, “Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time.”
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