California Central Coast Recipes

Venison Ragu with Soft Polenta

Venison Ragu is our version of the classic game ragu from the Apennine Mountain region of Italy. In true Emilia Romagna style the ragu spices include cinnamon and clove -something you would not expect in a ragu, but an essential foundation to this recipe. Some may may turn up their noses at using game due to its tendency to taste "wild," but this recipe uses such unusual ingredients that enhance the flavors so well, that no one would ever guess that you're not using beef (which works perfectly well by the way) from the grocer. This recipe though is a little more involved to make --but it's worth it, so allow extra prep and cook time.

This is a rich dark ragu with a very complex flavor and aroma. It improves in flavor if prepared a couple of days in advance, so it is a perfect holiday meal choice you can prepare several days in advance -just be sure to start heating the ragu up a bit before your guests arrive so you can drive them crazy with the aromas as they enter your kitchen!

A classic accompaniment is to serve the ragu on a wide pasta like a pappardelle , but we prefer to serve it on the equally authentic soft polenta for more homey rustic touch. ©2018, Venison Ragu with Soft Polenta
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
re-calculate ingredients for:


4 to 6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cups Finely Diced White Onion
1-1/2 cup Finely Diced Carrot
3 lbs Venison or Beef preferable shoulder, neck or leg, coarsely ground
1/2 cup Brandy
4 cloves Garlic chopped
2 4-in Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
4 to 5 large Fresh Sage Leaves
1/3 cup White Wine Vinegar
1 cup Red Wine , a Zinfandel preferably
2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
1/8 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation Directions.

1 Add the olive oil, carrot and onion to a heavy bottom large stock pot over medium heat. Cook the onion and carrot until softened, but not browned -about 5 minutes.

2 Add the meat, and brown -about 20 minutes stirring occasionally and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan, this is important for the flavors and brown color to develop.

3 When the meat is a rick dark mahogany color stir in the garlic and herbs, then add the rosemary, sage, tomato paste and vinegar. Let the mixture cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Add the brandy to the pot and simmer uncovered until it is completely reduced down -about 5 to 10 minutes (It is not necessary to flame off the alcohol, but you can for fun if you like!)

4 Add the red wine and continue simmering uncovered until the wine is completely reduced off (about 15 minutes).

5 Add the chicken stock and cover. Reduce the heat to low so that the ragu is barely simmering. Continue simmering for a couple of hours stirring occasionally, adding more stock as necessary to keep the meat just covered. The ragu should be thick and moist -not soupy. If too watery, uncover, increase the heat and reduce down. Continue cooking covered until the meat is tender and moist and the flavors and colors robust.

6 When done, skim the fat off of the sauce and season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

7 If you are not serving the ragu immediately, place in a covered pot and refrigerate up to several days or until needed. This ragu also freezes very well.

Wine and Food Pairing and Serving Suggestions.

This is a very robust ragu dish, a bold dry red wine like a Barolo, Brunello or Barbaresco would match well.

A tip from Sue!

Use A Pasta Pot for Pasta

If you like pasta and are planning on having it often, I recommend getting a pasta pot.

After trying different sets, the best one Iíve found was the original, least expensive one. Itís a stainless steel pot with separate built-in pasta basket. It also comes with a vegetable steamer. Something like it is available on the Internet for about $40.00. and at several local supermarkets as low as $30.00.

You donít need to have a real heavy pan---otherwise youíre going to waste all your time heating the pan instead of getting it to boil quickly. Don't worry about hot spots since all youíre going to be doing with it is boiling water.