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Venison meatballs and tagliatelle

As more and more chefs show an increasing interest in featuring venison on their menus, José Souto offers an modern twist on an Italian classic. Serves four.

venison meatballs

venison meatballs

Venison meatballs and tagliatelle

Venison meatballs with anchovy olives and sun-dried tomatoes, herbs and tagliatelle pasta. (You might like to read which deer species offers the most delicious venison.)


  • 3 slices of white bread
  • 125ml milk
  • 50ml olive oil (for sauce)
  • ½ onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 100ml venison or chicken stock
  • 120g sun-dried tomatoes
  • 700ml tomato passata
  • 450g minced venison
  • 120g minced pork belly ( or minced bacon)
  • 90g green anchovy olives
  • 200g fresh tagliatelle
  • 25ml virgin olive oil (for pasta)
  • 2tsp roughly chopped basil
  • 25g grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Soak the white bread slices in the milk.
  2. Heat a little oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and garlic without colour until soft. Add the stock and reduce by a half, add the sun-dried tomatoes and passata then bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Place the venison and pork into a bowl with the soaked bread. Mix well and season.
  4. Take a small ball of meat, flatten and pan-fry. Taste to check the seasoning is correct.
  5. Divide the meat into equal-sized balls of about 40g each. Wet your hands very slightly to help you to roll smooth balls.
  6. Take an olive and push it into the centre of the ball of meat, roll it round again so that the olive is encased in the meat. Allow four or five balls per portion, depending on size.
  7. In a non-stick pan, heat a little oil and pan-fry the balls to give them a little colour. Once the balls have all been pan-fried, drop them into the tomato sauce and allow to simmer for 6 to 8 minutes.
  8. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes or until done.
  9. Once the pasta is cooked, drain, toss in some virgin olive oil and season. Serve the venison meatballs on the pasta with a good helping of sauce, then garnish with chopped basil and parmesan cheese.

Stalking muntjac

A couple of weekends ago, I was asked to take out a special group of chefs – the British culinary team, a group of eight who will be representing England at the 2024 Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart. These guys have been exploring how to use British venison on their menu entry and what better place to do this than at Revesby Estate in Lincolnshire? I love the fact that chefs at this level are looking to use venison on their menus, showing it as a premium product of our countryside. I spent the first day explaining about the different deer species found on the estate, their habitats and the venison they provide.

The following morning, two chefs were chosen at random by pulling straws and we met for an early stalk. We soon reached a block of young woodland that had been hammered by muntjac. The first beast we saw did what munties do best, running in small bursts, not allowing me to get a shot away. A young buck soon followed, walking slowly in. I pointed it out in a whisper and explained what the animal was. The munty had not seen nor sensed us and continued on his course.

As he made made way into dense undergrowth, I began to think he was going to elude us, so I gave a low, sharp whistle. It stopped him dead, looking straight at us. I quickly shouldered the rifle and dropped him on the spot. I had been so engrossed in the deer that I had forgotten the chefs behind me, holding their breath until they almost passed out. I hope the experience helps them to understand how our venison moves from field to plate and that they tell this story for years to come.