If you’ve already tagged out, quartered, broken into primal cuts, boned, and packaged your elk this year, congratulations! No doubt you have added a few bags of stew meat and scraps destined for a rainy Saturday and a few passes through the food grinder. Last week I ran a few pounds through my grinder of choice (a Chef’s Choice Professional 720). It’s a rugged, reliable grinder, and perfect for smaller jobs. I packaged about 4 pounds of ground elk burger and tossed the meat in the freezer. The other pound was the perfect meat for pulling together an easy baked linguine that’s sure to please.
1 pound ground elk, browned (or any ground wild game)
½ – ¾ pound linguine, cooked and drained (or any pasta you like)
25 ounces pasta sauce*
Lots of shredded mozzarella
½ cup ricotta cheese
4 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil for pasta water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Brown the burger and then add the pasta sauce. Cover and simmer together for 15-20 minutes to allow flavors to permeate.
While the meat sauce is simmering, in your favorite pot for cooking pasta, add two teaspoons olive oil to water, bring to a boil and cook pasta. Drain well.
To assemble and bake: Layer a buttered casserole dish, or skillet, with cooked pasta. (I like to do this in a cast iron or steel pan coated with bacon grease.) Crumble on half the ricotta and then top with meat and pasta sauce mixture. Layer on mozzarella, the remaining ricotta, and dress with chopped basil.
Place in oven and bake until cheese is golden and bubbling. Remove and serve. Any leftovers make for a great breakfast dish. Just slice, reheat, and top with a pair of sunny-side-up eggs.
*Earlier in the week I made fresh pasta, cheese, and homemade San Marzano tomato pasta sauce. While my ingredients were from scratch and will enhance the flavor of this recipe, the dish will also taste great, and can be prepared in a pinch when using everyday ingredients picked up at your local grocer.