Whenever I make a meaty red sauce, I make a giant batch. I’ll use some of it for a few days on pasta, chicken, over burgers, with meatballs or spread over pizza dough.
The rest is divided into smaller batches, cooled and packed for the freezer. When I’m short on prep time, I can quick-thaw the basic red sauce and throw in a few fresh ingredients like mushrooms or diced tomatoes and dinner is served in less than an hour.
This might be a good time to take a look into your freezer and put some of that ground deer meat and sausage to use. For some of us, most of the inventory should have been used long ago. Unlike fine cheeses and wines, ground meat does not get better with age. If some of the meat is a little freezer-burned, do not despair. Simply trim away the discolored, freezer-burnt parts and the rest is just fine.
One of the questions I’m often asked is, “Is it OK to refreeze meat?” A common misconception is that meat cannot be frozen again once it has been thawed. I’ve rarely had a problem refreezing meat, either ground or whole muscle, one time. But I won’t freeze it more than once, unless it has been cooked. How it is packaged for the freezer does make a difference. Freezing a tomatoey meat sauce in thin-walled plastic tubs usually doesn’t work out too well. While freezing, the sauce expands, the containers split and, well, were back talking about freezer burn. By far, the best way to package a cooled meat sauce for the freezer is with a vacuum sealer. Divide the sauce into zipper lock bags and freeze. Once frozen, place the sauce into vacuum bags and seal. To thaw, just drop the bags into boiling water until hot.
Think of this recipe as an outline. Exact measurements not required or encouraged.
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups ground venison
2 cups ground Italian sausage (game or domestic)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly minced garlic
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a large deep skillet or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add ground venison and Italian sausage. Cook, stirring often, until evenly browned. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pan or pot with a lid or foil and simmer for at least one hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.