Mozzarella Stuffed Elk Meatballs in Chilean Red Wine & Tomato Sauce

Mozzarella Stuffed Elk Meatballs in a Chilean Red Wine & Tomato Sauce

After trying out elk meat last month and loving it, I decided to give it another shot, this time with ground elk. I love to cook meatballs when I have any type of ground meat. Earlier this month I gave you North African venison meatballs and Piedmontese meatballs, so I wondered what can I do differently with this meat? Hey, why not stuff them! So with that idea, off to the market for some fresh ingredients.

Instead of traditional Italian tomato sauce, I had a bottle of a very dry, full bodied Chilean Cabernet Sauvingon along with some fresh vine tomatoes to form my base. I also decided to make very large meatballs (2 1/2 inches) so I could stuff them with plenty of fresh mozarella cheese. In the end, the meal had intense and interesting flavors, and I will try this again very soon, perhaps with another type of meat. Enjoy!

1 -½ lbs ground elk
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium white onion diced
3 garlic cloves diced
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 sprig fresh rosemary
4 slices white bread crust removed
1/2 cup milk
1 egg beaten
½ cup fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
Mozzarella cheese rolled into small balls (maybe the size of a large cherry)
6 fresh vine tomatoes, diced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
½ cup dry red wine of your choice

DIRECTIONS
1) Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add diced white onion and 3 diced garlic cloves. Cook until onions are soft and translucent, add thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper and then remove from heat. Set aside to cool.

2) In a separate bowl tear bread into small pieces and soak in milk for 5 minutes. Drain the milk from bread by squeezing it out and place bread in another bowl. Add elk meat, egg, parmigiano-reggiano, and onion mixture and mix together with your hands.

3) Begin to form meatballs, being sure to add a mozzarella cheese ball in the center of each meatball. The meatball sizes are up to you. You can make them small, medium or large depending on how you want to serve this dish up. Place meatballs on a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.

4) Add remaining oil to cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Place each meatball into skillet and cook on all sides. Remove meatballs from pan when browned.

5) Add ½ cup dry red wine to skillet to deglaze pan. Add tomatoes and ¼ cup fresh chopped basil. Bring sauce to a simmer, add meatballs and reduce heat to low. Continue to simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.

6) Serve alone or with the pasta of your choice and garnish with basil.

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