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Italian Style Venison Meatballs - adapted from 'The Food Lab' by J. Kenji López-Alt

Total Time1 hr 30 mins


  • 2 lb. fresh ground venison blend or 3/4 lb. ground chuck + 3/4 lb. ground venison + 1/2 lb. ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon Salt
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 gluten free toaster waffles; toasted and finely chopped or 4 slices of white bread
  • 1 cup buttermilk or buttermilk substitute
  • Oil for browning


  • Combine the meat and 1 tablespoon of salt in a large bowl and allow to rest for 30 minutes
  • In another bowl, soak waffles (or bread) in buttermilk and leave for 10 minutes
  • After 30 minutes, make a well in the meat and add all other ingredients
  • Mix by hand until evenly combined - you may choose to wear gloves but I don't mind an occasional 'meat manicure'!
  • With a large spoon or small ice cream scoop, scoop about 3 tablespoons of meat mix and roll it into a 1.5 inch diameter ball, placing on a lined baking sheet when complete - this should yield around 30 meatballs
  • Place meatballs in the refrigerator for up to 30 minutes - this helps them hold together when you cook them
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In a large heavy bottomed pan, cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat about 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil on medium heat until a test piece of meat sizzles when it touches the oil
  • Working in batches, brown meatballs for about 2 minutes per side - I usually end up with slightly square meatballs because I squish them a little flat on each side as I brown them
  • Place browned meatballs on a separate parchment lined baking sheet when finished and put them in your preheated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit


*I make mine gluten free for a family member and the best breading option I've found is gluten free toaster waffles. They hold together well and have a neutral flavor; plus they hold their crunch unlike most other gluten free bread options which can end up soggy.
*Buttermilk substitutes include the following; for 1 cup buttermilk:
2/3 cup yogurt + 1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup crème fraîche + 1/2 cup milk
1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar; allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until slightly curdled
*You can certainly cook your meatballs entirely through in the pan on the stove or, if you are using a tomato sauce, add them to the preheated sauce after they are browned and simmer for 10-20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.