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PREP: 10 Minutes COOK: 50 Minutes

Serves 3-4

Difficulty: Simple

Fill up your bowls with a savory and filling dish by Mark Cockcroft that will welcome you in with comfort from the cold weather outside. Mushrooms, leeks, and ground venison come together to form the perfect meatball, which is then simmered in a miso-infused broth, mixed with a fun, round Sardinian pasta called Fregola, and topped with crispy fried sage. Mahalo Mark for this burst of flavor!



  • 1 lb Maui Nui ground venison
  • 1 (16oz) package Maui Nui venison bone broth
  • 2 cups diced butternut squash (3/4” pieces)
  • ½ cup dried mushrooms (a mix is nice)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small leek, rinsed and minced (white and pale green part only)
  • 1 Tbsp white miso paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup fregola
  • 1 bunch fresh sage
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided
Step 1:

In a heatproof bowl add mushrooms and cover with 2 cups of boiling water, keeping the mushrooms submerged. Let soak for 30 minutes.

Step 2:

Meanwhile, add 2 Tbsp oil to a large sauté pan and place over medium-low heat. Add leeks and a pinch of salt. Stirring occasionally until leeks are softened but not browned.

Step 3:

 Add garlic and cook for about a minute. Remove from heat and add to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool. Keep the pan for use later in the recipe.

Step 4:

After the mushrooms have soaked strain them from the liquid (reserving the liquid for use later in the recipe). Squeeze most of the liquid from the mushrooms and mince. Add them to the mixing bowl with the leeks.

Step 5:

Then add the venison, 2 Tbsp of the mushroom liquid, panko bread crumbs, egg, miso, dried thyme, 1 tsp salt, and ½ tsp ground black pepper to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and place in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.

Step 6:

Preheat oven to 425° and bring a pot of salted water to a boil. 

Step 7:

Add squash to a baking sheet, toss with the remaining Tbsp oil, and sprinkle with salt. Then roll the venison mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs and place them among the squash on the baking sheet.

Step 8:

 Roast the squash and meatballs for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add the fregola to the boiling water and cook until just shy of done and drain (it will finish cooking in the final step).

Step 9:

In the same large sauté pan add the reserved mushroom liquid (be careful not to add any gritty sediment), venison broth, and a couple of sprigs of sage; bring to a simmer.

Step 10:

Add the roasted squash and meatballs to the pan and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Step 11:

 In a small sauté pan add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add a small handful of sage leaves and fry until lightly crispy.

Step 12:

Add the fregola to the meatballs and squash, and simmer for a few minutes to heat through and finish cooking. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Step 13:

 Remove sage sprigs from the broth in the large sauté pan and then portion the contents into shallow bowls. Divide the crispy sage leaves among each bowl and drizzle with the melted sage-flavored butter.

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