A one-pot wonder with stick-to-your-ribs comfort and warm, fragrant flavors. Leaning into some classic Italian ingredients, this stew comes together quickly and appeals to diners of all ages. Feel free to substitute other small pasta shapes, just be sure to adjust the cooking time and possibly the amount of liquid added to the pan. Save some of the feathery fronds from the fennel bulb for a garnish.
RECIPE BY MARK COCKCROFT
- 1 pack of ground venison
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 celery stick, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 fennel bulb, green stalks discarded and white bulb diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp ground fennel seed
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (15 oz)
- 2 packs of venison bone broth or 4 cups other low sodium broth (beef, chicken, vegetable, etc.)
- 1 cup orzo
- 1 bunch spinach, washed, trimmed and cut into 1" ribbons
- Pinch of red chile flakes (optional)
- Fine sea salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese for serving
Place a large, heavy bottomed stock pot or high-sided braiser over medium heat and add the olive oil. When the pan is hot, add venison and cook, breaking up the ground, until just starting to brown.
Add the carrot, celery, onion, and fennel bulb along with 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies have softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, 1 Tbsp rosemary, fennel seed, and chile flakes if using. Thoroughly mix and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, thoroughly mixing, and cook for another 2 minutes.
Next, add the wine and cook until it is almost all evaporated. Add in the tomatoes and rinse the can out with 1/2 cup water and add to the pot.
Add the broth and turn the heat up to bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and maintain a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the orzo, stir to incorporate, re-cover the pot and allow to gently simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 10 minutes.
Add the spinach, stir to combine and re-cover. Cook for about 5 more minutes or until the pasta is tender. The stew will have thickened but still have some liquid. You can simmer it for a little longer, uncovered, if you prefer a thicker stew.
Check for seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and chile flakes as necessary. Add the remaining tsp of fresh rosemary and mix thoroughly, Serve in bowls with freshly grated Parmesan at the table. Enjoy!