A recipe for pasta with tomatoes and deer

A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I spent a long weekend in Tallinn, Estonia in early December. We rented a cozy airbnb complete with holiday lights over the windows in the old town not far from the Christmas market with its magnificent tree and spent our days exploring the wintery city, drinking our fair share of mulled wine and marveling at all the candles burning everywhere.

We loved Tallinn and the food and drink too, from blood sausage to elk to bear meat, We became regulars for a couple of days at Põrgu Brasserie where I was thrilled to find beers made with spruce and birch on the menu. I get super excited when I find coniferous trees in my food.

Põhjala, a favorite Tallinn brewery, even has a forest series, which includes beers made from forest foods like juniper wood, porcini mushrooms, birch syrup, pine needles, and birch bark, juniper, and spruce tips.

We returned to Rome with cans of deer and bear meat in our suitcases and cozy lambswool inserts in our boots. One can of roe deer meat has remained on the shelf and over the weekend I was inspired to cook it using the same method used to make pasta with tomatoes and canned tuna in Italy.

It worked and was delicious but I think I can do better. Next time I have a can of deer meat on hand, I will try it without tomato and flavor it with rosemary or maybe even pine needles or spruce tips. I’m definitely adding shopping in Tallinn to my post-pandemic travel list.

Pasta with tomatoes and deer

Serves 2

  • 1 small can of tomatoes, whole, peeled, or purée
  • 1 can of roe deer meat
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt or colatura di alici (Italian anchovy sauce)
  • Coarse salt for the pasta water
  • Pasta
  1. Cook the garlic in a couple of tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until golden and then discard (or keep if you like).
  2. Add the canned tomatoes, season with salt or colatura di alici (Italian anchovy sauce), and simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce is thick.
  3. Add the deer, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, and cook through.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta, making sure to save some of the pasta water.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the tomatoes and toss.
  6. Cook over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds while tossing. Add more pasta water if needed.
  7. Plate and serve.

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