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Big Sky bites: Rocky Mountain elk tomato sauce

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Homemade elk pasta sauce pairs well with parmesan, fresh basil, dry red wine and a crackling fireplace. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

I don’t hunt, but I make friends with the right people. I earned some elk meat from a coworker this fall and decided to put it to good use. I’ve had some bad experiences experimenting with elk meat in the past—the flavor was off, too gamey, elk steak is just … weird—so I was a bit nervous to do anything too fancy. I’m a fan of sustainably harvested food of any kind, and of anything that claims to be low in fat and high in protein. I settled on a basic elk tomato-based pasta sauce. With only six spices, it’s hard to mess up. After playing around with measurements, here’s the recipe I crafted.


1 Pound ground elk meat
1 Medium onion, minced (yellow or white)
5 Large cloves of garlic, minced
16 oz. can of tomato sauce
2 Teaspoons dried oregano
2 Teaspoons dried basil
2 Teaspoons dried thyme
1 Tablespoon sugar 
1 Teaspoon salt
1/2 Teaspoon black pepper (1 teaspoon if you like more of a kick)


Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 1-3 hours
Serves five

  1. In large stockpot, cook elk meat at medium/high until almost browned, stirring frequently.
  2. Add minced onions and garlic and cook until meat is thoroughly browned and crumbly. Your dog should have peered their head into the kitchen by now—the meat will smell good.
  3. Add spices and stir thoroughly until fragrant.
  4. Turn heat down to medium, add tomato sauce and mix well. Ideally you should let it simmer for an hour or two hours to let seasonings permeate, but if you’re in a rush, it still tastes great right away. Leftovers will also marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Serve over your favorite pasta—to stick to the locally sourced theme, I went with Country Foods’ egg pasta from Polson, MT—and some shaved Parmesan and fresh basil. Pairs well with garlic bread, dry red wine and a crackling fireplace.

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