Deliciously Wild: Pesto Elk Meatballs Recipe

Picture this: you’re hosting a dinner party for your closest friends and family. You’ve put in hours of preparation, planning the decor and crafting a perfect playlist. But what about the food? Fear not, because I have a recipe that will take your party to the next level: Pesto Elk Meatballs.

This recipe takes classic meatballs and elevates them with the rich and flavorful addition of elk meat, combined with a zesty homemade pesto sauce. The result is something truly special that will have your guests raving about your culinary skills.

As a home chef who loves throwing parties, I know how important it is to impress your guests with delicious food. And this Pesto Elk Meatballs recipe is exactly the type of dish that will leave a lasting impression on everyone who tries it.

But don’t just take my word for it – give this recipe a shot and taste the magic for yourself. Trust me, your guests will be begging for seconds (and thirds!).

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Pesto Elk Meatballs
Pesto Elk Meatballs

Folks, let me tell you something. If you’re a lover of wild game cuisine, then this Pesto Elk Meatballs recipe is about to become your new obsession. The flavors in this dish are so explosive it feels like a wild game stampede in your mouth.

What’s not to love about juicy and savory elk meatballs seasoned with roasted garlic pesto combined with grated Parmesan cheese? Imagine biting into a meatball that’s so tender it falls apart, releasing an explosion of flavor that makes your taste buds dance with joy.

But wait, there’s more. This recipe is a real show stopper and perfect for any occasion. It’s one of those dishes that’ll make your guests go wild and ask for seconds or even thirds! Trust me; you won’t regret adding this recipe to your repertoire.

Whether you’re looking for something easy to cook for a family dinner or impressing guests at a party, these pesto elk meatballs will make you a culinary superstar. The best part? They’re incredibly versatile and pair perfectly with many sides.

So why settle for any ordinary meatballs recipe when you can switch things up by creating these unforgettable Pesto Elk Meatballs? With every bite, the flavors blend seamlessly – the nutty pesto sauce adds richness and depth while the red pepper flakes provide heat to create an explosive taste. You’re welcome in advance!

Ingredient List

 These Pesto Elk Meatballs are a delicious, gamey twist on traditional meatballs.
These Pesto Elk Meatballs are a delicious, gamey twist on traditional meatballs.

Here are the ingredients that you will need for this mouth-watering Pesto Elk Meatballs recipe:


  • 1 lb ground elk meat
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pesto Sauce:

  • 6 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • roasted garlic cloves
  • red pepper flakes (optional)

Other ingredients:

  • Olive oil for frying or baking
  • Spaghetti or your preferred pasta

Make sure to use the best ground elk for the perfect texture of meatballs. For the pesto sauce, you can try my simple roasted garlic pesto recipe that is perfect for this dish. If you are looking to add some heat to the dish, add some red pepper flakes to the pesto sauce.

The Recipe How-To

 The combination of pesto and elk gives these meatballs a flavorful and unique taste.
The combination of pesto and elk gives these meatballs a flavorful and unique taste.

When it comes to proper cooking, it’s always smart to have some basics down pat . Start with the ingredient list, incorporating them all into one big mixing bowl; that should get you started.

Mixing the Elk and Pesto Sauce

Start combining about 1 pound of ground elk – the best ground elk – with about 6 tablespoons of pesto sauce until fully mixed together. Make sure you evenly distribute throughout, blending in breadcrumbs if necessary.

Add Spices and Seasoning

Once amalgamated, don’t hesitate to add spices and seasoning for a little extra oomph. A teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon of paprika will do the trick.

Rolling the Meatballs

When your mixture is thoroughly combined, take a few minutes to roll the mixture into small, bite-sized meatballs—about 1 1/2 inches in diameter should suffice.

Cooking the Meatballs

On a baking sheet or in a large frying pan, heat olive oil until hot then begin cooking those meatballs! Try not to overdo it; cook until browned on all sides but still a bit tender inside. This will ensure optimal tenderness and a juicy center — divine flavor and texture!

Serving Your Pesto Elk Meatballs

Arrange your cooked meatballs creatively on a serving platter, garnishing with fresh basil or even another drizzle of pesto. They pair well with almost anything and make for an excellent party appetizer—especially alongside other wild game offerings— or simply enjoyed as a main dish!

Feel free to experiment with different sauces (plum sauce anyone?) or pair them with some delicious pasta (our favorite is orecchiette). You can also stuff these meatballs with mozzarella cheese or even try making them vegan by swapping out the elk for plant-based proteins. Whatever variation you choose, I guarantee these pesto elk meatballs will be an instant hit at your next gathering!

Substitutions and Variations

 These meatballs are the perfect appetizer for any party or gathering.
These meatballs are the perfect appetizer for any party or gathering.

Are you looking to switch things up a bit and put your own spin on this Pesto Elk Meatballs recipe? Look no further because I’ve got some substitutions and variations that will take this dish to a whole new level.

If you don’t have ground elk, don’t worry! You can easily substitute it with other types of ground meat such as beef, turkey, or even vegetarian options like tofu or lentils. You can also mix and match different types of meat for a unique flavor profile.

For the pesto sauce, there are endless variations to choose from. While basil pesto is classic and delicious, you can also try kale pesto or even sun-dried tomato pesto for a twist. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider making your own pesto sauce from scratch using fresh herbs and ingredients!

If you’re looking to make this recipe gluten-free, swap out the breadcrumbs with gluten-free options such as almond flour or cornmeal. You can also use rice noodles instead of spaghetti to make it completely gluten-free.

To add some spice into the mixture, toss in some red pepper flakes or cayenne powder. For a burst of sweetness and tanginess, drizzle on some plum sauce over your meatballs before serving.

Finally, if you want to take this dish to the next level, try stuffing mozzarella cheese inside the meatballs for an even richer flavor. You can also experiment with other game meats such as venison or elk antelope for a wilder taste.

Feel free to get creative with your substitutions and variations for this Pesto Elk Meatballs recipe! The possibilities are endless and there’s no wrong way to do it.

Serving and Pairing

 You can enjoy these meatballs on their own or paired with a tasty dipping sauce.
You can enjoy these meatballs on their own or paired with a tasty dipping sauce.

Now that you’ve got your beautifully crafted pesto elk meatballs in front of you, it’s time to enjoy them to the fullest. These meatballs are perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a dinner party or just a casual night in with friends.

To start things off, I suggest serving these meatballs on a bed of old spaghetti, like they do at the Old Spaghetti Factory. The combination of these juicy meatballs with the pasta’s savory oiliness is quite heavenly. You can also serve them on a platter with some plum sauce on the side – this fruity condiment enhances the richness of these meatballs with a sweet yet tangy flavor.

For those looking for an option that veers from traditional taste profiles, consider pairing these meatballs with orzo and kale pesto instead of spaghetti and basil pesto. This fresh and earthy pesto variant compliments the rich nutty flavor of the elk meatballs perfectly.

If you’re impressing guests or just want to indulge in something extra special, try making mozzarella-stuffed elk meatballs or even venison meatballs stuffed with plum sauce. The gooey cheese and sweet jam work amazingly well in contrast to the earthy flavors of the game.

And lastly, don’t forget drinks: pair your pesto elk meatballs with a full-bodied red wine such as a Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins act as great palate cleansers to nibble between bites and smooths over their succulence. For those abstaining from alcohol, sparkling water with lemon wedges is always a popular choice.

Regardless of how you choose to serve them, these pesto elk meatballs are sure to be the star attraction at any event or gathering!

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 The vibrant green pesto gives these meatballs a beautiful pop of color.
The vibrant green pesto gives these meatballs a beautiful pop of color.

Now that you’ve made these scrumptious Pesto Elk Meatballs, it’s time to talk about preserving their flavors for days to come. Whether you’re meal prepping for the week or planning a big event, there are several ways to store these meatballs to have them taste just as delicious as when they first came out of the oven.

When it comes to preparing ahead of time, you can easily make the elk meatballs a day before your party and keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To do so, allow the meatballs to cool down completely before transferring them to a container. They can last up to three days this way.

If you want to store them for even longer periods, you can freeze the Pesto Elk Meatballs after cooking them. To do this, place the meatballs on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer for 1-2 hours until they are solid. Then transfer them into an airtight bag or container and store them for up to three months in the freezer.

When reheating the meatballs, make sure not to overheat them or you risk drying out the meat. Reheat frozen meatballs in a preheated oven at 350°F with some marinara sauce for about 15-20 minutes. If you’re reheating meatballs from the fridge, place them on a baking sheet and reheat in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 8-10 minutes.

You can also enjoy these meatballs cold as part of a salad or sandwich. The possibilities are endless!

Tips for Perfect Results

 The rich and savory elk meat adds depth and complexity to each bite.
The rich and savory elk meat adds depth and complexity to each bite.

Cooking wild game can be challenging, especially for people who haven’t cooked it before. Elk meat is lean and well textured which makes it a healthy option but getting it to taste delicious can be quite tricky. Fear not, here are some tips that will make your pesto elk meatballs recipe come out perfect every single time.

Firstly, make sure you don’t overmix the ingredients. This is true of any meatball recipe. Overmixing can result in tough and dry meatballs.

Another thing to keep in mind is to not overcook the meatballs. Ideally, they should reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C). However, cooking them for too long can result in dry and rubbery meatballs.

When using ground elk, remember that it is leaner than ground beef or pork. To compensate for the lack of fat, adding an egg or two can help with binding and moisture.

Adding some red pepper flakes or garlic powder to the elk meatball mixture can help enhance its flavor profile. A good idea is also to mix in some grated parmesan cheese into your bread crumbs coating mixture. It adds a savory note to the dish that pairs very well with the pesto sauce.

For bold garlic lovers, consider substituting regular pesto sauce for roasted garlic pesto that has a deeper flavor profile. You may also add roasted garlic cloves into your mixture for an extra garlicky kick!

Lastly, do not skimp on the basil pesto sauce. It’s what elevates these elk meatballs from plain to extraordinary! Making your own pesto at home is super easy and hassle-free, however, you can always use store-bought basil pesto sauce when time is tight.

Follow these tips and tricks and make sure have fun while making these pesto elk meatballs as they could end up being one of your favorite wild game recipes!

Bottom Line

If you are looking for a recipe that will make your guests go wild at your next party, look no further than these pesto elk meatballs. With their unique flavor and tender texture, they are sure to impress even the most discerning foodies.

But don’t just take my word for it – try the recipe out for yourself! Whether you are a seasoned home chef or a beginner in the kitchen, this recipe is easy to follow and yields delicious results every time. So why not give it a shot?

And if you’re worried about the cost of elk meat or unsure where to find it, remember that ordering online or shopping at specialized meat markets can often be more affordable than buying from mainstream grocery stores. Plus, by trying out new and exciting ingredients like elk meat, you’ll be expanding your culinary horizons and discovering all sorts of tasty new dishes.

So go ahead and give these pesto elk meatballs a try – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Pesto Elk Meatballs

Pesto Elk Meatballs Recipe

These pesto meatballs won’t last long. Simple ingredients with bold flavors. Serve as the main course or as an appetizer.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian
Calories 140.4 kcal


  • 1 1/2 lbs ground elk
  • 6 tablespoons pesto sauce
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper


  • In a large bowl combine all ingredients and ¼ cup breadcrumbs. Mix all ingredients together by hand and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
  • Put remaining breadcrumbs in a bowl. Shape meatballs into round balls, roll in breadcrumbs and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 20 minutes turning meatballs after the first 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and enjoy.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 59gCalories: 140.4kcalCarbohydrates: 3.7gProtein: 15.1gFat: 6.8gSaturated Fat: 2.9gCholesterol: 56.6mgSodium: 147.6mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 0.3g
Keyword < 60 Mins, Elk, Meat, Savory, Weeknight, Wild Game
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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