I Made This: Penne with Broccoli Rabe & Venison Italian Sausage

penne with broccoli rabe and venison italian sausage

My dad, much like most dads in Western Pennsylvania, is a hunter. All my life, the Monday after Thanksgiving has been recognized as something of a holiday, as it’s the first day of deer season. Every year, my dad packs his gear and heads for the woods. For him and my family, getting a deer, or two, is not just for sport — venison has always been a regular source of protein for us. So much so that my mom never needs to buy ground meat. When I was little, my dad would send his deer to a local processor, but now he does the whole thing himself, from skinning to grinding. He shoots the deer on my family’s 13 acres, and makes ground meat, jerky (the BEST jerky, I might add), breakfast sausages, hot italian sausage, snack sticks, chops, and steaks in our house. How much more local can you possibly get? And it’s most likely organic, unless someone is spraying down our woods with pesticides.

When Matt and I lived in Pittsburgh, we’d get a couple frozen packages of venison from my parents every few weeks, saving us poor college kids a lot of money and providing us with delicious, lean meat. It’s something that we’ve really missed, now that we’re 400 miles away. Local, sustainable meat is so expensive, and we only really buy it for special occasions. But my parents, God bless them, always bring a cooler full of home-grown venison when they come to visit. My mom and sister delivered the latest batch over Mother’s Day weekend, when they came up for an impromptu visit. Our first recipe from the supply made use of the super flavorful sweet italian sausage, which we served in a pasta with a bunch of fresh broccoli rabe that Matt picked up at the farmers market.

Local highlights:
– Venison Sausage from Dailey Acres (it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?)
– Broccoli Rabe from Lani’s Farm Stand at the Union Square Greenmarket

broccoli rabe

The bitter rabe paired perfectly with the sweetness of the slightly gamey sausage, which we browned with olive oil, a hearty helping of garlic, and a few dashes of crushed red pepper. We used a hearty whole wheat penne (well, half whole wheat, half Barilla plus multigrain because we didn’t have enough of either), and we generously topped it parmesan cheese. It was one of the simplest, tastiest recipes we’ve made in a long time. Between forkfuls, we kept mumbling things like, “oh my gosh, this is so delicious.”

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