Slow Cooked Venison Ragù

Venison Ragù tossed with rigatoni on a stone plate.

One of my favourite meats to cook on slightly cooler evenings (and we’re still getting a fair few of those!) is venison, and my favourite way with venison at the moment? This rich, hearty and luxurious Slow Cooked Venison Ragù. Cooked in a tomato, red wine and rosemary sauce nice and low for a couple of hours it’s happily make-ahead and batch-cook friendly, with a special little finish at the end to make sure your ragu comes out luscious and moist every time — there are too many dry venison ragu recipes out there already!

Adapted from a Gary Usher recipe that appeared in the October 2017 edition of Waitrose Food I felt that the original was really tasty… but contained too many cheffy steps that could be cut out with changing up the order you add the ingredients to the pan which I think would put most home cooks off. So, I’m really happy with my version which has a simple method you’d recognise from making bolognese. But, I’ve kept Gary’s genius touch of adding a pat of butter for richness at the very end to balance out the sauce and the fact that venison can be quite a lean meat.

Venison Ragù with pasta and grated cheese in a shallow bowl.

Why should we all be eating more venison?

Deer overpopulation in this country is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. The guys at Deer Box who sell excellent wild venison (as well as some frankly excellent wild boar burgers too) explain the issue really well:

“It is important to manage deer to ensure a healthy and sustainable deer population in balance with the environment, to protect them from starvation due to overgrazing, to reduce potential for disease and from death and injury in road traffic accidents (the National Deer-Vehicle Collisions Project estimates that there are between 42,000 and 74,000 accidents involving deer across the country each year). It is equally important to prevent deer from causing unacceptable damage to crops and trees and to protect other creatures sharing their habitat from the results of overgrazing.”

Where is the best place to buy wild venison?

Most supermarkets stock venison but try to source venison marked as wild venison rather than farmed — as long as proper animal welfare standards are observed and everyone involved in the venison’s journey from field to plate is paid a fair price I don’t have a problem buying it, but choosing wild venison will also help protect our beautiful countryside, help prevent the deer population overall from starvation and the associated health problems that come with too big herds. Yes you can make a delicious ragu with beef too, but wild venison is a much more sustainable option more of us should be exploring!

As well as Deer Box, I can also highly recommend the wild venison from Field & Flowerbrand ambassador and Piper’s Farm. And while you’re placing an order, grab some osso buco too and stash it in the freezer for autumn, as whilst it’s not the season for it, my Wild Venison Osso Buco with Risotto alla Milanese recipe is one of my favourites I’ve written this year!

Close up of Venison Ragù with rigatoni pasta.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this Venison Ragu recipe ahead?

Yes! This is still delicious it is made, but as a general rule slow cooked venison recipes only improve with a day to rest in the fridge. This sauce also freezes well too, if you want to double the batch.

Can I make this ragu with beef mince instead of venison?

The flavours of this ragu are really designed to work with the flavour of venison, so if you’re looking for a slow cooked pasta sauce with beef I’d recommend you try my Slow Cooked Beef Shin Ragu out our family bolognese recipe instead. However, if you can’t quite get a big enough pack of venison to make up to the 500g for this recipe, feel free to substitute up to 200g of beef mince.

Do I have to add the butter to the sauce at the end?

I would really recommend it — venison is quite a lean meat, so can be a little dry in slow cooked sauces without the right balance of fat. The butter helps give it a lovely rich mouthfeel!

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Venison Ragù with pasta and grated cheese in a shallow bowl.

Slow Cooked Venison Ragù

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Slow Cooking


This rich and delicious Slow Cooked Venison Ragù recipe is the perfect make-ahead friendly dinner, perfect tossed with fresh pasta and finished with a generous grating of pecorino cheese.


  • 2 tbsp light oil
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 small brown onion
  • 1 small celery stick
  • sea salt
  • 110g diced pancetta
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 500g minced venison
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 250ml red wine
  • 250ml chicken or beef stock
  • 200g chopped tomatoes (half a tin)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 25g unsalted butter


  1. Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan or casserole over a medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrot, onion and celery, all peeled and / or trimmed and finely chopped along with a pinch of salt. Gently cook for 10-12 minutes until very soft.
  2. Stir in the pancetta, and cook for a further 5 minutes until it no longer looks raw and the fat has started to melt down. Crush the garlic cloves and stir them into the pan, cooking for a further minute until aromatic.
  3. Add the venison, and turn the heat up to high. Break the mince up as you stir into the smallest pieces possible (you won’t get it to break down as much as you will minced beef, so don’t worry!), cooking until the meat no longer looks raw, and has started to colour.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for a further few minutes until slightly caramelised. Add the rosemary and bay.
  5. Stir in the red wine, stock and chopped tomatoes, and season well with black pepper and a little more salt. Once the mixture has come to the boil, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer, uncovered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  6. When you’re cooking the pasta, just before serving, fish out the bay leaf and the stems from the rosemary sprigs. Then check to see if the ragu needs any more salt or pepper before stirring in the butter until it melts into the sauce.


Venison always tastes better the next day, so if you have time make it ahead and allow the flavours to develop in the fridge overnight.