Italian-Style Deer Heart

Often overlooked as a prime cut, heart is a dense muscle with lots of flavour. It’ll quickly become a favourite once you embrace the challenge to cook it properly! The trick is to trim all fat and connective tissue—what remains is tender meat.

This recipe is an old Italian dish, passed down for generations and shared by Rob Lancellotti of Swarovski Optik.


  • 1 deer/antelope heart*
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 litre tomato sauce, pureed tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*You can use a moose/elk heart but triple the ingredients.


  1. Rinse heart under cold water to wash all blood from both the outside and inside. Remove aorta, arteries and major veins from top of the heart. Trim any exterior fat. Cut heart in half, then slice into 1/2-inch wide strips, removing interior membranes and any connective tissue. Trim anything that looks white or feels tough. Cut strips into 1/2-inch cubes.
  2. Using a medium-sized pan with high sides, sauté cubed heart, onion, and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add tomato sauce (or tomatoes), basil, oregano, and bay leaves. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Season to taste. Serve with fresh, crusty Italian bread. Also goes well over pasta if the heart is cubed into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces.

You can also use a crock pot, slowly cooking the heart until tender while the tomato gravy thickens.