Trail Chef: Pasta for Every Palate

From supereasy to camp gourmet, we share some favorite pasta dishes.

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My favorite gourmand told me the other day that the Italian food that we Americans love so much is actually considered “peasant food” back in the motherland. There, real Italian food goes far beyond the spaghetti–and-meatballs cuisine we order by the pound at Olive Garden. Supposedly, it’s fresh, flavorful, and a lot more than just pasta.

I don’t care. I adore a steaming plate of carbs at the end of a long day (and I’ll bet you do, too). So, in praise of common gutter dining, here are four delicious backpacking pasta meals—in ascending order from ridiculously easy to approaching trail gourmet. (Tip: Try our new favorite piece of cookware, the ultralight Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot. Check out the July/August issue for a full review.)

Hot Red Pepper Pasta

Serves 2-4. Recipe adapted from Cooking the One Burner Way, by Melissa Gray and Buck Tilton.

1 pound linguine or fettucine

1/4 cup olive oil

Garlic powder to taste

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (pick up a packet at your nearest pizza joint)

2 Tablespoons parsley flakes

At home

Pack garlic powder, red pepper, and parsley in a zip-top bag. Put olive oil in a leakproof container.

In camp

Cook and drain pasta. Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat.


Serves 1. Recipe adapted from Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’, by Tim and Christine Conners.

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

2 Tablespoons bacon bits

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

6 ounces spaghetti

1 Tablespoon olive oil

At home

Pack everything but pasta and oil in a zip-top bag. Transfer oil to a leakproof container.

In camp

Cook and drain pasta. Sitr in oil, then add contents of baggie. Mix well.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Serves 1. Recipe adapted from Backcountry Cooking, by Dorcas S. Miller.

2 Tablespoons crushed corn chips

2/3 cup Chinese noodles

Tk-ounce pouch tuna

1 1/2 Tablespoons dried peas

1 Tablespoon thinly sliced dried mushrooms

3 Tablespoons dehydrated mushroom soup mix (a little less than amount required for 1 cup of soup)

2 teaspoons dried parsley

At home

Pack everything but corn chips and tuna in a zip-top bag.

In camp

Boil 1 1/3 cups water. Add everything but corn chips to the pot; stir, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle corn chips on top.

Pea-and-Prosciutto Pasta

Serves 3. Recipe adapted from The Upscale Outdoor Cookbook, by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

1/2 cup dried peas

1/4 pound prosciutto, sliced

1/2 pound spaghettini

1.4-ounce packet of alfredo sauce mix

1/2 cup powdered milk

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

At home

Place the prosciutto in a zip-top bag and freeze (it’ll thaw in your pack in time for dinner). Pack alfredo sauce mix and powdered milk in another zip-top.

In camp

Boil water; add pasta and peas and cook until al dente. Add thawed prosciutto and sauce-milk mixture and stir over low heat until thickened. Sprinkle cheese on top.

—Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Image credit: meaduva