Camping pasta: 12 easy recipes for ultimate comfort dinner

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Let’s be honest – camping can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to food. Unless you’re a survival expert, you’re probably not going to catch your own fish or forage for wild berries.

But fear not! We’ve got the ultimate solution for all your camping meal woes – camping pasta. That’s right; this simple yet delicious dish is a game-changer for any camping trip. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to make the most of your camping pasta experience. From easy recipes to creative toppings, you’ll have all the tools you need to cook up a storm in the great outdoors.

The basics of camping pasta

It’s hard to go wrong with pasta, the winner of simplicity. Still, outdoor kitchens tend to bring more challenges. Here are some tips that’ll help you nail your camping pasta game. 

Choosing the right pasta

First things first, it’s essential to choose a pasta shape that’s easy to cook and pack. Some decent, sturdy options include penne, fusilli, and farfalle. Depending on your camping style, evaluate if fragile pasta shapes like spaghetti or linguine can cause you any problems.

They can easily break during transport, so if you’re a backpacker who puts all their stuff into a tight backpack, that might not be the best idea. But if you’re RV or car camping where space isn’t that limited, pasta shape shouldn’t concern you. 

different pasta shapes

Cooking pasta in the great outdoors

Cooking pasta in the wild requires some preparation and attention, but it’s similar to cooking pasta at home. Here are some basic steps:

  1. Fill a camping pot with water and bring it to a boil over your camping stove or campfire.
  2. Add a pinch of salt and the pasta, occasionally stirring to prevent sticking.
  3. Cook the pasta for the time indicated on the package; frequently check to avoid overcooking or undercooking.
  4. Drain the pasta and add your desired toppings or sauce when it cooks.
Bonus tip

The first step to a pleasant open-fire cooking experience is getting a campfire cooking kit that’s non-sticking, sturdy, and has all the tools you need to cook your meals. 

For backpackers, a camping mess kit, a lighter camp cookware set is a go-to choice.

Tips for packing and storing pasta ingredients

When you’re packing for a camping trip, it’s essential to consider the weight, size, and durability of your ingredients. Here’s how to pack and store your pasta best: 

  • Choose dry ingredients that are easy to transport and don’t require refrigeration, like pasta, canned tomatoes, and dried herbs. Consider freeze-dried foods for toppings.  
  • Pack ingredients in sturdy containers or resealable bags to prevent spills or leaks.
reusable food storage bags
  • Consider pre-cooking some ingredients, like sausage, meats, or vegetables, to save time and reduce waste.
  • Label and organize your ingredients in a way that makes sense for your cooking setup and meal plan.

Easy camping pasta recipes

One of the best things about camping pasta is how versatile it is. You can create various delicious and satisfying meals for every taste with simple ingredients and creativity – from simplicity-loving kids to real gourmets. 

We’ve laid down some of our favorite, easy camping pasta recipes to get you started. Our goal is to inspire you, and it’s up to you to mix and adjust the ingredients. You can go for lactose-free and gluten-free alternatives if you like. 

One-pot wonders: simple, all-in-one meals

One-pot pasta meals are perfect for camping, as they require minimal cleanup and are easy to customize to your liking. Here are a few simple one-pot pasta recipes to try:

Campfire Mac and Cheese: Cook elbow macaroni in a large pot of boiling water, drain, and add shredded cheddar cheese, milk, butter, and a pinch of salt. Heat the mixture over a low flame, constantly stirring, until the cheese melts and the sauce is creamy. 

mac and cheese

Tuscan Chicken Pasta: Start by cooking your penne pasta. In another pan, sauté garlic, onions, and sliced chicken breasts until brown. Add chopped spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and a can of diced tomatoes, and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, toss, and serve.

One Pot Spaghetti: This is a super easy camping pasta recipe even the pickiest kids will love. Cook spaghetti along with sliced onions, garlic, canned diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking, and cook until the spaghetti is al dente. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste. 

One Pot Pesto Pasta: Boil fusilli pasta. In another pan, sauté sliced cherry tomatoes and minced garlic until the tomatoes are soft. Add a few spoonfuls of pesto to the pan and stir to combine. Put the cooked pasta into the pan and toss to coat. Top with grated parmesan cheese, and enjoy! 

pesto camping pasta

Creative toppings and mix-ins to spice up your pasta

As we said, what we love the most about camping pasta is that its versatility never ends. You should love these creative toppings and mix-ins that’ll take your camping pasta to the next level:

Pesto and Pine Nuts: Cook fusilli pasta and toss with a few spoonfuls of pesto and a handful of toasted pine nuts. Aha, it’s that simple. Only a few simple ingredients, but the taste is incredible. 

Bacon and Mushroom Alfredo: Fettuccine pasta is our beloved bet for this. While pasta is cooking, grab your pan and sauté sliced mushrooms and chopped bacon until crispy. Add heavy cream and grated parmesan cheese, and let the mixture simmer until it gets thick. Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve.

Spicy Meatball Pasta: Or, Pasta Marinara. Call it as you like – it’s still mouth-watering. As always, cook your desired pasta shape first. Add chopped onion and minced garlic to the other pan, toss ground beef, and cook till brown.

Add a jar of marinara sauce and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. Put some red pepper flakes or hot sauce for extra spice. Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve with homemade or store-bought meatballs for an extra touch. 

spicy meatball pasta

Dutch Oven Pizza Pasta: Grab the pot and cook your desired pasta shape. In a cast iron dutch oven – our favorite is Lodge Enamel – layer cooked pasta, pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and your favorite pizza toppings (like sliced pepperoni, diced bell peppers, and sliced mushrooms). 

Repeat the layers until you’ve used up all your ingredients, then cover the dutch oven with a lid and let it cook over the campfire or on a camping stove for 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts and gets bubbly.

Vegetarian and vegan options for all campers

If you’re taking a vegetarian approach or simply have vegetarian or vegan friends in your camping company, there are plenty of delicious pasta options for everyone. Here are some plant-based pasta recipes to try:

Vegan Bolognese Camping Spaghetti: Cook spaghetti pasta in a pot. Meanwhile, grab a pan and sauté onions, garlic, and diced carrots until they’re soft. Toss a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of lentils, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Let the mixture simmer for a few minutes, then toss it with the cooked pasta. Voila! 

Caprese Pasta Salad: While usual salads might not be too filling for some, pasta salads are absolute go-to’s. First, prepare your fusilli pasta and let it cool. Add diced tomatoes, fresh basil, and cubed mozzarella cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and toss to combine.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta: Cut up your favorite vegetables, like zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms, and toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

Roast them in a cast iron skillet over a campfire or camp stove until tender and caramelized. Cook your desired pasta shape in a separate pot and then toss it with the roasted veggies, chopped herbs, and a drizzle of lemon juice or vinegar.

pasta with vegetables

Vegan Pad Thai: While Pad Thai might sound too fancy for the outdoors, let’s just break it from here. It actually doesn’t require too much effort.

Cook rice noodles in boiling water, and in a separate pan, sauté chopped tofu and sliced veggies like bell peppers and carrots until they’re brown. 

Add a mixture of soy sauce, peanut butter, and lime juice to the pan and stir to combine. Finally, toss the cooked noodles into the pan and toss to coat.

Top with chopped peanuts and cilantro. Who said that you couldn’t enjoy restaurant-grade meals in the wild? 

vegan pad thai
Bonus tip

If vegetarianism is something that you’re interested in, we’ve covered more vegetarian camping food ideas in our blog post. 

Advanced camping pasta techniques

For those expert camp chefs who want to take their camping pasta game to the top level, we have some advanced techniques to try. They are no longer for those who love to get their camp pasta real quick, but instead – for outdoor cooking enthusiasts who love to get their hands dirty. 

Making fresh pasta from scratch

Making fresh pasta is a fun and impressive way to elevate your camping meals, but it does require some extra preparation and cleanup. If that doesn’t scare you, let us tell you how to make fresh pasta from scratch when camping. 

First, combine flour and eggs in a bowl, and mix until a dough forms. If you have some favorite dough you usually make at home, you can get just the same version outdoors.

When it’s done, knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s smooth and elastic. Roll it into thin sheets and cut it into your desired pasta shape. 

Finally, cook the pasta in boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and add your desired toppings or sauce.

Bonus tip

Of course, if you don’t want to spend too much time prepping your pasta at the camp, you can simply do all that in advance at home.

Skip the toppings part and instead reheat your pasta using a skillet. Complete the meal with your desired toppings and sauce when it’s warm.

Cooking pasta on a campfire or over a backpacking stove

Cooking pasta on a campfire or a camp stove can be challenging, but with the proper technique, it’s possible to make it right. Here are some tips:

  • Use a pot with a tight-fitting lid to prevent ash or debris from getting into the pasta.
  • Bring water to a rolling boil before adding the pasta.
  • Stir frequently to prevent sticking or burning.
  • Set the medium heat as needed to maintain a steady simmer.
camping pot boiling

Incorporating local ingredients for a unique twist on classic pasta dishes

One of the best things about camping is exploring local ingredients and flavors. By doing so, you can create unique and memorable meals that showcase the best of the places you visit.

Here are some ideas for incorporating local ingredients into your camping pasta dishes:

  1. Foraging for wild mushrooms or herbs to use as toppings or mix-ins.
  2. Visiting local farmers’ markets to source fresh produce for your pasta dishes.
  3. Try regional pasta dishes, like carbonara in Rome or arrabbiata in southern Italy, and put your spin on them with local ingredients.

Fancy for some more mouth-watering camping recipes?

We covered more open fire cooking meal ideas to keep you full and happy during the daytime – from french dip sandwiches and marshmallow s’mores to mess-free camping foil packs. Check them out:

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