Lightweight, delicious and filling, pasta with dehydrated pesto made from fresh parsley and basil and topped with parmesan cheese is the ultimate backpacking dinner. Combined with hard rolls that have been spread with clarified butter, this dinner is definitely one of our go to meals when backpacking. Everyone in my family loves it, and that doesn’t always happen! And best of all, dehydrated pesto is super simple to make at home to take on the trail. I generally make a large batch of pesto in the summer when I have an abundance of fresh basil in my garden and freeze portions for home use and dehydrate portions of it for backpacking. I am also lucky to have a produce market near my house that has greenhouse-grown basil throughout the year so I can make smaller batches whenever we run out. Dehydrating your own food to take backpacking is a fairly simple process and also an economical way to prepare delicious trail meals. You can read an earlier post about the basic process here- Dehydrating Food For Backpacking Trips.
Preparing the Dehydrated Pesto-
1. Start with a large bowl full of fresh basil that has been washed and the larger stems removed. To this I add a few handfuls of fresh Italian parsley which adds a vibrancy and brightness to your finished sauce. Place both the parsley and basil into a food processor. You can really stuff it in so it all fits.
2. To the food processor, add a large handful of pine nuts and a smaller handful of walnuts, a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper and salt, and a few cloves of crushed garlic.
3. Now normally you would add a good bit of olive oil (about a cup or so) to this mixture to get it silky and smooth. But because you will be dehydrating this, you don’t want to add too much fat. You will need to add a bit to help the herbs, nuts and garlic fully process. About a tablespoon or so should be enough.
4. Turn on the food processor and pulse until all the ingredients are fully incorporated and your mixture is somewhat smooth. Because you are limiting the amount of oil, the pesto will still be slightly crumbly and you will need to scrape down the sides of the food processor several times to fully mix all the ingredients together.
5. Spread the pesto sauce on a Nesco Fruit Roll Sheet (or whatever brand of dehydrator products you are using) and place on the tray inside your dehydrator. Because pesto is easily dehydrated, I set my temperature on low. I don’t usually bother it until the next morning, and it is typically dried out by this time.
6. Place your dried pesto back in the food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds in order to break up the larger pieces. I then put about an eighth of a cup in a small freezer bag for each 12 ounce bag of pasta (I love to use the garlic parsley fettuccine from Al dente Artisanal Pasta as it is especially lightweight and super delicious).
To organize this meal, I place the small freezer bag of pesto in a gallon size freezer bag and to the larger bag I add a small chunk of parmesan (which keeps fresh for several days at cooler temperatures), and some hard dinner rolls if we will be eating this in the next couple of days. I make sure to pack the pasta too. My kitchen bag always has a small wide topped nalgene of clarified butter and a small nalgene bottle filled with olive oil to use for this recipe as well. You can read an earlier post about our basic backpacking kitchen here- Backpacking 101- Camp Kitchen.
Usually you add water to dehydrated food in order to prepare it for meals, but with this recipe, I add olive oil to the dehydrated pesto since we used so little in the initial preparation. After mixing the pesto well with the oil, I add the sauce to the cooked fettuccine. I then sprinkle parmesan on top. If you’re feeling fancy, you can use a small cheese grater, or you can finely chop it with a sharp knife. Whichever you decide, it will be delicious! Served with rolls and butter, Dehydrated Pesto with Fettuccine is one of our very favorite camp meals.
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