Creamy Pesto Pasta (Backpacking Meal)

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Creamy Pesto Pasta is an easy, cheesy backpacking meal that is quick to prep at home and cook on the trail. It only uses store-bought ingredients–no dehydrator needed for this one!

Pasta with pesto sauce, pine nuts, and sun dried tomatoes in a bowl.

The best backpacking dinners are easy to make, have a high calorie-to-weight ratio, and are full of flavor—and this Creamy Pesto Pasta dish checks all the boxes!

This recipe only uses grocery store ingredients (it’s pretty resupply-friendly!), and takes about five minutes to cook in camp in one pot. This meal is lightweight at less than five ounces, but loaded with calories to help you curb that hiker hunger after a long day on the trail.

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And, it’s delicious: a creamy, cheesy, basil-scented sauce, crunchy pine nuts, and bright pops of sun-dried tomatoes keep us looking forward to every bite.

Angel hair pasta, pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, cheese, and a packet of pesto sauce mix.

Ingredient Notes

Knorr Creamy Pesto Sauce Mix: We’re not being paid to say so, but this sauce mix is the basis of this whole recipe. This is widely available in regular grocery stores or can be purchased online. It could probably be replicated with cream powder, butter powder, and herbs/spices, but the packet it just SO easy.

Angel hair pasta: Or ramen noodles (toss the seasoning packet). Angel hair is thin enough that it cooks fast without needing to be dehydrated, and the starch that comes off while cooking on the trail will just help make the sauce creamier. If you want to prepare this as a cold-soaked meal, we recommend cooking and dehydrating the pasta first (we find uncooked pasta ends up gummy when cold-soaked).

Pine nuts: Add great texture and flavor!

Sun-dried tomatoes: Use ones that are dry-packed (not ones that come in oil or water!).

Parmesan cheese: Use pre-packaged cheese or portion grated parmeasn into a small baggie. According to the USDA, grated parmesan does not need to be refrigerated, so you should be fine to use it–though we recommend packaging it as close to your trip as possible and keeping it in its own bag just in case.

Olive oil: Optional, to add calories. One tablespoon adds 119 kCal! These single-serve packets are super convenient, or store in a leak-proof container.

The Soto Windmaster and the Jetboil MiniMo are our two top stoves for backpacking. See our recommended backpacking checklist here!

Step By Step

Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card for exact measurements and the printable recipe!

Left: Pine nuts, tomatoes, sauce mix, and parmesan cheese in small baggies. Right: All ingredients in a zip top bag.

At home

Put the creamy pesto sauce powder, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes in a small bag. Put the parmesan cheese in a separate small bag (this helps in case the ingredients sweat on the trail) if not already individually packaged. Break the angel hair in half and place it into a larger zip-top bag along with the other ingredient baggies.

Here’s the bag we use–it weighs only 13g.

Left: Angel hair pasta in a backpacking pot. Right: Cooked pasta in a pot with cheese and seasonings.

On trail

Remove the angel hair and place it in your cook pot. Add water to just barely cover the noodles. You really don’t want a lot of extra water to deal with. Turn on the stove, bring the water to a boil, and cook the noodles for a few minutes until they are done (or boil for 1 minute and then place it in your pot cozy if using).

Take the pot off the heat and remove of all but ¼ cup of the remaining water. You can either drink it (there are calories in there!) or dispose of it in a 6-inch deep hole (in accordance with Leave No Trace).

Add the remaining ingredients to create the sauce and finish with the olive oil (if using). Stir until the sauce is creamy and the noodles are coated.

That’s it! Enjoy!

Trail Weight & Nutrition

This recipe makes 1 ~135g serving (dry weight), clocking in at 143 cal/oz. With 1 tablespoon olive oil, the meal will weigh ~149g and clock in at 152 cal/oz. Each serving provides approximately:

  • 691 calories (881 calories with olive oil)
  • 19g fat (32g with olive oil)
  • 109g carbohydrates
  • 29g protein

For more information about how much food to eat while backpacking, check out our backpacking meals post.

(Disclaimer: Nutrition was calculated based on the ingredients we used, so yours may vary slightly.)

A person holding a bowl filled with pasta, pesto sauce, pine nuts, and sun dried tomatoes.
Pasta with pesto sauce, pine nuts, and sun dried tomatoes in a bowl.

Backpacking Creamy Pesto Pasta

Creamy Pesto Pasta is an easy, cheesy backpacking meal that is quick to prep at home and cook on the trail. It only uses store-bought ingredients–no dehydrator needed for this one!
Author: Fresh Off The Grid
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Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 8 minutes
1 serving

Ingredients

  • 3 oz angel hair pasta
  • ½ packet Knorr Creamy Pesto sauce mix, (about 2 ½ tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sun dried tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

At Home

  • Put the creamy pesto sauce powder, pine nuts, and sun-dried tomatoes in a small bag. Put the parmesan cheese in a separate small bag (this helps in case the ingredients sweat on the trail) if not already individually packaged. Break the angel hair in half and place it into a larger zip-top bag along with the other ingredient baggies.

On Trail

  • Remove the angel hair and place it in your cook pot. Add water to just barely cover the noodles. You really don’t want a lot of extra water to deal with. Turn on the stove, bring the water to a boil, and cook the noodles for a few minutes until they are done (or boil for 1 minute and then place it in your pot cozy if using).
  • Take the pot off the heat and remove all but ¼ cup of the remaining water. You can either drink it (there are calories in there!) or dispose of it in a 6-inch deep hole (in accordance with Leave No Trace).
  • Add the remaining ingredients to create the sauce and finish with the olive oil (if using). Stir until the sauce is creamy and the noodles are coated.

Notes

Nutrition notes: 
This recipe makes 1 ~135g serving (dry weight), clocking in at 143 cal/oz. With 1 tablespoon olive oil, the meal will weigh ~149g and clock in at 152 cal/oz. Each serving provides approximately:
    • 691 calories (881 calories with olive oil)
    • 19g fat (32g with olive oil)
    • 109g carbohydrates
    • 29g protein

Nutrition (Per Serving)

Serving: 135g | Calories: 691kcal | Carbohydrates: 109g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 19g

*Nutrition is an estimate based on information provided by a third-party nutrition calculator

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