Layers of baked pasta, crunchy edges of melted cheese, flavorful tomato sauce, and fragrant Italian seasonings. Can anything come close to the mouthwatering perfection that is lasagna? We doubt it. Some foods satisfy our stomachs, some foods spark our intellect, but lasagna speaks directly to our hearts. It’s like a big loving hug from the Italian grandmother neither one of us ever had.
But you say, making lasagna is hard enough at home, and you’re talking about making it camping? That doesn’t sound like…possible. To be honest, we didn’t think it was either! We thought the closest we’d get to eating lasagna in the wild would be in the form of a freeze-dried backpacking meal. Which is just a tactless parody, if you ask us.
Now, there are two things required in order to make campfire lasagna: a camping Dutch oven and fresh pasta.
We’ve cooked a lot of camp meals in our cast iron Dutch oven, but this one has to to be our favorite. The bottom legs allow for coals to be pushed underneath while the rimmed lid allows for more coals to be piled on top. With the even heat coming from both directions, you’re able to get the inside up to temperature so you can bake away.
The other critical element is fresh pasta. The biggest hassle of making lasagna from dried pasta is the need to boil all of it first, then bake it. We know there are a few dried lasagna pasta makers out there who claim you don’t need to boil the noodles first, but those people are liars. (Trader Joe’s we’re looking at you.) The easiest way to get delicious, toothsome lasagna without any undercooked surprises is to use pre-made fresh pasta.
For this recipe, we used Cappello’s lasagna noodles (found in the freezer aisle of Whole Foods), which in addition to being ready-to-bake, are also gluten-free. While neither of us has a problem with gluten, Michael’s mother has celiac, so we’re very aware of the need for gluten-free options.
However, we were concerned that pasta made primarily out of almond flour wouldn’t fit the traditional flavor profile we were going for, but you have to believe us, it tasted exactly like wheat pasta. If this pasta was served to us blind, we would have never guessed it was gluten-free. And since it’s frozen fresh, once it thawed it was soft, malleable, and ready to start baking as soon as we opened the package.
So there you go, a cast iron Dutch oven and fresh pasta are the only things standing between you making lasagna the next time you’re out camping. So what are you waiting for! Get cooking!
2 1/2cupspasta sauce, (a 24 or 25 ounce jar is perfect)
12ozfresh lasagna noodles, divided into 4 sets (thawed if frozen)
3cupsfresh baby spinach
1 1/2cupshredded cheese, mozzarella or a blend of Italian-style cheeses works best
1tablespoondried oregano or basil, or a blend of the two
PRE-HEAT: If cooking over a campfire, get your coals ready. You'll need 25 total. If cooking at home, preheat your oven to 400.
ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA: Start by coating the bottom of a 10" Dutch oven with the olive oil to help prevent the bottom layer from sticking. Add 1/2 cup pasta sauce and spread evenly over the bottom of the Dutch oven. Use the first set of noodles to create the base of the lasagna. Layer 1/2 cup sauce, 1 cup baby spinach, and 1/3 cup cheese. Repeat (one set noodles, 1/2 cup sauce, 1 cup spinach, 1/3 cup cheese) two more times. For the final layer, use the last set of noodles, 1/2 cup sauce, and 1/2 cup cheese. Sprinkle the oregano over the top.
BAKE: Use 8 coals to create a bed to set your Dutch oven on. Place the Dutch oven on top of the coals. Cover the oven with the lid, and place the remaining 17 coals on top of the lid. If cooking at home, simply cover your Dutch oven and stick it in your preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes, until the noodles are tender and cooked through and the cheese has melted.
SERVE: Take the Dutch oven off the heat. Carefully remove the lid and set aside. Cut the lasagna into 4 wedges, plate, and enjoy!