One Pot Pesto Pasta with Bacon
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We love one pot camping meals and this simple One Pot Pesto Pasta just might be our favorite yet. All you need is a skillet and a single burner camp stove to get started.
This is a great summertime camping meal that features a ton of bright, fresh flavors: cherry tomatoes, zucchini, pesto, pine nuts, and bacon. It’s like the greatest hits of summer!
The real creativity of one-pot meals comes from sequencing. It’s all about figuring out the right order to cook your ingredients.
If done properly, you can layer flavors one on top of the others (all while reducing the number of pans you’ll need to clean later!) It’s a win-win for everyone. Read on to learn our one-pot pasta technique!
One-Pot Pesto Pasta Ingredients
Bacon: Any thick cut bacon will work in this recipe, but we are partial to the Black Forest bacon from Trader Joe’s. It’s a bit pricey but gosh it’s so good. We’ve also made this recipe using pancetta. You can omit the bacon entirely to make this dish vegetarian – just be sure to add a little oil to your skillet to cook the veggies in.
Zucchini: There’s always an abundance of zucchini available during the summer months, but you could substitute it with yellow squash or pattypan.
Cherry Tomatoes: We love the texture (and flavor!) that burst cherry tomatoes bring to this dish. You could substitute with some crushed canned tomatoes if you don’t have fresh ones on hand.
Pasta: Use a hearty shape that will help trap the sauce, like orecchiette, fusilli, or casarecce.
Pesto: Pack some homemade pesto along in a sealable container in your cooler, or simply pick up a small jar at the store.
Parmesan: We love freshly grated parmesan in this pasta, but you can substitute with a vegetarian or non-dairy cheese if you’d like to make this meal vegetarian (along with omitting the bacon).
Pine nuts: Toasted pine nuts add a wonderful crunch and nutty taste to this dish. We pick these up at Trader Joe’s.
How to Make One Pot Pesto Pasta
For this recipe, the first step is to fry the bacon. This will render out fat into the skillet, which is pretty much straight bacon flavor. So once the bacon is done, remove it from the skillet, and use all that delicious bacon grease to cook your vegetables. (It’s a scientific fact that vegetables cooked in bacon grease taste 100% more like bacon).
When the zucchini starts to brown and the tomatoes start to blister, it’s time to add in the pasta. You can pour the dry pasta right into the skillet, followed by a few cups of water. The water will start to boil almost instantly from the hot skillet, so watch out for steam. The goal is to just almost cover the pasta and veggies with water. As the water simmers, you’ll stir frequently to keep the pasta cooking evenly.
As the pasta cooks the water will evaporate from the skillet via steam. Additionally, the pasta will absorb some of the water while releasing starch. So once the pasta is finished cooking, you should be left with just a little bit of really really starchy water at the bottom. This starchy water is perfect for making your pesto sauce.
Using either homemade or store-bought pesto, take a few dollops and stir it into the cooked pasta. Stir somewhat vigorously as this will help to create an emulsion between the starchy water and the oils in the pesto. This emulsion results in a thick sauce that clings to your pasta instead of running off.
Is your sauce still a little too watery? Adding in some freshly grated parmesan cheese will definitely help. It will also taste delicious.
Crumble the bacon back in, sprinkle on some pine nuts, and you’re done! A fresh and delicious one-pot pasta dish that is sure to become a new camping favorite.
Other One Pot Pasta Recipes
↠ One Pot Pasta Primavera
↠ One Pot Lemon Broccoli Pasta (vegan)
↠ Dutch Oven Mac & Cheese
↠ One Pot Protein Pasta
↠ One Pot Beef Stroganoff
↠ Cheesy Asparagus One Pot Orzo
One Pot Pesto Pasta with Bacon
- 2 slices bacon
- 2 zucchinis, sliced
- Handful of cherry tomatoes
- 2 cups pasta
- ¼ cup pesto
- ¼ cup parmesan
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- Salt + pepper
- Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy, remove, chop, and set aside.
- Add the zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and a pinch of salt to the skillet and saute until the zucchini is tender and beginning to brown in spots, 5-7 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a plate or bowl and set aside.
- Add the pasta, 3 cups water, and ½ teaspoon salt to the skillet. Boil, stirring frequently until the pasta is tender and most of the water has been absorbed - about 10 minutes (but check package directions). You can add more water if needed, or drain at the end if there is excess. Remove from heat.
- Toss the pasta with the pesto, then toss in the vegetables, parmesan cheese, chopped bacon, and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Enjoy!
This has turned into one of our favorite meals whether we are camping or at home. So delicious and easy!!!
So glad you hear you enjoyed this one, Laurel!
This was easy and delicious! We used pancetta in place of the bacon, and a large chopped tomato in place of the cherry tomatoes. Made two very generous portions.
I’d suggest starting with a bit less water to cook the pasta. I ended up removing the cooked pasta temporarily in order to boil down the excess water (which I didn’t want to dump and lose all the starch), but it all came back together beautifully. Will definitely keep this on my camp meal rotation.
Pancetta is a great substitute for the bacon – we’ve made this meal with pancetta, too, and love the variation!
I see this throughout some of your dutch oven and one pot recipes (which are pretty awesome if I say so myself) and that is the absence of any note for the size of the pot or pan that you are using. In a case where you’re using charcoal that would allow those of us width other sized Dutch ovens adjust the number of coals or the recipes better (e.g. size affects temps and number of coals needed).
In this case, Pesto Pasta, it would be great to know the size of the cast iron skillet – maybe I’m over-detailed oriented but I am aiming to replicate a few of these for an upcoming event and do not want to over-pack the heavy gear of ovens and pans and experiment by trial and error.
Thanks for offering each of your recipes!
Thanks for the feedback, Rob! Totally agree that the size of the skillet/oven would be useful (especially with the Dutch oven recipes), and we’ll start including that info in our posts. In this case, we used a 10″ skillet. If you’re wanting to scale the recipe up at all for your event, I’d suggest a larger skillet since the 10″ was pretty full while making the size portion as written here.
We first enjoyed this recipe after making camp at the end of a long day of travel. We later enjoyed it in the comforts of home. Either way it’s delicious and easy!
Glad to hear you enjoyed it! Thank you for the review.
I love to make this one when I’m camping as much as I like to make it at home! Sometimes I will also add baby spinach. 🙂
We loved this recipe! This was our evening meal after a big hike. It hit the spot and was a delicious prelude to the Apple Crisp dessert recipe. Thanks for sharing!
So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing.
Absolutely a favourite… in the woods or at home!!! Simple to make, great instructions and really, really tasty!!! 🙂
Test drove Pesto Pasta today & was just wonderful, I substituted broccoli for zucchini as that’s what I had on hand. Will definitely use this summer while car camping before & after a sea kayak trip in Newfoundland (if the border opens). Have test driven four other of your recipes which will make the trip, & on your advice bought a dutch oven. Thanks much for opening this path to good camping food.
Delicious and easy! I will be making this again and could see using other veggies, too. Thanks.