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 the 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 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.
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.
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!