By Aaron Owens Mayhew, MS, RDN, CD • Updated May 18, 2022
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Have you ever made homemade pesto before? You may have thought it couldn’t get much easier. You were wrong! Backcountry Foodie’s cold soak backpacking pesto recipe takes just a few minutes to prepare and packs a surprisingly flavorful punch with no fresh basil required. The best part? You don’t have to clean the food processor.
At home, make a “pesto packet” with garlic powder, dried basil, salt, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Pack olive oil separately. On the trail, simply rehydrate your pasta and sun-dried tomatoes, then add the other ingredients to make your sauce.
In the Field:
Depending on your style, you can make this a hot meal or a cold soak dinner. If you cold soak it, be sure to use precooked, dehydrated pasta. If you plan to bring a stove and aren’t in a hurry, you can also cook your pasta on the trail. If you’re not familiar with dehydrating your own pasta, consider watching our YouTube video about it.
Need a gluten-free recipe?
Not a problem!
Chickpea pasta makes an excellent gluten-free substitution in this recipe. Even if you aren’t gluten-free, you might consider giving chickpea pasta a try. It contains more protein and fiber than regular pasta and is a great way to add variety. Enjoy!
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta
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NUTRITION (per serving)
- ⅔ cup chickpea pasta, precooked and dehydrated (substitution), gluten-free option; measurement is after dehydrated, not the raw ingredient
- salt substitute (substitution), reduced-sodium option
- Put noodles and diced tomatoes in a bag or container to be used in the backcountry. Kitchen scissors work well for dicing tomatoes.
- Put the remaining dry ingredients in a separate bag or container to be stored with the noodles. See meal prep tips below.
- Pack 2 Tbsp (28 g) olive oil in a leakproof container to be added when the meal is consumed. We recommend double bagging the oil in the event there is a leak.
- Remove the pesto packet from the noodle bag or container.
- Add 8 oz (240 mL) hot/cold water or enough to cover the noodles.
- Let stand until noodles are fully rehydrated. This will take approximately 5 minutes with hot water or 60 minutes with cold water.
- Consume or properly discard the noodle broth to follow the Leave No Trace principle.
- Add pesto packet and 2 Tbsp (28 g) olive oil to the noodles.
- Stir to mix well and enjoy!
VOLUME OF MEAL WHEN PREPARED
- One heaping cup per serving (dry)
MEAL PREP TIPS
- Omit pine nuts for a nut-free option. This will not result in a significant change in taste or texture.
- Noodles do not have to be precooked and dehydrated if willing to cook noodles on the trail.
- If preparing the meal for long-term storage, we recommend not adding the parmesan cheese until just before consuming the meal. By doing so, the shelf-life of the meal will be lengthened significantly.
- Total sugar (per serving): 5 g with no added sugar
- To reduce the sodium content of the recipe by 291 mg, replace table salt with a salt substitute as desired.
- To reduce calories by 120, reduce the olive oil volume by 1 Tbsp (14 g). We do not recommend omitting all of the oil as the oil is needed to create a pesto sauce.
Ready to see more ultralight backpacking recipes like this one?
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Check out this video to see where all the magic happens.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aaron Owens Mayhew, MS, RDN, CD, is a registered dietitian and ultralight long-distance backpacker with over 20 years of nutrition and backpacking experience. She’s also the founder and owner of Backcountry Foodie, an online ultralight recipes and meal planning platform for backpackers. She also enjoys teaching hikers about backpacking nutrition via virtual masterclasses, YouTube videos, and podcast episodes. You can follow Aaron’s adventures in the kitchen and the backcountry via Instagram and Facebook.