Saturday, July 20, 2013

Backcountry Spaghetti

Bit of a food theme going on lately....

I was just over at Facebook and came across this photo posted by Mark at Geckopaddler.

As a back country 'foodie' I am not a fan of dehydrating items. I tend to grab a good looking back country cook book excitedly, only to drop it quickly when it mentions dehydrating. Frankly, I don't have the time, or patience to dehydrate. I know a lot of people love it, but it isn't for me. I do however like eating great meals in the back country, and one of my favorites is pasta in a red sauce. So I saw the photo and told Mark he should cook it from scratch - that is a bag of dehydrated spaghetti with meat sauce, if it wasn't clear - I did it on the inside passage, he can do it. So here is the Paddling Otaku back country pasta and red sauce recipe.

You will need:

A stove with a wide burner base like the MSR Whisperlite or simmerlite. A large pot, a small skillet. A knife, a cutting board, a large cooking spoon. A corkscrew. An iPod with a small pair of speakers. The sound track to the movie 'Big Night' or a selection of Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin. I like to listen to the music from a cheap italian restaurant while I am cooking pasta. I also occasionally do a bad Italian accent and threaten to have the local wild life  'taken care of'.

a pound of pasta
a tube of high end tomato paste
an onion - diced
a red pepper - diced
Spices, S&P, Oregano, Basil
Olive oil
A hard sausage - pepperoni, chorizo, have fun. Mark was looking for 'meat sauce' and I think this qualifies, ground beef doesn't last too long in the bow of a kayak.

For the pasta, on long trips I tend to choose something smaller like Penne or Ziti, it holds up well. If you are careful with Spaghetti you can make it work, but it tends to break in storage in a kayak. Add it to a pot of salted water and bring it to a boil. You only have one burner, so once the water is boiling, move the pot to the ground. The pasta will keep cooking - I promise, in the back coutnry we get to break rules - Just before it's done, put it back on the burner and bring it up to temperature again. While it is cooking turn your attention to the skillet.

In the skillet - the back country is the only place I use non-stick, because of ease of clean up - sauté the onion, red pepper and the sausage until the onion is translucent. The sausage will have to be cut pretty small, I like quartering a disk. When hot, it will release some liquid seasoning the pan. When the onion is translucent, break out the tomato paste and add about half a tube to the skillet, then add some water to get the consistency right. Taste it to make sure it is right, you don't want it too watery, nor too thick.

Notice I said tube? This isn't the canned variety of tomato paste, this is the good stuff, like this.

After the consistency is correct, time for seasoning. Only you know how much of this you want. I'm gonna do a couple of cloves of finely diced garlic in addition to the other dried spices. Let that simmer a few minutes. You now have a good red sauce. Why people buy jarred red sauce, when you can make an amazing one at home on your stove top in 15 minutes is beyond me.

Drain your pasta after placing it back on the burner for a minute, Then plate your pasta, and spoon the sauce on top. Here are a couple of things I didn't mention that kick this over the top. A bottle of red wine fits perfectly in the bow, and an italian bread fits perfectly in the stern. Now is the time! Open the wine and serve while your cooking. If your audience is a little 'loose' all the better, they were impressed with red sauce from scratch, wait until they try it! You know what is better than Italian bread with pasta and red sauce? Garlic bread. That's right, we are kicking it up a notch. Slice the bread on a long diagonal, so you get a long slice, open the package of garlic butter that I didn't mention before, because I like to surprise people. Smear one side of the bread with garlic butter and toss it in the skillet for a minute - after wiping it out - you are essentially frying the bread in garlic butter. One other surprise I didn't mention before, A couple of shavings of hard parmigiano reggiano with your micro plane grater on top of the plated food.

What? You don't paddle with a microplane grater? What are you a heathen?

Don't tell me you don't dress for dinner?



  1. PO, thanks for sharing your method while on the Inside Passage trip.

    Update: In preparation of the spaghetti that we cooked yesterday on our day on the water, Robyn dehydrated the spaghetti in red sauce after letting it sit for 24 hours in the fridge. That way the pasta absorbed much of the favour and sauce prior to dehydrating.

    The extra lean ground beef we used was also dehydrated separately as well as peppers and onions. The spaghetti, peppers and onions were packaged as single meal as in the photo. Upon arriving at our dinner spot Robyn re-hydrated the beef separately, then the spaghetti package and added the two together.

    I have to admit that I was very skeptical as how it would turn out but all I can say is that it tasted just like we made it at home. Awesome!!

    Yes the dehydration process takes time (glad that Robyn is doing it) but this method is a great back up to our fresh food cooking while on the water. Our goal is to take the worry out of food spoilage when out for long duration trips (10 plus days)in the future especially in hot conditions.

    Fresh is always our first choice but home made dehydrated can be great too. I never thought I would say that. :-)


  2. Mark,

    I am sure it was sensational, and never meant to imply otherwise. Just giving an option. Besides the fact that I don't like taking the time to dehydrate, there is another aspect of it I don't like, which is meal planning. By meal planning i mean sitting down and planning out every meal for the next 4 days or week, or month - and on month long trips it is almost impossible. So I use a pantry system where I have a bag of food that can be combined to make a lot of different things. It adds a lot more freedom to your situations, though it is a bit more work in the field. But just like everyone congregates in the kitchen at a party, when you are cooking dinner as opposed to rehydrating dinner - it makes for a really enjoyable social gathering. I think ultimately it is a combination of methods that works best. You may even get me to try dehydrating.