This pesto penne is an easy camping pasta recipe cooked on a campfire or camp stove! It's a one-pot Dutch oven meal made with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and (optionally) smoked salmon.
There's something special about outdoor cooking.
It just seems to add a bit of extra zest to the finished product, doesn't it?
As the summer lingers on and various camping getaways beckon us, there are certain recipes that I keep returning to.
But I'm always ready to take other ideas and see how well they transition to cooking on a campfire or camp stove.
This pesto penne is an easy camping pasta recipe that can be made in just one pot! It features tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and optional smoked salmon.
Camping Pasta Recipe: A One-Pot Dish
Cooking pasta with just one pot? But, you might wonder, what about all the excess liquid?
Well, this camping pasta recipe cooks through the absorption method.
You'll be monitoring the liquid level as you cook to see if you need to add any more, but by the end of the process the pasta should have absorbed all the broth.
So, no draining required, and no extra bowl needed!
Where Can I Find Smoked Salmon?
I used frozen hot-smoked salmon from Sitka Salmon Shares.
Smoked salmon might be sold at your grocery store frozen, refrigerated, or even canned! Any of those will work in this recipe.
Can I Use Lox?
No, lox is not ideal in this recipe.
Lox is thinly sliced and not actually cooked. Its delicate texture is perfect for some things, but cooking it in this recipe would ruin that silky consistency.
Curious about other differences between smoked salmon and lox? Check out this lox vs smoked salmon post for an explanation.
What Can I Use Instead of Salmon?
If your preference is vegan, of course you'll skip the lox entirely.
If you just want to use a different type of fish, swap in something smoked (like smoked trout).
Or use your favorite canned (or otherwise pre-cooked) meat, such as canned or cooked shredded chicken.
Why Use Nutritional Yeast?
In this recipe, I used nutritional yeast to add a nutty, cheesy flavor without adding cheese. I buy Anthony's nutritional yeast.
Why? Cheese is just one more thing that you'd need to keep chilled in a cooler, and the nutritional yeast is a tasty shelf-stable option.
That said, if you prefer using cheese, grated Parmesan is perfect in this recipe.
What Kind of Dutch Oven?
Use a non-enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.
If your campfire doesn’t have a grate, it’s easiest to use a campfire Dutch oven (a Dutch oven with feet).
Since you'll be cooking over hot coals, long-handled utensils can help to keep you at a safe distance.
Could I Make This on the Stovetop Instead?
Yes, you can!
The cook time might be slightly longer.
Can I Make This Camping Pasta Recipe Ahead of Time?
Sure! This pasta is delicious when chilled.
You could also follow the very similar recipe for basil pesto pasta salad. It keeps quite well in the cooler for a couple of days!
Camping Without a Cooler
If you don't have a cooler to store broth in, look for mini 8-ounce containers of broth, or use bouillon cubes.
That way you'll avoid being left with wasted broth.
Also, if you don't have a cooler, skip the frozen smoked salmon and use canned smoked fish instead. Or swap in canned chicken.
I've got plenty of other ideas for camping without a cooler in this guide.
Camping With a Cooler
If you can bring a cooler along, it's a good idea to freeze the broth in ice cube trays. It'll prevent waste and help keep the cooler cold.
If you're using frozen or refrigerated smoked salmon, that will go in the cooler too.
We use this Igloo BMX cooler.
Making a Camping Pasta Recipe
Once you have hot coals (but no active flames), add stock, water, and garlic powder to your Dutch oven.
Place the Dutch oven uncovered on top of the coals, and bring the broth to a boil.
Add the pasta to the Dutch oven and stir.
The liquid should just cover the pasta.
Simmer the pasta until it's tender and most of the broth is absorbed.
This could take about 15 minutes.
Stir often while cooking. If the pasta starts sticking, add a little bit more water and keep stirring.
Once the pasta is tender, remove it from the heat.
Add another cup of water and stir.
Next, add the nutritional yeast and pesto to the pasta and stir well.
Try making your own basil pesto ahead of time at home!
While the pasta is cooking, flake the salmon apart with a fork.
When the pasta is done, add the salmon, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and capers to it, and stir.
Once everything is combined, serve immediately!
Campfire Pesto Pasta
- campfire ring
- wooden spoon
- spoon (to serve)
- 2 cups vegetable stock Use low-sodium broth if desired
- 3 cups water, divided (plus more if needed)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 pound penne (or another short pasta such as rigatoni) Use gluten-free certified pasta if needed. Chickpea pasta works well here.
- 6 ounces hot-smoked salmon (~1 fillet or 1 can) See "salmon alternatives" in Recipe Notes
- 6 ounces basil pesto (1 small jar)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast Or swap grated Parmesan cheese (dairy or vegan)
- 12 ounce jar quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons capers
- Prepare campfire: Heat coals until they are very hot, or let a campfire burn down until the wood is smoldering but without active flames.Add stock, 2 cups water and garlic powder to the Dutch oven. Set oven uncovered on coals. Bring broth to a simmer.
- Add the pasta and stir. Make sure the pasta is covered in water, adding additional broth or water if needed.Simmer the pasta in the broth until the pasta is tender and most of the broth is absorbed (about 15 minutes, depending on the type of pasta and how hot your campfire is). Stir the pasta often while cooking, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot often to prevent sticking.If you hear the pasta sizzling, it's sticking to the pot. Add a little more water and stir to release any bits of pasta that stuck.
- While the pasta cooks, prepare the salmon.Flake the salmon apart with a fork. Set aside. If the fillet has skin, discard it.
- Once the pasta is tender, remove it from the heat. Add remaining 1 cup water and stir.Add the nutritional yeast and pesto to the pasta and stir to combine.
- Add the salmon, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and capers to the pasta. Stir to combine. Serve immediately.