The Path Less Traveled #011: Trail Cuisine – Spaghetti and Meatballs
Andrew D 05.10.21
Trail Cuisine – Spaghetti and Meatballs
When out in the woods more than a few times a year, your standard fare of freeze-dried prepackaged foods can become as mundane as your 9 to 5. To combat trail boredom, making your own food can result in some great trail cuisine. In this post, we’re going to try and develop our own spaghetti and meatballs that’ll make you wish to be outdoors more often! Come with me on a trip to Flavortown! (No frosted tips or backward sunglasses required)
Welcome to our recurring series of “The Path Less Traveled.” In this series, we want to take you along for our exploits out in the wilderness while hiking, camping, exploring, and general adventuring. This will include our small daily victories, foibles, tips, tricks, and reviews of gear we authentically appreciate and frequently utilize. While a well-worn trail can often be the pathway to a leisurely day, the paths less traveled can often spur on some of the greatest memories, misadventures, and fun we could imagine. Join us in the Comments as we share our travels, and hopefully, we can all come together for a greater appreciation of the outdoors.
Why Make Your Own Trail Cuisine?
Home-made trail cuisine can provide many benefits over processed food that comes in heavy combat/space packaging. Many of the benefits come from creating/modifying recipes to your desires and (medical/allergy) needs. It is easy to beat freeze-fried bag meals in volumetric/weight-based, nutrient density; I don’t know exactly where it came from, but the standard is to pack at least 100 calories per 100 grams of food.
I don’t know about you, but there are always things about pre-packaged camp meals that don’t taste exactly how I hoped/expected them to taste.
With your own food, you can choose to add more garlic, pepper, or whatever else without having to unseal the bags before you’re out in the woods (you really should repackage Mountain House and other pre-made meals, they’re bulky and gigantic!). For today’s Trail Cuisine meal of spaghetti and meatballs, the cooking time is less than five minutes from turning on the stove to food in your mouth. When you’re hungry or already reaching levels of hangry… seconds count!
Who really enjoys spending nine bucks on food that may or may not be mediocre? Being on the trail, spending big money and compromising on your food preferences makes you a
SIMP SOMF (Settling on Mediocre Food). You’re not out there trying to impress Gordon Ramsay, so how about we spend money on food we know we’ll enjoy?
With the Trail Cuisine series, I’ll only be purchasing things I can get at my local stores – nothing online… unless I can’t find it in my extremely rural West Virginia stores. (I’ll let you know if this occurs.)
Interested in recipes?
Trail Cuisine Components
There are pretty formulaic ways of planning out camp foods, these methods typically start out with something that will be the bulk of your calories and carbohydrates – think starches.
To increase calories, don’t forget your butter and/or oils. Lipids are one of the most calorie-dense foods there are.
Once having your caloric requirements satisfied, you can figure out what foods can accommodate the starch and oils to make things enjoyable. Vegetables, fruits, meats, flavorings, and other goodies are good when dining out. Why would you want to neglect them out in the woods?
Trail Cuisine: Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe – Ingredients
|Angel Hair Pasta|
|Mutti Triple Concentrate Tomato Paste|
|Extra Virgin Olive Oil|
|Whisps Parmesan Cheese Crisps|
|Bresaola Air Dried Beef|
|Sun Dried Tomatoes|
|Minced Onion Flakes|
Trail Cuisine Spaghetti and Meatballs
|Mountain House Classic Spaghetti & Meat Sauce|
Angel hair pasta is used in this recipe solely to reduce cook time from an average of eight minutes for al dente spaghetti to four minutes with the pasta.
Double or Triple concentrate tomato pastes are necessary to reduce the volume and weight needed while having that satisfying spaghetti sauce taste.
EVOO (insert memories of classic Rachael Ray) can be replaced for basic olive oil if desired. High level is used for calorie content, hydrating various ingredients, as well as keeping your cooking pot from having as much food stuck on it. If you want to reduce the amount of calories in this meal, start here.
You want more recipes? Sure!
The parmesan crisps are VITAL to ensuring that you have enough cheesy flavor, added calories…. but also to thicken the sauce by adding a dairy. Parmesan crisps were used instead of traditional wheel parmesan, or shake-bottle parmesan due to calorie density.
Air-dried beef may be the toughest thing to find. I was able to get mine at the local Krogucci, located about thirty miles away from me. Luckily, I was in the area for work. If you can’t find Bresaola at a decent price, you can use Armour Dried Beef – but be wary of the sodium content!!! If you really want that spaghetti and meatballs feeling (Well, more like meat sauce…) without having to go to freeze-dried foods, your choices are limited.
Sun-dried tomatoes are not the most calorie-dense food, they also take a decent amount of space. This was my luxury ingredient in this meal, and I’ll likely use more the next time I make it.
Minced onion flake and dehydrated garlic just round out the flavors. Do be aware – these will not rehydrate quickly enough unless further action is taken.
Steps At Home
Take your parmesan crisps and put them in the food processor, the airy crispiness will play against you in terms of space. Empty the ground crisps into your One Cup Zipper Baggies. (I found my baggies at Walmart, super cheap.) It is important for the cheese to be at the bottom of the baggy to be the last thing put in the cooking pot. Add Tomato paste afterward.
Break angel hair pasta into small pieces, this breaks my heart, but it helps with space. Add pasta to baggy vertically. It is amazing how much you can fit in there!
Add dried beef, oil, sun-dried tomatoes, onion flakes, garlic, and spices to the blender. Grind all of this into a paste. The importance of adding the oil to this is that the dried vegetables and the meat (to a point) will absorb some of the oil and reduce the time it takes to rehydrate and cook these items.
Steps On Trail
Add 100-120ml of water to your cooking pot. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but you can always add more… kind of difficult to remove water once in there with the other ingredients. (See: making dehydrated scrambled eggs)
Drop meat-vegetable-spice-oil mixture into the pot as well as pasta. Be sure to hold and pinch the bag to prevent as much of the cheese from getting in there as possible. (WILL STICK TO COOKING POT) Cook on camp stove, stirring occasionally, until pasta begins to feel soft.
Mix cheese into pot, continue stirring until desired consistency.
Let cool and consume!
This recipe was packaged 48hr before setting off into the woods to determine whether bacterial development was a concern.
No mold was visible, nor off-putting smells occurred, likely due to proper handling and high sodium levels.
Volumetric Nutrient Density
|(LxWxH)||Volume||Calories per 100cc|
|Trail Cuisine Spaghetti and Meatballs||2.54||17.78||8.255||373 cc||190.11|
|Mountain House Spaghetti & Meat Sauce||7.62||20.31||10.16||729.19 cc||64.45|
(The MH meal was compacted, but not repackaged to gather these measurements.
Cost Per Weight
|Total Cost||Cost per 100g|
|Trail Cuisine Spaghetti and Meatballs||$4.67||$2.51|
|Mountain House Spaghetti & Meat Sauce||$9.49||$6.52|
While some compromises were made in terms of not having dehydrated meat and tomatoes my Trail Cuisine Spaghetti and Meatballs still beats the leading dehydrated meal in terms of nutrient density, cost and most of all… Flavor.