And then one day it became clear - pasta is the ultimate camp food. I was 18 and living in Florence for the summer while taking a film making program through NYU. At that moment however school was a distant thought as I struggled to fit in among the shaggy, bohemian young Italians camped riverside at a music festival outside of town. When they weren't smoking hash the cool kids were getting busy with huge pots of water, boiling and straining pasta. My American mind was reeling - pasta and camping? I was used to hot dogs, canned beans, maybe a quesadilla. That day the world shifted a little bit. Pasta stepped into the great outdoors.
In another twist of fate I married an Italian American who would eat Cacio e Pepe every day of the week if I let him. We camp a lot - took our honeymoon as a road/camp trip through the west - and no matter how long or how short the trip, we always make Pasta al Pesto. We've had it at 11,000 feet in the San Juans of Colorado and we've had it in the dank fog of the Mendocino Coast. When you've got nothing but time, like on most camping trips, crushing up basil leaves in a mortar and pestle becomes much less laborious. I rarely do it that way at home, but out in the wild I hand it over to Nick who pounds the greens while I prep the rest. Teamwork makes the dream work. See our foolproof Camp Pesto recipe here.
Another Italian dish that has become a camp mainstay: polenta. It's creamy heartiness is like a big warm hug to your stomach. Keep one pot rolling with the polenta, and use the pan for chopped up sausage, broccoli, peppers, onions, and maybe a can of crushed tomatoes. Shave a load of parm on top and sleep soundly that night.
The summer before my last year of college I decided to drive my little red pickup truck out east so I could really it whoop up. It was a pretty epic road trip - Stinson Beach, CA to NYC. The culinary highlight, besides the salad bar at KFC, was my discovery of the Road Rap. Whole wheat tortilla, avocado, cucumber, hummus, you get the picture. Basically whatever you have on hand rolled up in a wrap. It is dream road food. Or high altitude refuel food, like Nicky here enjoying it at 12,000 feet. Important things I have learned in wrapdom: always have tinfoil; if you use tomatoes eat right away; sprouted grain tortillas do not roll well but taste delicious! Another star combo: turkey, salami, tomato, dijon, cheddar. Duh.
Important Camp Kit Items for Culinary Excellence
Cheese grater (hand held, small grate) or Microplane
Mortar and Pestle
Good Chef Knife and Light Cutting Board (pref wood)
Red Chile Flake
Kosher Salt - lots
Olive Oil - lots
One Pot. One Pan. Many mixing bowls.
Condiment I don't leave home without: DIJON MUSTARD
Tupperwares! (breakfast = dinner + fried egg)