Relying exclusively on store-bought backpacking meals can cost a small fortune, especially if you are several days on a trail. If you want to avoid flavour enhancers or you have a specific dietary requirement, then making your own is really the only option. With the right equipment, a few important tips and some forward planning, you can literally take your favourite home cooked meals anywhere.
We’ve taken this simple homemade Bolognese sauce and turned it into a DIY backpacking meal that will be delicious, hearty and easy to rehydrate.
We are featuring a meat-based pasta sauce, however, any of your favourite pasta sauces can be dehydrated, including vegetarian and vegan sauces. Follow the same dehydrating steps and tips even if you include beans, lentils or other legumes to replace meat protein in your sauce.
Before we get into dehydrating the sauce, let’s talk pasta. Pasta is a great base for a whole range of satisfying backpacking meals. It’s filling, light weight and with just a few flavourful extras you can easily create an ‘instant’ meal. The dehydrating process applies to gluten free pasta as well.
A common question is - Do you have to dehydrate dried pasta? The answer is a definite yes. Drying pasta, when pasta is already dry in a packet, does seem strange, but there are a few reasons why it’s necessary. Dehydrated pasta will cook and soften quicker because it’s not being cooked from a raw state and because all the starch was removed when it was first cooked, you can heat it on the trail without having to drain off the water. Dehydrated pasta also requires less water in order to create a meal. Saving time, fuel and water.
Once pasta has been cooked and dehydrated you can mix it together with other dehydrated foods to create an endless variety of one-pot meals perfect for emergency meal preparation, camping/hiking or just meals on the go.
You can dehydrate any type of pasta; however, smaller and shorter varieties are better for backpacking meals for the following reasons:
1. Long shapes are harder to bag, and the sharp ends may pierce your packaging. Especially a concern if you are vacuum sealing your meals.
2. Smaller shapes dehydrate faster and take less space in your backpack and don’t crush. Choose macaroni, ditalini, penne, rotini, farfalle, orzo or fusilli. Avoid shapes that nest moisture or sauce, like orecchiette or shells. They will take longer to dry.
1. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to package instructions until they are soft. Don’t leave them undercooked.
2. Drain the cooking water, then rinse under cold water to wash off all the excess starch and stop the cooking process.
3. Spread the cooked pasta in a single layer on the Breeze Dehydrator trays or use silicone mesh sheets if your pasta is very small and risks falling through the trays.
4. Separate the pasta on the trays so they don’t dry in clusters. Note that pasta doesn’t shrink in size like dehydrating fruit and vegetables. When dehydrated it will look the same as it did in the packet.
5. Set the Breeze food dehydrator temperature to 60C / 140 F and the timer to 6 hours to check in. The density of the pasta and the humidity in your home affect the drying time. Set the timer for more time in 2-hour increments until they are brittle dry.
7. When they are done, store in Luvele vacuum canisters or an airtight glass jar in a dry, dark place at room temperature. Dehydrated pasta will last months, even years.
You can use dehydrated pasta in almost any way you use cooked pasta, it is just more instant. Once you have dehydrated pasta, there are endless meal combinations you can come up with, which means a more tasty and varied eating experience. We’ve added, homemade mushroom powder and homemade vegetable stock, plus dehydrated onion, beans and carrots for a delicious and nutritious instant soup. Check out our dehydrating backpacking meal hacks here for inspiration. (coming soon)
If you are new to dehydrating meals, bolognese is an easy one to begin with. The following tips are best practise, and are especially important to note when dehydrating meat or if you aim to store your dried meals for several months or years.
1. You can dehydrate the sauce on its own or mixed with cooked pasta for a ready to go meal.
2. Divide the bolognese into meal portions before you dehydrate. This is essential! Once the bolognese is dehydrated it is very difficult to portion control. You don’t want to be hungry or waste food.
3. Weigh each meal. This is your ‘wet weight’
4. Line the Breeze Food Dehydrator trays with silicon rollup sheets. A piece of baking paper also works.
5. Spread each serving evenly in a flat layer on the tray.
6. Set the Breeze food dehydrator temperature to 60C / 140 F and the timer to 8 hours to check in.
7. Turn and break up the contents to facilitate air flow for the final stages of drying. It could take up to 12 hours to dry. Bolognese or pasta sauce is dehydrated when it feels completely crisp, rather than rubbery or pliable.
8. Weigh the dried portions. This is your ‘dry weight’. Subtract this amount from your wet weight to know how much water to add when cooking. If you want your sauce a bit runnier, you can always add a bit more water.
9. Once cooled, package each portion into ‘Fresh’ vacuum seal containers or vacuum seal in portions. If vacuum sealing, lay the pasta flat so that it doesn’t pierce the bag.
1. Add dehydrated pasta (and sauce) to a pot
2. Add the calculated water or enough water to the level of the pasta inside the pot.
3. Let the pasta sit in the pot of water for 5 minutes.
4. Bring to a boil and stir well. Add more water if necessary
5. Remove from the heat and cover.
6. Put the pot into an insulated cosy or something to help retain the heat and let sit for 10-20 minutes, then enjoy!
If you make dehydrated using the Breeze Food dehydrator, we would love to see your creations. Leave us a comment, or tag a photo using #luvelelife on Instagram.