Comfort is one of the most sought after things in the backcountry. When you can’t find it in your wet clothes or small nylon shelter, look no further than food, specifically a nice hot bowl of pasta with meat sauce. Backcountry bolognese is simple enough to prepare ahead of time with a trusty dehydrator or an oven, and you can elevate or simplify it for your own convenience. Everything about this can be personalized, bringing it towards the top of meals to bring backpacking.

Credit: Ethan Gresko


  • 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 lb. ground meat of choice
  • ½ cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup short pasta
  • Dried seasonings (onion and garlic powder, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper for heat)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Optional Ingredients: Fresh carrot, onion, tomatoes, basil


Prep: 1 Hour
Dehydrate: 6-8 Hours
Cook: 20 Minutes

Before You Begin

When dehydrating meat, combining breadcrumbs will ensure the protein stays moist upon rehydration, and not little pebbles in your pasta. Preparing ground options is easiest, and the leaner your choice is, the better. For beef, consider a 90-10 ratio of meat to fat, or other proteins like veal, bison, or turkey (or a meatloaf mix).

Fats, whether they be concentrated in your protein or added with dairy or oil, can go rancid if put through the dehydrating process. If you never say “when” while the waiter is serving your parmesan cheese at a restaurant, don’t fret here. Hard aged cheeses like parmesan will keep longer out of refrigeration, so be sure to pack some along for topping later on.

Finally, dehydrating your pasta ahead of time is an option too, however I like cooking it at camp. The starchy water helps thicken things up if I end up adding too much water prior to rehydrating, and the freshly cooked pasta takes me out of the woods and into my kitchen.

Credit: Ethan Gresko

Prep At-Home

  1. Begin by preparing your ground protein, placing the meat in a bowl and combining with the breadcrumbs. Once fully together, place in a non-stick, lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat and break up the meat into small even pieces. Season as desired.
  2. When cooked, cool the meat on a few paper towels to absorb any excess fat; optionally you may rinse the pieces under boiling water to ensure they’re rid of any oils.
  3. As that cools, prepare your sauce. This time varies, from up to a few minutes of mixing the sauce with basil, oregano, onion powder and garlic powder to taste, or up to 45 minutes of cooking down fresh vegetables and letting the sauce simmer. Be mindful not to reduce too much during this step. I tend to go with the former for quickness and ease of use, with dried seasonings usually handy in the pantry.
  4. Once everything is room temperature and you’re ready to dehydrate, spread your components out evenly on a parchment or similarly lined baking tray. If you can set the temperature on your dehydrator, place it at 145°F and let things go for up to 8 hours. If your dehydrator is preset at 165°F, aim for 6 hours. It’s fine to check on things in between, especially if your food needs to be flipped or adjusted for an even dehydration. You can also do this in the oven, just be prepared to tie it up for that same amount of time.
  5. Pack away a minimum of 1/3 cup each of your meat and tomato leather (I may even go ½ cup), a portion of pasta, any olive oil, parmesan, or dried seasonings.
Credit: Ethan Gresko

At Camp

  1. At camp, soak your meat with your pasta for 5 to 10 minutes with enough water to cover your ingredients (about 12 oz.).
  2. Using a Jetboil or camp stove, bring the water to a boil, and add your tomato leather. Stir everything together, and let your meal cook away. By the time the pasta is finished, your meat and sauce should be reconstituted, cooked, and ready for consumption.
  3. Now is a great time to add in any olive oil or seasoning before letting it sit for an additional 5 minutes. Blow off any steam from the meal or the day, and enjoy your bolognese!
Credit: Ethan Gresko

Tips and Tricks

  • Tomato sauce may take less time than the meat in the dehydrator, so depending on your model, considering having it near the top for easy access.
  • This bolognese recipe can be made vegetarian/vegan! Lentils seem like a great alternative to any ground meats. Cook your lentils as you would, and combine with your sauce prior to dehydrating.
  • An even dehydrating layer is best. If your sauce is chunky, be sure to blend it to a smooth consistency to avoid any wet spots when the process is supposed to be complete.
  • While dried seasonings are convenient, consider venturing further to dried vegetables, such as onion, garlic, carrot, or peppers to bring along to camp.