Pesto makes almost any dish better. You can even turn a drab bowl of oatmeal into a tasty savory breakfast dish with a spoonful of pesto (try it sometime). Fresh pesto, made with bright green basil leaves is the stuff that food dreams are made of; the pungent herb is full of flavor, and with a few leaves and a little olive oil, you practically don’t need anything else to dress up a dish. But on camping trips, fresh basil isn’t usually an option, as it quickly goes from fresh to frazzled.
That’s where our friend dried basil comes in. In my kitchen at home, it’s not a spice that I cook with a lot, as I much prefer the taste of fresh basil. But outside of the comforts of a traditional kitchen, it can do wonders and can be used to make a simple pesto mix that’s easy to take with you on trips.
For this pesto, you mix the dry ingredients at home and mix together with the wet ingredients when you’re on the trail.
There are a few tricks to getting a bit more flavor out of your dried basil pesto. First off, unless you are allergic, nuts are going to make a big difference. I prefer walnuts, but you can go for the standard pine nuts if those are more up your alley. If you have the time, it’s worth toasting the nuts before chopping or crushing them as this will help to bring out the flavor.
When it’s time to mix your pesto, you can always just toss everything into the pot of pasta and stir together, but if you mix together the dry and wet ingredients beforehand and let them sit while you cook your pasta, this will allow the dried basil to soak up a little of the olive oil.
Finally, let’s talk about the cheese. It’s not necessary for this recipe, but it’s going to improve the flavor. Parmesan is of course the traditional cheese used in pesto, but any hard, aged cheese will do as long as it has a sharp, salty flavor. And I don’t know about you, but I have yet to travel with a cheese grater; chopping up the cheese with your Swiss Army knife will do just fine.
Prepare your dry ingredients at home, and that way, you can put them in a bag or bottle and simply add the wet ingredients when you’re ready to make your pesto. For longer trips, make a big batch of the dry recipe to take along with you, and just use a small amount of it every time you want pesto with your meal.
Note that this recipe is not a goopy, runny pesto, so if you want that, plan on adding more olive oil.