MSR Backcountry Cafe: Recipe for Chunky Pesto Tortellini

Ingredients_Photo by Ben Kunz

Photos and Story by Lindsey Kunz

This delectable pasta dish is guaranteed to make your friends and fellow campers drool! It’s a rich backcountry recovery meal, well suited to keep you fueled for another epic day in the mountains, be it ski touring, mountaineering, or alpine climbing. One pot is all you need.

Servings: 2, plus leftovers for second dinner or next-day’s lunch

Ingredients: Chunky Pesto
Make this in your home kitchen at least one day before heading into the backcountry to allow the olive oil to mingle with it’s tasty companions. You’ll only need about 4 tablespoons for the backcountry, so the rest can be refrigerated for when you return.

1 ½ cups chopped fresh basil
1 cup olive oil
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup cashews or cashew pieces
¼ cup salted pistachios
¾ cups total grated Parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheeses (Trader Joe’s makes a grated blend that is delicious and budget-friendly)
4-5 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 fresh lemon, juiced
sea salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon (remember, salt is a necessity in the backcountry for replacing electrolytes!)
paprika or cayenne to taste (optional)

Directions: Chunky Pesto
1. Place all ingredients in a blender or a food processor.
2. Pulse on a low setting until the ingredients are thick and chunky but well-blended. You may have to remove ingredients from the blender and add more olive oil slowly until desired consistency is achieved.
3. Divide pesto into two containers: one for the backcountry (place about 4 tablespoons into a resealable baggie or small and light-weight plastic sauce container) and one with the remaining pesto that will eagerly await for your return from the backcountry.

Ingredients: Tortellini Pasta
4 tablespoons chunky pesto (see ingredients and steps above)
1 (12 ounce) bag of tortellini (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand for both price and flavor)
½ red or white onion, chopped
½ red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1-2 oz. Pepperoni, chopped (optional if making vegetarian; I prefer sodium nitrite-free)
2 oz. Parmesean Romano and Asiago cheese, shredded
½ teaspoon crushed red peppers
10 cilantro sprigs for garnish

Tip: For speed and weight savings in the backcountry, chop all ingredients at home and transfer to small resealable baggies or a sealed container. Most craft stores carry boxes of 2”X3” and 4”x5” resealable baggies near their jewelry section, which save space and weight and can be used for other backcountry items, such as your first aid kit.

Directions: Tortellini Pasta
1. Light the stove and bring about 1.5 liters of water to a boil.
2. Add the tortellini and cook until done. Drain.
3. Mix in chunky pesto until all tortellinis are lightly coated. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, minus the cilantro.
4. Transfer pasta to bowls, add the cilantro, and serve.
Chunky Pesto Pasta_Photo by Lindsey Kunz

Author Adding Pasta_Photo by Ben Kunz