Easy Pine Nut and Pesto Pasta

Our friend Brendan Leonard recently co-authored and published a camping cookbook titled “Best Served Wild”. We asked Brendan to recommend the simplest and most lightweight recipe from the “Multi-Day Outings” chapter. Here’s one that any bikepacker should be able to make…

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Words and photos by Brendan Leonard

I’ve done a few thousand miles of living off a bicycle, and I’m focused on four things when it comes to food (as I’m sure you are): lots of calories, light weight, low bulk, and not spending two hours making dinner after I’ve already spent eight hours pedaling my bike.

Easy Pine Nut and Pesto Pasta, Best Served WIld

Brendan preparing a meal at camp outside the town of Bleik during a bike tour through the northern isands of Norway.

This recipe is all four of those things. Seriously, your idiot roommate from college who couldn’t manage to replace the toilet paper in the bathroom, get to class on time, or make proper macaroni and cheese from a box could handle this recipe. It may sound fancy, but it’s not hard to make.

Basically if you can pee all by yourself, you can make this stuff. And it will probably impress the folks you’re bikepacking with, because it’s a nice, savory pasta with the super-protein and minerals of a big fistful of pine nuts. Plus, you don’t have to cart in a jar of sauce to make it. It’s high-calorie, perfect for a dinner after a long day of biking, and before the next long day of biking.

  • Easy Pine Nut and Pesto Pasta, Best Served WIld
  • Easy Pine Nut and Pesto Pasta, Best Served WIld


Enough for two hungry people


  • 1 0.5-ounce package powdered basil pesto pasta mix (see below)
  • 1 ounce olive oil
  • 8 ounces fusilli pasta
  • 1 cup pine nuts

Easy Pine Nut and Pesto Pasta, Best Served WIldYou can buy powdered pesto sauce mix in about any store. These are the two most common brands, the Simply Organic Sweet Basil Pesto on the left, and the McCormick on the right. Knorr also makes one. Each will set you back between $1-2.


  • Estimate enough water to cover pasta (probably 32 ounces or so) and bring it to a boil.
  • Add pasta, return to boil, cover pot, and reduce heat to low.
  • Cook pasta for 5 minutes, turn off heat, and let soak for another 5 minutes, or until pasta is al dente.
  • Stir in olive oil and pesto mix.
  • After pesto is blended into pasta evenly, add pine nuts and stir in.
  • Enjoy.
  • Easy Pine Nut and Pesto Pasta, Best Served WIld
More scenes of Brendan’s various campsites on a bike tour in northern Norway.
Best Served Wild camping cookookFor more recipes like this one, check out Brendan’s new cookbook (with co-author Anna Brones), Best Served Wild. Also, if you don’t already, make sure to follow Brendan’s always entertaining Instagram @Semi_rad.

“Even when you’re miles from a full spice rack and only have a single-burner backpacking stove to work with, you can—and should—eat well. Best Served Wild offers up good back country food meant to be shared with friends around an open campfire. Adventure writer Brendan Leonard and food writer Anna Brones team up to bring you veggie-focused recipes for taking your backcountry food game beyond freeze-dried backpacking meals and brick-like energy bars. They share recipes for everything from single day adventures to overnight trips to multi-day outings—real food for real adventures.”

  • Big up Brendan and Anna, inspiring us all to do it better in the backcountry!

  • I am guilty of being a terrible cook, relying heavily on dehydrated meals for smaller trips. This one is something I could make… I think… although my wife says I even screw up spaghetti. Now we just need powdered olive oil.

  • John Short

    I could definitely see making this a freezer bag meal by placing pasta of choice in bag. With so many choices of pasta’s out there, quinoa, rice, black bean, etc, the outcomes are boundless! Packing in some fresh basil would be easy, hand crush and toss in the bag along with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, some crushed red pepper, the EVOO and pine nuts shake bag to mix, pour boiling water over the mixture, seal and place in your cozy cooker to steep 20-30 minutes.Sit back with a cup of coffee and wait to refuel with this superb home cooked meal You’d be the envy of the trail! I am planning my first overnighter on the Central Fl loop around Lake Apopka then into the Wekiva St Forest for some trail running then camp and try this meal as described. Can’t wait!!

  • Nice. Watch out for those bears around Apopka! Not sure if they are pesto fans… but I’ve heard they are giant bears!

  • colin avolve

    I made a test batch recently, and would suggest adding some nutritional yeast. Very light, easy to pack and adds some flavour. Made a big difference for me

  • good post! I’ve done a few hundred miles of living off a bicycle too, but I like meat!

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