Pasta is a go-to camp meal for a lot of people, but since it’s such a common dish, it’s easy to get into a rut. Really, though, there’s no reason that you should be destined for boring pasta dishes, and one of my favorite ways to improve them is to make a nut-based “parmesan.”
Obviously, we are not talking about a real Parmesan. That would be an actual cheese and come from Italy. And I am certainly not talking about that stuff in the green container. No, here we are talking about a Parmesan alternative.
But while not an actual parmesan, this topping has one essential quality in common with the popular past topping: It’s salty. This helps to add an additional savory layer-umami, if you will-to any dish that you are cooking, which is essentially what we do when we add parmesan cheese. Since Cheese Alternative Salty Ground Hazelnut Topping is too long to say and write-not to mention it sounds awful-we’ll just go ahead stick with calling it “Hazelnut Parmesan.”
The idea for hazelnut parmesan originally came from a French vegetarian cookbook, in which the authors used it as a topping for mushroom soup (sidenote: delicious). Since then, it has become a staple in my kitchen, both indoors and out.
I recommend making a batch of this hazelnut parmesan and keeping a container of it in your spice bag. You can make your batch as big or small as you like, this recipe will make enough for at least a few meals. If you’re heading out on a longer trip, you might want to make a larger batch as it has uses far beyond pasta, and can be used to add some extra flavor to essentially any savory dish. Sprinkle it on sautéed vegetables, or over a soup. I will even let you in on a little secret: I will sneak spoonfuls of it into my mouth when no one is looking, so I won’t judge if you decide to take that route.
If you don’t have hazelnuts on hand, you can use a variety of other nuts or seeds; almonds work great as do sunflower seeds. Whatever you are using, the important thing is to toast the nuts or seeds first, to help bring some of the flavor out, and then grind them down with some salt. I prefer to use a flaky sea salt for this, but you can use whatever you have on hand in the kitchen.
Because it’s nut-based, it’s also a vegan-friendly recipe, which can be helpful if you are camping with friends who have dietary restrictions. Since we’re on the track of accommodating for dietary restrictions, this dish is made using brown rice pasta, a nice alternative if you are trying to avoid wheat. You can of course make it with any kind of pasta that you like to bring on trips, but I happen to like the taste and consistency of brown rice pasta.
How much pasta you want is up to you, and we are going to assume that you have already mastered boiling a pot of pasta. Once that’s cooked pair it with slightly sweet sun-dried tomatoes (another easy ingredient to keep on hand during long trips), some freshly chopped garlic and top it all with your salty hazelnut parmesan, and you have yourself a dinner worthy of any sunset, be it on a beach, on a mountaintop or at a campsite.
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces, 70 grams) raw hazelnuts
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (depending on how salty you want it)
Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC)
In a baking pan, toast the hazelnuts for about 7 to 10 minutes. The hazelnuts should get darker in color but you don’t want them to burn. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
Place the hazelnuts and salt in a food processor and mix together until finely ground. Store in an airtight container.
Brown Rice Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Hazelnut Parmesan
Makes: enough for 2 people
2 portions of brown rice pasta (or any pasta of your choosing)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
About 10 to 15 sun-dried tomatoes (more or less depending on how much you like them)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (depending on how oily the sun-dried tomatoes are)
2 to 3 tablespoons hazelnut Parmesan
Ground black pepper
Boil water and cook your pasta until desired consistency. Feel free to follow the directions on the box/bag.
While your pasta is boiling, finely chop your garlic and cut the sun-dried tomatoes into smaller pieces.
When the pasta has finished cooking, pour off the water, or save the water and make your hot chocolate with it after dinner.
Add the chopped garlic and sun-dried tomatoes to the pot, along with the olive oil, hazelnut Parmesan and some ground black pepper. If there is any leftover oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, throw that in too. Stir it all together and spoon into bowls. Top with some additional hazelnut Parmesan for good measure.
Camp Notes is a big high five to the fun of sleeping outdoors and all that comes along with it. You know, camping and stuff.