Like many of you, I have been on a quest to build up enough food storage to carry us through at least a minor apocalypse, which right now looks to have come in the form of inflation. My food storage journey started years ago with just a few humble packages of pasta and some big containers of Prego spaghetti sauce from Costco. That’s it. I had to start somewhere and cooking with pasta was the simplest and cheapest route I knew.
I have since expanded my food storage, but pasta retains its place of honor for several reasons. Pasta is cheap, it stores for years, and is easy to prepare. Add that it’s kid-friendly, adds bulk to any meal, is easy to rotate through food storage and it’s practically perfect. Plus, new bean and rice-based gluten-free kinds of pasta mean that anyone can enjoy this staple food
My Cooking with Pasta Challenge
Rather than just acquiring more food for emergency purposes, I am now focused on making sense of what I have. I want foods that can be mixed and matched to create the largest number of meals possible. (This is one reason why it’s important to know how to cook from scratch.) I don’t just want food, I want food I can make into nutritious and interesting meals.
My challenge was this: if ALL I have is pasta and some shelf-stable foods, what kinds of dishes could I make for my family?
Obviously, pasta and spaghetti sauce will get old quickly, so I researched some new and creative ways to use pasta and shelf-stable ingredients. My goal was twofold:
- What meals can I create right now with pasta and the canned or freeze-dried foods in my pantry?
- Are there additional foods I should be stocking in my pantry to increase meal variety?
Tailor Your Food Storage to Your Food Preferences
I had a few requirements for how I wanted to better incorporate cooking with pasta into my routine.
- First, the pasta dishes I culled out needed to use as few ingredients as possible.
- Second, I looked for dishes with common ingredients that you can easily substitute with other common foods. For example, a dish that calls for ground beef should be able to use canned beef, chicken, or pork without loss of flavor.
- Third, ingredients must be versatile, In other words, it shouldn’t matter if an ingredient is fresh, canned, dehydrated, or freeze-dried. Fortunately, there are tons of freeze-dried and canned food options on the market these days. This means nutrition and variety are widely available even for shelf-stable foods.
So feel free to use these recipes as suggestions, but tailor your food storage to whatever your family likes to eat.
Don’t Forget the Water
Before I get into specific dishes, let’s talk WATER. Pasta is a water hog. Even if right now sourcing water is a non-issue, someday it might not be. You need to plan for that and understand how to squeeze every last drop out of your water supply if you want to cook with noodles in a water-stressed scenario.
Water is so crucial to any emergency preparations that I recommend you take the Survival Begins with Water course before you do anything else. At the very least, have a plan in place for storing water.
Fortunately, pasta water can be reused to stretch your water resources a little farther. For example, high-end restaurants use the starchy water to make flavorful sauces. You can also use your leftover water for homemade soups or to cook beans. Margaret Eby, of Food and Wine Magazine, even suggests using pasta water in your bread to help it rise. Finally, you can always use it on your compost pile or garden.
Pasta Classics with a Shelf Stable Twist
- Pasta with Red Sauce. This is so obvious it doesn’t even deserve a mention except as a reminder that nearly all vegetables and meat can be thrown into a red sauce. My family’s favorite is chicken, sausage, and zucchini, but your tastes might be different.
- Pasta with White Sauce. Pasta with a jar of Alfredo sauce and canned clams or shrimp is a shelf-stable fancy food. For a more economical version, use canned meat and homemade white sauce. Add peas or another vegetable for a one-dish meal. Freeze-dried cheese, available from Thrive Life and other vendors, will make any white sauce dishes even more authentic.
- Pasta with Butter or Olive Oil and Cheese. Everything is better with butter and cheese, but did you know that canned and freeze-dried butter is now available? No need to use Crisco or lard like our ancestors, this is the real thing. Likewise, you can get freeze-dried cheese that tastes like—and is—cheese. (Click here for a freeze-dried cheese tutorial.) You could also use Kraft parmesan cheese in this dish.
- Casseroles. No article about cooking with pasta would be complete without a nod to the humble casserole. For example, egg noodles, canned tuna, powdered milk, and a can of cream of mushroom soup are all it takes to make Tuna Noodle Casserole, a yummy 1950’s staple. It’s also easy to substitute any pasta, canned chicken, and cream of chicken soup in here. Add peas, sprinkle cheese, then cook in your oven, solar oven, or even over a fire. For more casserole versatility, check out Survival Mom’s No-Recipe Casserole.
- Beef Stroganoff. This particular shelf-stable version is from the Thrive Life site. I found an even simpler version in The Prepper’s Cookbook. (see below)
- Pasta Salad. Pasta salads use cooled pasta so you can use leftover pasta or make it fresh and allow it to cool. Combine Italian dressing, veggies, canned meat, and freeze-dried cheese in whatever combinations appeal to you. This makes a filling meal that doesn’t have to be served hot and is easy to transport.
- Soups. There are literally thousands of soup recipes out there. Soups are particularly well adapted to shelf-stable ingredients because they can hide texture issues. Pasta can also be thrown into any broth-based soup to bulk it up. As long as you have water, soup is always a good “go-to” dish. For the most versatility, try Survival Mom’s No-Recipe Soup.
Thinking Outside the Pasta Box
- Fake Lo Mein. This is a creative recipe for spaghetti that doesn’t require any whacky ingredients. It could be a welcome change of pace.
- Pasta and Beans. If someone said “pasta” during a word association game, “beans” would not be the first thing I came up with. I was thus a little surprised to find thousands of recipes for pasta and bean dishes. This is a wonderful discovery since pasta and beans are two of the most common storage foods. Here are a couple of recipes to try– Easy Tuscan White Bean Pasta recipe and Vegetarian Black Bean Pasta.
- Chili Mac. The vast number of recipes out there for Chili Mac is overwhelming. Obviously, it’s tasty or so many people wouldn’t be making it. Chile Mac is now on my list of foods to try. I like that it uses basic ingredients and common spices.
- Pasta Smothered with Canned Chili (or Sloppy Joe or whatever). This is probably an obvious idea, but if you’re like me you don’t always think of the obvious. The idea is to use pasta as a base then smother it with chili or Sloppy Joe sauce. Maybe even slightly concentrated soup would work. This also works great with rice as a base instead of pasta.
Additional Resources for Cooking with Pasta
- Simple Food Storage Recipes for Tight Times. This Survival Mom article shows you how to stock up on three months of food quickly. Cooking with noodles is one of the keys to this plan.
- The Prepper’s Cookbook. A cookbook of 300 recipes that use shelf-stable food.
- 15 Pantry Recipes for Emergency Preparedness. There are several easy pasta recipes in this collection as well.
P.S. Another food storage staple that can stretch your budget and help feed a lot of people inexpensively is rice. For more on how to do this, check out this Survival Mom article.