You might be wondering why it’s worth bothering to dehydrate pasta. Store-bought dry pasta is already dried so it seems like a great ingredient for camping and backpacking meals. It has all the advantages of dried food like being lightweight and shelf stable. All of these things are true, however by cooking the pasta at home and dehydrating it, you can rehydrate it without heat. Cooking with dehydrated pasta gives you a wide array of choice in your backpacking meals and save the extra cost of buying freeze-dried meals.
Is it really worth it?
The answer depends on your camping style and the type of pasta. For fast-cooking pasta varieties like Capellini (Angel Hair pasta), I don’t bother. I also don’t dehydrate pasta for car camping – saving a few minutes of cook time isn’t worth the effort of cooking and then dehydrating at home. But for backpacking meals, dehydrated pasta is a great idea for several reasons. Dehydrating pasta is also a great way to make instant meals in a jar for emergency preparedness.
What you need to know about pasta before you start dehydrating.
Store-bought dry pasta is essentially dehydrated pasta dough. I’ve tried rehydrating it without cooking, and the result is not something you want to eat – it has an unpleasant raw flour taste. So pasta needs to be cooked. Ramen noodles are an exception – they are pre-cooked before drying, so they don’t need to be dehydrated.
Dehydrated pasta is not “instant” or truly quick-cooking pasta like instant rice. This is what I expected when I first started using it. If you put dehydrated pasta in a pot of boiling water, it takes almost as long to rehydrate as the original cooking time. I tested this and found that for several varieties of pasta (with 7-11 min cooking times), it took only 1-2 minutes less time to prepare dehydrated pasta in boiling water.
For homemade pasta, cook it before dehydrating it if you plan to use the pasta for camping or backpacking. Most instructions for drying it online cover drying the dough, not cooked pasta which we want here. These instructions also work for homemade noodles.
Beware of some of the re-hydrating times quoted online. I’ve seen some which are much too short based on my experience.
The benefits of dehydrated pasta
The primary reason for dehydrating pasta is to save the time and fuel needed to cook it in boiling water. Dehydrated pasta is already cooked, which gives you much more flexibility in preparing it. You can rehydrate it in cold or room temperature water, and then add other ingredients to finish the meal. Make easy DIY instant meals from your favorite recipes by combining pasta, sauce, meat, and, vegetables, then rehydrate with hot water. You can dehydrate the pasta with or separately from the sauce. Pasta also makes a great addition to soup recipes.
Select the right pasta
Choosing the right type of pasta will allow you to cook and prepare meals much faster. You should also consider how you will store your pasta. Here are some characteristics to consider:
- Pasta cooking time (of dry pasta) – pasta with short cooking times will rehydrate faster. Capellini, vermicelli, or angel hair is the fastest-cooking pasta. Egg noodles, elbow macaroni, and rotini cook in 8 to 10 minutes. Other kinds of pasta take up to 15 minutes to cook fully to a tender consistency. Here is a convenient list for reference. Slow-cooking thick pasta will take a long time to rehydrate.
- Storage space – look at how tightly the pasta packs up. Spirals, penne, and egg noodles take up much more space than small elbow macaroni or orzo pasta. Consider how much food you need to carry before deciding which pasta to include in your meals. If you want to pack spaghetti or other long-strand pasta, break them into small pieces for easier storage.
- Sharp edges – watch out for sharp edges and points. Dry pasta’s hard edges can easily penetrate a plastic bag, especially in vacuum-sealed meals.
- Nesting -some pasta shapes (especially shells) have a tendency to nest within each other. If the shells are nested during cooking or dehydrating, those pieces take much longer than the rest. I find it time-consuming to separate the cooked pasta shells before dehydrating them.
How to dehydrate pasta
Here are the steps for dehydrating pasta at home
- Cook the pasta – The cooking process for pasta is simple. For store-bought dry or fresh pasta follow the instructions on the package. If you are making your own pasta, be sure to cook it before dehydrating. Pasta is cooked in a large pot of water with a little bit of salt. Bring it to a boil, add the pasta, and cook for the recommended time (and to your preferred level of tenderness).
- Drain and rinse – After cooking your pasta, drain it and rinse it with cold water in a colander. Rinsing the pasta is important to keep it from sticking together during the drying process. What the pasta with a towel to remove excess water if desired.
- Spread on dehydrator trays – spread your pasta out in a single layer on or food dehydrator trays. For small pasta place parchment paper or a fine mesh screen over the trays. I find that elbow macaroni easily falls through the trays on my dehydrator. Large shell pasta well sometimes dry wrapped around the plastic tray sections, so it also benefits from a liner on the tray period.
- Dehydrate your pasta – while most online instructions recommend dehydrating at 135° F, I tested a batch 160° F. The pasta from both batches look similar and rehydrated to the same texture. For 135° F dry for 6-8 hours (all of my pasta was dry after 7 hours). For 160°f dry for 3-4 hours. Unless you are dehydrating your pasta with sauce or other foods which need a lower temperature, I suggest you use the highest temperature on your dehydrator. It’s also perfectly fine to dry pasta at lower temperatures, just expect the time to be much longer.
Check for doneness
Your pasta is finished when it is dry and brittle. It will be hard and look very similar to the dry pasta you purchase in the majority of grocery stores.
While air drying is common for homemade pasta dough, I don’t recommend it for dehydrating cooked pasta. It’s essential to remove most of the moisture for a good shelf life and especially for long-term storage. Dehydrating with heat is the best process for home cooks.
Dehydrate pasta with sauce
Dehydrating meals with pasta and sauce together is a great way to save time, make several delicious backpacking meals at once. The process of dehydrating pasta with sauce is similar to regular dehydration but requires some extra steps in order to get the best results. Here are some tips on how to properly dehydrate full meals.
- Cook pasta as you normally would. Make your sauce following your favorite recipe with any vegetables you like, or use a store-bought sauce. You may also include lean meats such as ground beef, just be aware this reduces the shelf life of the dried food. When cooking meat for your pasta try to use the least amount of oil possible. Cooking in a nonstick pan helps reduce the amount of fat you need. I personally prefer to cook meat separately and add it to meals later.
- Combine the pasta and sauce then divide into portions based on the serving sizes you want to cook for each meal. Your dehydrated meal will be more difficult to separate after drying and it can be difficult to judge serving sizes once the food is dehydrated. I recommend one or two person servings in each portion for the best flexibility.
- Spread your food out in a thin layer on the solid non-stick plastic liners for your dehydrator trays (these are made for fruit leather and sauce). You may also use parchment paper if you don’t have plastic liners. Dehydrate full pasta meals at 135° F for 6-8 hrs. Unlike dehydrating plain pasta, you need to use a lower temperature to protect the flavor of the sauce and vegetables. Note: this temperature is not safe for raw meat.
- Be sure your pasta is fully dry by checking to see that is is hard and brittle. The dehydrated sauce may still have a leather-like consistency and bend. Store the dried food in an airtight container as soon as possible. If your pasta sauce includes tomato sauce, it will absorb moisture from the air easily.
Pro Tip – Weigh the food
To simplify re-hydrating, weigh the serving portion and record the “wet” weight before dehydrating. Then record the weight after dehydrating for a “dry” weight. The difference is the minimum amount of water you need to redhydrate the food.
Pasta portion sizes
If you are dehydrating pasta with sauce, divide the food into your desired portion sizes before drying it as described above. When you dry pasta separately, it’s easy to portion by weight. A simple inexpensive kitchen scale is an easy way to ensure you get the right amount in each serving. 1.5 to 2 oz of dry pasta is a good serving size for most meals, but you should consider increasing this amount if you are thru hiking and need the calories for a long day of strenuous exercise. Experiment with the serving size on short trips until you have an idea of your individual needs.
Tips for rehydrating and cooking with dehydrated pasta
If you are cooking with stove, add enough boiling water to cover all the dehydrated food and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. If you have measured and recorded the weight of your servings before and after dehydrating as suggested above, use this amount in ounces of hot water. Note that liquid fluid ounces equal the same number of ounces of weight. Check and stir after about 5-10 minutes and add a little water if necessary.
For a faster result, heat the food in a pot on the stove with water until the pasta is tender. If you are backpacking, this can be done with a Jetboil or other lightweight backpacking stove. Remember that it will take slightly less time to rehydrate than the original cook time.
For no-cook meals using room temperature water, expect the rehydration process to take much longer. Plan on 1-2 hours for pasta to become completely tender. My large elbow macaroni noodles took about 1 1/2 hours, and large shells took 2 hours in my testing.
Storing dehydrated pasta
Your pasta can be stored for long periods of time if done correctly. To ensure that you get the longest shelf life out of your dehydrated pasta, it’s essential that your pasta is completely dry before storing. This may sound obvious, but any remaining moisture will allow your pasta to mold. Dehydrated pasta should break, not bend. If needed, place it back in the dehydrator for another hour or two until it’s totally dry.
For camping trips, package your pasta in plastic bags in the serving sizes you intend to cook. For storage at home, use any airtight container such as rigid plastic containers or mason jars. Plastic Ziploc bags or mylar bags are also good options, just be aware that they are vulnerable to rodents that can easily chew through plastic. Your dehydrated pasta has a similar shelf life to dry store-bought pasta and should be good within 1-2 years.
Dehydrated pasta should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. While your pasta won’t go bad or be unsafe to eat, the flavor does deteriorate over time. I recently tried some pasta I dehydrated over 2 years ago and it had a mildly unpleasant flavor (it was stored in a freezer bag in the pantry).
Long term storage
If you want to store dehydrated pasta for longer periods than about a year, I recommend vacuum sealing it in mason jars. Vacuum sealing in bags or storing in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber are also good long-term storage options, just beware the pasta made puncture the bag. Consider using another bag, paper towels, or even aluminum foil between the pasta and the outer bag to protect against puncture.
Label your pasta
As you can see from my photos it’s hard to tell which batch of pasta is dehydrated or straight from the bag. The dehydrated pasta is a similar size but the shapes are less consistent. Macaroni noodles have a slightly wrinkled appearance and some of the pasta looks more translucent but the differences are subtle. Be sure to clearly label your dehydrated pasta to prevent confusion.
Different ways you can use your dried pasta in recipes
As discussed above, you can dehydrate full meals or dehydrate individual ingredients and combine them in different ways I prefer to dehydrate pasta and most other foods separately so I have dehydrated foods on hand to make different recipes. It’s not hard to make sauces from dry ingredients like tomato powder and commercial diary powders. I’ll share more of these recipes as soon as I can.
Secret trick – Shorten Pasta Cooking time Without Dehydrating
Earlier I mentioned I tried rehydrating store-bought dry pasta to see what happened. The result is rehydrated pasta dough. While it certainly didn’t taste good at that point, I became curious about how it would cook. I added this rehydrated pasta dough to boiling water, and as I had hoped, it cooked faster than dried pasta. If you want to try this for yourself, soak the dry pasta in water for about 2 hours to ensure it is fully rehydrated (thicker pastas may take longer). Then cook it in boiling water just as you would dry or fresh pasta, and check frequently for doneness. For the elbow macaroni noodles I tried, rehydrated pasta cooked about 3 minutes faster than dried pasta.
Dehydrating other foods
If you are interested in dehydrating other foods for you camping, backpacking, or pantry storage, check out these articles:
- 1 Food Dehydrator
- 12 oz Elbow macaroni noodles or other dry pasta Fresh pasta may also be used
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- Cook pasta following the instructions on the package. Bring a large pot of water with salt to a boil, add the pasta and follow the recommended cooking time. Check the pasta to ensure it is cooked to your desired tenderness.
- Spread pasta on dehydrator trays in a single layer. Use a fine mesh screen or parchment paper to support smaller pasta sizes.
- Dehydrate at 160°F for 3-4 hours. If you are dehydrating other foods at the same time, lower temperatures are perfectly safe. For 135°F, pasta will dehydrate in 6-8 hours.
- Check to ensure pasta is fully dry – it should be hard and brittle.
- Separate the pasta into serving portions (typically 1½ to 2 oz per person) or store it in an airtight container.
- To rehydrate using cold water: Add enough water to cover the pasta, allow to soak for 2 hours or until the pasta is fully rehydrated
- To rehydrate with hot water: Add enough boiling water to cover pasta, soak for 15-20 minutes.