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Salmon Pesto Pasta

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Backpacking Gourmet with SYMG: Guide’s Salmon Pesto Pasta with Toasted Pine Nuts.

Getting into the backcountry is an immersion into a world of escape. Escape from stress, escape from crowds and grid-locked commutes, and escape from tweets, pokes, vines, likes, and blogs (except for this one of course). But one thing you don’t need to escape from – nor do I ever want to – is great food! Backcountry cooking is not synonymous with dehydrated foods, nor is it limited to granola, jerky, and ramen noodles. At Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, we carefully plan our meals with fresh ingredients to include all the essential nutrients, earning the accolade “Backcountry Gourmet” by Sunset Magazine. Here is an example recipe from SYMG’s own Roddy McCalley:

Salmon Pesto Pasta with Toasted Pine Nuts (say that 3 times fast!)



Gear Needs:

  • Large Pot
  • Pasta Claw/spatula/spoon
  • Stove
  • Cheese Grater (if using a block of parmesan)
  • Knife
  • Cutting board




  • 1 lb Fuseli Pasta (something that will hold sauce well)
  • 1 packet Simply Organic Sweet Basil Pesto or other pesto powder.
  • 6-8 oz smoked salmon (foil pouch)
  • 2-4 oz parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 oz pine nuts
  • A few leaves of fresh basil—wrap in a dry paper towel before packing in Ziploc to keep greens fresh.
  • 2 oz olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  • Make your own pesto powder with various combinations of powdered garlic, onion, basil, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and parmesan.
  • Better smoked salmon is in the refrigerator case at most stores–it will keep for a day or two, keep your bear cans out of the sun.
  • Garlic powder


  1. Begin by toasting pine nuts in a dry pan with a sprinkle of garlic powder.
  2. Set pine nuts aside when lightly browned and boil water for pasta. Be sure to add salt for ‘al dente’ pasta—even at sea level this is important; even more so at elevation due to lower boiling temperature.
  3. Chop the fresh basil and set it aside. Cook the pasta and drain it–leaving a few tablespoons of water to reconstitute the pesto.
  4. Add pesto powder, olive oil and stir. Depending on presence of vegetarians and non-dairy eaters, stir in or keep separate the salmon and cheese.
  5. Add chopped fresh basil to individual servings as garnish, with salt & pepper to taste.