© Luca Nebuloni on Wikipedia
© Luca Nebuloni on Wikipedia

5 Easy Pasta Recipes for Backpackers

© Luca Nebuloni on Wikipedia
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
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Pasta Recipes Easy to Cook When You’re Travelling!

Ah, pasta. How you have kept the hunger locked away during our times of budget travel. Pasta is the go-to food for many backpackers because a) it’s cheap, b) it’s a good source of carbohydrates, and c) it’s easy to cook. However, like any food, having the same recipe all the time can bore your taste buds to death. Take a look at these five easy pasta recipes for backpackers to liven up your meal!

Although we don’t suggest you have pasta every night of your backpacking trip – remember your balanced diet, people! – it’s definitely worth including in your diet to keep the costs low. Pasta in New Zealand only costs between NZc90-$2.20 for a 500g (1lb) bag. (See more typical food costs in What is the Cost of Backpacking in New Zealand?) Plus, it travels around very well being a dried food. The carbohydrates past contains gives you sustained energy while making a satisfying foundation to go with nutritious food partners like fibre-filled beans and vegetables, heart-healthy fish, protein-packed cheese and antioxidant tomato sauces.

How to Cook Pasta

There’s no shame in not knowing how to cook pasta. (Ok, maybe there’s a little. Just don’t tell anyone you’re reading this paragraph). Luckily enough, it’s easy. Here’s how to cook pasta.

  1. In a saucepan, bring some water to the boil. You’ll need about twice the amount of water than pasta.
  2. Add 1 tsp of salt to the boiling water.
  3. Add pasta to the boiling water. Remember, pasta expands when it is cooked so bear this in mind when deciding how much to add to the recipe. A good starting point is 1 cup per serving.
  4. Allow the pasta to cook in the boiling water for about 12 minutes, giving it a stir once in a while. To check if the pasta is cooked, stick a fork through it. If the pasta slips off the fork it should be cooked. Taste it to see if it has a soft texture.
  5. Drain the pasta in a strainer or by simply holding the saucepan lid over the pasta as you pour the water down the sink.

And if you want to see more easy recipes, try out these 7 Easy Hostel-Friendly Microwave Recipes.

pxhere© pxhere

Creamy Mushrooms and Spinach Pasta (v)

Use any type of pasta with this recipe. This recipe is for one person. For more people, just double the recipe. Plus, it’s vegetarian to keep the costs low and to save the planet. Top the pasta dish with your choice of cheese for added taste.


  • 1 cup – pasta
  • 1 tbsp – olive oil
  • 1 clove – garlic chopped
  • 1 quarter – onion chopped
  • 1 cup – chopped white button mushrooms
  • 1 cup – baby spinach
  • 2 tbsp – sour cream


  1. Cook pasta
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a frying pan at a medium to high heat
  3. Add garlic to the oil and fry for 1 minute until fragrant
  4. Add onion and fry until tender
  5. Add mushrooms and baby spinach and stir fry until the mushrooms have shrunk and browned
  6. Stir in sour cream
  7. Drain pasta and stir pasta into the vegetables and sour cream, then serve!
© Luca Nebuloni on Wikipedia

Chilli Tuna and Tomato Pasta

A spicy kick to your meal! This tuna pasta dish serves two people due to the fact that you have to buy the ingredients in cans, giving you more ingredients than necessary for one person. If you only need one serving, save some of the sauce for another day and cook the pasta from fresh. Reheating pasta is never as satisfying as freshly cooked pasta.

This dish also tastes good without the chilli, so just remove the chilli from the recipe, if you can’t stand the spice!


  • 2 cups – pasta (use any pasta)
  • 2 tbsp – olive oil
  • 1 half – onion chopped
  • 2 hot chilli peppers – seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 can – tomatoes chopped
  • 2 cans – tuna
  • 1/2 tsp – salt


  1. Heat olive oil in frying pan on a low heat
  2. Fry onion and hot chilli peppers in a pan until tender
  3. Turn heat up to medium and stir in tomatoes and tuna
  4. Season with salt and leave to simmer for 20 minutes
  5. While the tomato mixture is simmering, cook pasta and serve!
Luca Nebuloni on Flickr© Luca Nebuloni on Flickr

Pesto Pasta (v)

Hey, pesto! The easiest recipe of the bunch! You can buy jars of pesto which keep very well, meaning you can make this recipe in every once in a while without the ingredients going bad. (With the exception of the vegetables, but you were going to buy them fresh anyway, right?) This recipe serves one person. Just double the recipe for two people.

To make the vegetable ribbon, just pull a vegetable peeler once over the vegetable putting as much pressure down as possible.


  • 1 cup – pasta (use any pasta or spaghetti)
  • 1 – carrot peeled into ribbons
  • 2 – zucchini peeled into ribbons
  • 1/4 tsp – black pepper


  1. Cook pasta
  2. About 5 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the carrot and zucchini to the pasta and boiling water
  3. Drain the pasta and vegetables then put them back in the saucepan
  4. Mix the pesto through the pasta
  5. Season with black pepper and serve!
 Katrin Gilger on Flickr© Katrin Gilger on Flickr

Lentil Bolognese (v)

This makes about enough food for two meals so keep some bolognese sauce for another day, cooking the pasta or spaghetti fresh next time, or double the recipe to serve at your hostel pot luck dinner.

Addition of the herbs and baking soda is optional (and tastier), but the meal is flavoursome enough without for those who don’t want to carry herbs around with them. Plus, this makes a great dish for a pot luck dinner in your hostel. See 5 Potluck Dinner Recipes for Backpackers.


  • 1 cup – pasta
  • 2 tbsp – olive oil
  • 1/2 – onion finely chopped
  • 1 – celery finely chopped
  • 1 – carrot chopped
  • 4 cloves – garlic chopped
  • 1 can – tomatoes chopped
  • 1 tbsp – dried basil (optional)
  • 1 tbsp – dried oregano (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp – baking soda (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp – salt
  • 1/4 tsp – pepper
  • 1 can – red lentils rinsed
  • 1 cups – water


  1. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan
  2. Add onion, celery and carrot and fry for 5-10 minutes until tender
  3. Add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds
  4. Stir in tomatoes, herbs, baking soda, salt and pepper
  5. Stir in lentils and add water
  6. Leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally
  7. Meanwhile, cook pasta, take the bolognese off the heat and serve!
 jeffreyw on Flickr© jeffreyw on Flickr

Spaghetti Carbonara with Bacon

The “fancy” pasta option. That’s because Parmesan in New Zealand isn’t exactly the cheapest cheese option. Nevertheless, if you want to treat yourself try this delicious carbonara with any type of pasta or spaghetti.

This recipe serves one person. Double it for more servings.

The pasta cooks the eggs when combined but perhaps not thoroughly so don’t eat if you have a really weak stomach. Speaking of eggs, have you seen 7 Ways To Cook Eggs In A Hostel?


  • 60g (2oz) – spaghetti (about the same diameter of an NZ$ coin if you bunch spaghetti together)
  • 2 strips – bacon diced
  • 4 – egg yolks
  • 1 cup – parmesan grated
  • 1/4 tsp – salt
  • 1/4 tsp – black pepper


  1. Cook pasta
  2. While pasta is cooking, fry bacon in a frying pan over medium heat until cooked. Transfer the bacon into a bowl and keep the fat drippings in the frying pan. Take the frying pan off the heat.
  3. Drain pasta and be ready for this next bit
  4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs constantly then add the fat drippings.
  5. Quickly add the drained spaghetti and parmesan to the egg yolk and toss to combine
  6. Add the bacon, salt and pepper and serve!

More Recipes for Backpackers

Pasta is great and all, but to avoid eating pasta every single day when you are on the road, try out these other dishes.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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