Inspired by the finest restaurants in Tuscany…no, not really. But this is a tasty backpacking dinner recipe — filling, flavorful, unique, and packed with calories.
- Recommended serving weight: 5.6 oz
- Total calories: 700
- Caloric density: 125 cal/oz
Like instant potatoes, polenta absorbs a significant amount of water, at a 4:1 volume ratio. So this meal cooks bigger than the measly 2.5-oz bag of polenta would suggest. Backpackers with smaller appetites should reduce the amount of polenta by 0.5 oz. Those wanting more calories or a higher caloric density should increase the quantity of olive oil or Parmesan.
- 2.5 oz || Polenta, aka grits
- .75 oz || Olive oil
- 1.0 oz || Parmesan (grated)
- .75 oz || Peppers (air-dried)
- 0.5 oz || Tomato powder
- 0.1 oz || Garlic
- Salt, papper, and red hot pepper flakes to taste
Chunks of dry salami are a wonderful addition to this meal, for both flavor and protein.
For more ingredient info, refer to this page: Backpacking Breakfasts & Dinners — Ingredient Info & Sourcing
When solo, I bag all of the ingredients together save for the olive oil. I carry the olive oil in a 1-, 2-, 4-, or 8-oz Nalgene Polyethylene Bottle depending on the trip length.
In a group, each member is given their own bag of polenta. The other ingredients are communally carried, and distributed in the field. I use a 1-liter Platypus Soft Bottle to carry the olive oil. After the first use, some oil inevitably gets onto the threads and will spread everywhere unless it is protected with a 1-gallon plastic bag.
For many reasons, I make all of my meals soupy. So my instructions are simpler:
- Add at least 12 oz of water to my stove pot.
- Add peppers to give them more time to soften up. If all the ingredients are mixed, I do my best to siphon off the peppers. It’s inconsequential if some of the other ingredients also end up in the pot.
- When the water is almost boiling, add the polenta and all other ingredients. Bring the heat back up for a 30- or 60-second simmer. Stir to avoid splatter.
For perfect at-home consistency, add 10 oz of water. Do not add the polenta until there is a boil, and stir vigorously to avoid burning the polenta to the bottom of the pot.