If you remember my campfire mac and cheese tragedy, you might not be surprised to know that there was more to this story. I was trying to make a gourmet meal, but all I had to work with that could feed a crowd was a beat up, scorched, old pot with short, stubby handles.
We’ll get to that awesome recipe. But first, the story:
My ex was always trying to show off with an old bayonet he brought on camping trips. He tried to jam the bayonet into the pot handles to lift it off the coals, and the whole thing slipped, tipped, and tumbled into the flames.
Lesson learned. Cooking a multi-step dish is tricky when you’ve got just one pot and an open fire with zero temperature controls. No wonder the pioneers on the Oregon Trail were renowned for their bravery more than their culinary chops.
The Alpha Pot from Sea to Summit would have saved my campfire mac and cheese, for sure. This lightweight, nesting cookware features a lid that doubles as a colander with a built-in strainer; perfect for when you’ve got a pasta craving. The inside is marked with volumetric measurements so you can know exactly what you’re getting into. And the bottom is designed to be grippy so it will stay on top of your camp stove without mishap.
Most importantly, the Alpha Pot has a handle that rotates and locks in place, guaranteeing a sturdy grip. When you’re done, it cleverly folds up to hold the lid in place, meaning you won’t be misplacing the pieces of your set in between adventures.
If you want to give it a shot and be part of my mac and cheese redemption, the recipe is below.
Smoky Sausage Campfire Mac and Cheese
1 box pasta. Spirals, shells, or traditional macaroni will all do nicely. Avoid whole wheat in this case, since it takes longer to cook and thus requires extra fuel and water.
1 frozen kielbasa sausage, italian sausage, chorizo, etc
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk
1 frozen bag cheddar cheese, gouda, pepperjack, colby, etc.
1 pre-mixed cup of macaroni seasoning
Optional: single-serve packets of cream cheese or frozen stick of butter, ½ onion, diced
1 TB Smoked Paprika
½ tsp salt
1 TB dijon mustard
1 TB Frank’s Red Hot sauce
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 TB garlic powder
1 TB onion powder
1 tsp Liquid Smoke
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Mix the Macaroni Seasoning before you head out. Put it in a small plastic storage container or ziplock bag, and tape shut to be extra sure the liquid won’t escape.
At the campsite, set up your stove and pot if you’re using something like the Alpha system or your dutch oven over the fire if you’re going old school. Cook the boxed pasta according to the package directions, but ere on the side of using less water. Ideally, you’ll hit that sweet spot where the pasta is perfectly al dente but the water has mostly evaporated off so you don’t have to drain it.
Slice up your sausage into coins while the pasta cooks. If you have an extra container or pot, set the pasta aside. If not, no worries, simply shove the pasta to one side in the pot and rotate that side off the fire. Drop your sausage coins in and let them saute. If you decided to bring onion or a stick of butter, saute that now, too.
Once the sausage is sizzling and has released its juices, add in the evaporated milk and Macaroni Seasoning. Next, sprinkle in your cheese and keep stirring to keep the mix from sticking and to evenly coat the sausage/pasta mix. If you chose to bring cream cheese, now is the time to add that, too. Once the cheese is getting melty, remove from the fire or stove and serve.
There are all kinds of fun ways you can top this, too. Bring along a baggie of breadcrumbs for more of a baked vibe. I personally like to collect those packets of red pepper seasoning that come with your pizza order and save them for camping trips in case one of my trail meals needs an extra kick. Same for the packets of parmesan, soy sauce, Chinese mustard, hot sauce, ketchup, etc. Those single-serve cream cheese packets are easy to snag from continental breakfast buffets, too, next time you do the motel thing.
It’s also super easy and light weight to pack in shredded kale or collards, some pre-roasted squash, or a can of diced tomatoes, Rotel, or green chilis if you want to eat your veggies with your campfire mac and cheese. As long as you don’t dump it in the fire, it’s yours to enjoy!