On the trail, Mountain House's Spaghetti with Meat…
Source: received it as a personal gift
On the trail, Mountain House's Spaghetti with Meat Sauce satisfies the palette and fills the stomach (when you eat the whole bag). The taste is pleasant and far less salty than I was expecting. Being neither a fan of spaghetti or pre-packaged backpacking meals, I was quite pleased.
- Easy to prepare
- Bite-size noodles
- Small portion sizes (eat the whole bag!)
- Use less water than recommended
Those who know me know that I'm not a fan of pre-packed backpacking meals. I find them usually flavorless and too salty. Usually, I either dehydrate my own meals, or I steer towards at-home easily prepared meals.
- Side note: You want a great trail meal? Buy an Idahoan Instant Potato packet in your favorite flavor. Cook it in the packet. Then added shredded cheese and pre-cooked bacon. BAM! You spent less than $2, and it's better than anything I've tasted from MH.
But I digress from the review...
Out on the Ozark Trail in April, I finally tried the spaghetti dinner my mother-in-law had given me for Christmas a few years ago. I had put off trying this meal for as long as I could. I figured, the meal wasn't all that good, but it was either eat it or go with another meal plan.
Preparation: Prep was as simple as it gets. Boil water. Add it to the packet. Wait for it to rehydrate. I do not like my food too hot. So I let it sit a good 15 minutes before eating. It was thoroughly cooked, and it mixed well.
- Note: I have discovered over the years that 2 full cups of water is usually too much. It makes the meal too watery and significantly cuts down on flavor. I normally add ~1.75 cups of water for a thicker consistancy. I don't want spaghetti soup!
Taste & Texture: This is where I was truly surprised. I was expecting a flavorless, overly-salted fare. Instead, I got a meal that I enjoyed. Yes, I was on the trail. Yes, I was hungry. But I wasn't starving. I had plenty to snack on while my meal cooked. I wasn't ready to eat shoe leather or one of my hiking partners (Kill him, yes. Eat him, no.)
I also appreciated the noodles were cut short enough to work with my long spoon.
- But I am annoyed with these meals telling people it's 2.5 servings. Experienced hikers know a backpacker is going to eat the entire bag—and then go rummaging through their pack for more food. (I often imagine the newbie and his girlfriend sitting down and expecting to share a romantic meal. Later in the week, hunger has ruined the trip and the relationship has ended.)
Price: I can't leave this review without discussing the ridiculously high price of backpacker meals. $9??? Give me a break. I can eat at McD's for $5, and leave much more satisfied.
- Spend $50 on a food dehydrator. Take your favorite meal at home. Dehydrate the leftovers. Pack it in a foil bag purchased on Amazon. Or put it in a baggie and cook it in a pot.
- Tastes pretty good
- Don't use a full 2 cups of water
- You're going to eat the whole bag + snacks
- You can make tastier meals much cheaper at home
ruinsmay ruin relationships
If Chef Boyardee had to step up his game and cook…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $7.50
If Chef Boyardee had to step up his game and cook for a date, this is what the lucky lady would be served. Not good enough for a Michelin Star-winning restaurant, but good enough for a satisfying meal. Chopped pieces of spaghetti pasta are thoroughly coated in a sweet and tangy red sauce, containing a generous amount of ground beef that doesn't leave meat out of a single bite. While better than the MH lasagna, it isn't one of the best meals from Mountain House. All in all, a solid "second-stringer" backup option.
- Chopped noodles rehydrate more evenly
- Chopped noodles easier to pick up with spoon or spork
- Enough ground beef in sauce to have some in every bite
- Smaller portion size doesn't mean another starch-laden, "gut bomb" of a meal
- Sweet and tangy red sauce (or "gravy," for all y'all Italians out there)
- Simple flavors without much complexity
- Would benefit with included pouches of parmesan cheese or red pepper flakes
- Smaller serving size for larger appetites
Backpacking here in the Chicago suburbs is a sizable undertaking, and not as easy as driving a few miles down the road and stumbling into the backcountry. While the options for backpacking are limited in my home state, the options for hiking are much more plentiful. When I'm not backpacking, I spend my weeknights and weekends day hiking in the immediate area, and when I've spent most my day on the trail, I like coming home and making a stupid-simple dinner that requires as little time as it does effort.
I read in someone else's review that they like to "audition" their freeze-dried meals at home before they take them on the trail. It's the same exact mindset I have, and I try keeping the circumstances as close as possible, using the hunger level from miles of day-hiking to replicate what mine would be in the backcountry.
Mountain House meals are my go-to answer without resorting to the microwave. It's almost a grown-ass man's way of making meals requiring college-level cooking skills.
Take that, Top Ramen.
INGREDIENTS, PER VENDOR'S PACKAGING
In layman's terms?
Noodles, tomato sauce, ground beef, cheddar cheese, and spices.
Those are the main contenders in this dish, and being as simple as spaghetti with meat sauce, it's all you need to know.
NUTRITION FACTS, PER VENDOR'S PACKAGING
Ridiculously high in sodium: 32% DV for one of the 2.5 servings. If you've hypertension, or if you're just watching your salt intake to begin with, go easy on this meal. Either split it with a friend, or make sure it's the only thing you eat all day (if not all week) containing as much salt as this meal does.
At 550 calories for the entire bag's worth of food makes it a lighter meal as far as these are concerned, and not something you'll have to take with you into your nutritionist's confessional booth.
As I always like to put it? Stupid simple.
If you've made at least one Mountain House dinner, well, you've pretty much made them all.
Boil two cups of water, mix them into the contents of the bag, and let it sit 9 to 11 minutes.
Surprisingly, MH was spot-on.
I got a little worried while I was waiting for it to rehydrate. I usually don't mix it together with my spork (after adding the water), but I will take the sealed bag and shake it up to mix the contents and water together without breaking apart the contents. This one sounded a little extra "sloshy," but when I opened up the package and put it onto a plate, it turned out just fine.
Par for the Mountain House course: a bombproof freezer bag. Fold the empty top half over the filled bottom to save pack space, and clip the corners off with scissors if you're worried about the sharp, pointed edges wearing on your UL stuff sacks.
Following the directions on the packaging, I found the noodles came out just right: al dente and slightly firm, while neither crunchy nor soggy.
Although I couldn't do it at the dinner table (my girlfriends comes from an Italian family where cutting noodles would be beyond poor table etqiuette), I loved the fact the noodles were chopped-up. I know this is primarily done to make them rehydrate quickly and evenly, but the two-fold bonus was making them small and easy enough to scoop up with my spork. This was the first pasta dish I've eaten in my lifetime that didn't require any special skills to eat.
As I mentioned in my summary, it's on the level of an upscale version of Chef Boyardee.
Neither thin nor thick, it's your typical, homogenized red sauce that most resembles what comes out of a can of grocery store-bought pasta. It's sweet and a little tangy, but isn't offensive nor does it taste overly salty (amazingly, despite the sodium content).
More than enough, and good enough an amount that every bite of this dish has meat in the sauce. The meat rehydrates well and wasn't chewy nor grainy. Probably the same crumbled hamburger meat they use in their Chili Mac, it's something I've had before and was just as impressed with it in this dish as in the one aforementioned.
Umm...they claim "cheddar cheese?"
If you read my review of their lasagna, you'll know how I feel about rehydrated cheese. The lasagna's cheese was so sticky and stringy it made a mess of trying to eat the dish, and clung to a spork like a magnet.
This claimed it had cheese, but I could neither see nor taste it. Not complaining, because I'd rather have no cheese than cheese that means my dishwashing is going to be my workout for the evening.
TASTE AND FLAVOR
Great overall. Just filling enough to make a light meal of it, without feeling overly full, and hits all the major points of the namesake: firm spaghetti noodles coated in a pleasant-tasting red sauce, in which there's enough meat to enjoy some in every bite.
I added fresh-ground black pepper, grated parmesan cheese, and sugar (yep, another thing I take away from eating with Italians) to mine, and these REALLY elevated the dish to another level. After adding my own ingredients, it really became a flavorful meal than tasted like something homemade. Sure, it's not on the level of your local Italian family restaurant, but it was good, and I'll even put it above the lasagna on my own ranking chart.
Lighter appetites and folks not mindful of their sodium levels.
The 4.51 oz is on the smaller side for MH dinners, and while this was enough to get me by after a day hike, I don't know if I could say the same for it after putting in serious miles on the trail.
Recommended. Italians and foodies may be a little more particular than I am, but it gets the job done, and lets you keep a little more pride than you'd have from resorting to good 'ol Chef B.
If you love Italian food get the Mountain House Lasagna.
Price Paid: $6
If you love Italian food get the Mountain House Lasagna. This spaghetti tastes like Spaghetti O's. Edible but not enjoyable.
I was disappointed because I love their chili mac & lasagna and egg breakfasts.
I've had a lot of Mountain House meals and out of…
Price Paid: like $5
I've had a lot of Mountain House meals and out of the ones I've tried this one tastes the best, but I haven't tried all of them so there could be a better one.
These meals are really light and way easy to make and it doesn't take all your time to make. If you want to eat it for lunch just pull of the trail, boil some water, mix it up and you can eat it on the go.
The only easier backpacking meals I've had are MRE's.
This spaghetti and meat sauce entree was good. The…
Price Paid: $4.99
This spaghetti and meat sauce entree was good. The tomato flavor came through more than it would with a canned meal, and there was more beef.
I used 12 ounces of water instead of 16, because I saw some reviews on another site that the meal was soupy. With 12 ounces it was good. I should have stirred more because there were a couple of pockets in the corner that did not absorb enough water and stayed crunchy.
And, as with all commercial freeze-dried meals, it was very salty (this is why I gave it 4 stars, not 5).
But very convenient and satisfied my craving for spaghetti on the trail.
My son and I tried it on a short hike, we enjoyed…
Price Paid: $4.99
My son and I tried it on a short hike, we enjoyed it. It is quite tasty and very easy to make. A lot better than Top Ramen.