Editor’s Note: To answer your question, Yes! After moving this post into WordPress for publication I did have to go find some good pasta for lunch.
Pasta and noodles go way beyond spaghetti in red sauce. It’s one of the most versatile ingredients we can maintain in our storage. Happily, it’s also an inexpensive carb option for most of us. Pasta and noodles also store for years in their original packaging with just a bug and moisture barrier, requiring little or no extra steps or materials for packing.
Because pasta is viable for low-fuel methods from rocket stoves to sun-based soaking or Wonder Box or thermal cookers, it carries the ease of “weeknight” and slow-cooker and one-pot meals into every level of disaster and prepper.
We’re all kinds of people in all kinds of circumstances, with a wide variety of things that can go wrong to disrupt supply lines and personal purchasing power. Pasta and noodles as a general category can serve pretty much all of us, providing welcome diversity in meal types, but even within that category, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Pasta’s versatility extends beyond its many uses. While the bleached white flour types tend to be most affordable, there are plenty of options. Those who need or want to tailor food storage can select from whole wheat, alternative whole grains and cereals, potato, gluten-free and high-protein pea and bean flour noodles.
There’s also veggie versions – both spiraled veggies and “regular” pasta that contains a serving of vegetables with every serving of carbs.
For those stocking pantries for the early, lower-level ABC through mid-alphabet disasters, or for low-activity bunker situations, the lower calories and nutrient balancing of those veggie pastas may be a benefit.
Once we’re past the power outage, layoff/income reduction, Venezuela-Argentina, and even Great Depression type crises we’re most likely to face and tailoring storage for long-duration mega disasters where we’re working more, we might want to stick to the full-cal or higher-cal and higher-protein options.
Egg noodles, spirals, shells, and others have a ton of uses and application, but aren’t as space efficient as the straight, thin noodles – soba, fettuccini, and spaghetti types – or even ramen. Depending on how much storage area we have to work with, that may influence what we want to stock.
For a handy size-estimation guide, check out this page http://fivegallonideas.com/food-fits-5-gallon-bucket/.
Orzo, ditalini, and pastina are all really small types of pasta. Stars and diti rings are also very small. There are advantages there in that they store nearly as tightly as rice without some of the space loss from some other types of pasta, and they also cook very quickly. They are, however, sometimes significantly more expensive.
The straight, thin noodles are also typically less expensive, especially spaghetti. We can also sometimes find great deals on shorter noodles like the ones we see in Knorr and Wise packets and Lipton boxes by hitting catering and school cafeteria supply shops.
While added versatility comes from the wide variety of choices in type and form, there’s a ton we can do to create variety even with just one or two types of pasta in our storage.
Sauced Noodles & Casseroles offer us a wide variety all on their own. From packets or jars of pesto, Alfredo, and cheese powders to options we make with canned soups or from scratch, the ability to change things over and over again using the same carb base and even some of the same veggies and proteins is an enormous boost to our emergency plans.
Hamburger Helper and other boxed noodle kits can be a great source of inspiration. So can all the many packets of seasonings around the gravy mixes, Oriental foods, and Mexican/Tex Mex sections of the supermarket.
Most can be made easily using readily available food storage items. The easiest is subbing cooked beans for meats in Mexican-style noodle dishes, but we can also snag some canned chicken, seafood, or beef, or purchase TVP or for-real meats in freeze-dried formats.
Many – such as herbed or tomato noodles served with fish and the many simple twists that keep poached or fried egg carbonara different and interesting – also lend themselves well to homesteaders who are producing at least some of their own proteins.
There are also twists on sandwiches such as Philly cheese steaks, good ol’ chili mac or tuna noodle casserole, speedy layered pastas instead of traditional lasagna noodles, and things like buffalo chicken slow-cooker recipes that apply for all levels of food storage.
Hit the internet for pasta recipes that include food storage items you already have or garden produce you grow, and that can be rounded out with inexpensive, shelf-stable, supermarket-available options such as bacon bits, powdered milk, and seasoning packets that can make meal times both varied and easy on the labor front, both in preparation and cleanup.
Oriental Noodles – Beyond the very many Italian, American, and Mediterranean sauces we can ladle over our noodles, we can also expand our menus by turning regular ol’ spaghetti, angel hair, and fettuccine noodles into a variety of Eastern dishes.
Peanut noodles, Mongolian bowls with changing ingredients based on dehydrated, canned and fresh produce, and stir fry with noodles instead of rice to create lo mein, chow fun, or chow mein all give us forkable options.
Curry sauces, Singaporean garlic noodles, Liangpi, Sichuan Dandan, and plenty of others give us a variety of flavors using some basic staples and some twists on spices – which we can readily acquire in shelf-stable jars and packets of powder, or make truly from scratch.
Ramen, ban mian, and Thai soup and seasoned noodles are other options. There are also twists where we use wonton seasonings or other dumpling or wok meals’ ingredients to create soups or brothy noodles.
Salads – Cold pasta salad goes well beyond a mayo base with pickles or relish. We can sub in all forms of pasta and noodles for any of the bulgur or wheat salads from around the world, too. Some make use of homestead proteins, windowsill and sprout “garden” produce, and storage foods particularly well.
Macaroni egg salad is one, with numerous add-ins such as canned ham or packets of bacon bits, chopped chicken, or canned shrimp that can keep it fresh, just like the ability to hit it with chili powder here, green onion or chives (or the many forage-friendly alternatives to them) another time – basically, anything we’ve seen done to twist the standard devilled egg.
Bean or pea salads with pastas come from all over, using salad dressings we can store or get packets for, or readily homemade ingredients for sauces such as pesto.
Italian and greek pasta salads can be as simple as canned, fresh, or dehydrated tomatoes with Italian dressing or a Dollar Tree shaker of Italian herbs or powdered garlic. We can jazz them up further with fresh herbs such as basil, bell peppers, banana peppers, canned olives, grilled zucchini or re-hydrated or fresh zucchini slices, and the “sawdust” type shelf-stable Parmesan cheese powders.
As with soups and casseroles, cold pasta salads can also be a really excellent way to stretch a package of shelf-stable salami, pepperoni, or summer sausage meat sticks around a large family.
Soups – One of the major advantages of storing some pasta is that it very readily provides a fork-and-knife break from spoon meals based around boiled wheat and rice. Still, there’s a reason soups have globally been so popular. They’re easy, can be made quickly or in various slow cookers, offer one-pot cleanup ease, make use of oddball bits and pieces and traditional storage foods, and stretch ingredients for filling meals.
Pasta helps keep those fresh, too, providing additional options.
Almost any casserole, salad, or sauced pasta dish can be turned into a soup. There are also longtime traditional favorites that lend themselves to any type of pasta we may have, from good ol’ chicken noodle to subbing pasta for dumplings or potatoes in a hearty chowder or something like zuppa Toscana, or the yams in African and Equatorial peanut soups.
Some, like miso, Tuscan faro-bean sub’ed with pasta, and minestrone can offer tons of flavor and nutrients without being overwhelmingly heavy during hot weather.
Other times, thickening our soups into “creamed” options with instant potatoes, gravy mixes, or flour made from our aging beans can help add to the heartiness (and calories/proteins).
We can also add to the variety of even soups by checking out other international favorites we might not have been aware of. Russian rassolnik, North African onugbu, Polish sausage and cabbage or sauerkraut, and Romanian radauti all lend themselves well to the addition of some pasta (or other carbs).
We can also create “deconstructed” versions of things like tortellini or Turkish manti dumplings for our soups.
Food Storage Variety
Very few single base ingredients can add as much versatility and diversity to our food storage as pasta. Even just selecting budget- and space-friendly spaghetti or macaroni, we can churn out all kinds of cold salads, sauced noodle meals and side dishes, casseroles, and soups – adding not just the variety, but alleviating food fatigue and boredom by providing fork-friendly meals.
In many cases, doing so requires just a few inexpensive tweaks to very similar ingredients.
Since pastas and noodles are also fairly inexpensive carb-calorie bases, are fast to cook (easy on fuels and labor), and have pretty impressive shelf lives just stuck as-is on a shelf and in a bucket, it’s an easy and very affordable way to augment the standards of rice and wheat.