Trek Southwest - Hiking and Camping the Desert Southwest

Skillet Spaghetti and Meatballs

in Skillet and Grill Grate Recipes

My family loves spaghetti and meatballs, but to take it camping just seemed like such a hassle. Between boiling the pasta and cooking the sauce and meatballs – it was just too much work for camping (and too many dishes to clean!) Until I discovered that you can do it all in one skillet! I had no idea that this was possible, but I stumbled across a few blogs that mentioned doing this complete meal in only one pan. And my mind immediately went to camping! So I decided to give it a go. And I LOVED the result!

Skillet Spaghetti and Meatballs

I went for ultimate simplicity with this recipe. Frozen meatballs and jarred sauce make it a quick grab and go meal to make. Plus, the frozen meatballs act like an additional ice block in your cooler (at least until they thaw.) If you wanted to make this more gourmet, you certainly could by making your own homemade meatballs or sauce. But if you’re like me – and camping is more fun with easy quick-fix meals – then go this route.


This recipe makes enough for 2-3 big portions or 4-5 little portions.

  • 1 – 16 oz package frozen fully cooked meatballs (I used turkey, but any other kind of meat would work well too!)
  • 4-6 oz uncooked spaghetti noodles
  • 1 – 26 oz jar spaghetti sauce
  • water (enough to fill your spaghetti sauce jar 2/3 full)
  • 1/2 Cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • any additional veggies or spices you like to add (mushrooms, onions, garlic, olives, extra oregano, etc)

What Else You’ll Need

  • 12″ cast iron skillet (or another sturdy campfire-worthy skillet)
  • baking sheet or aluminum foil to cover skillet
  • hot pads
  • 30 charcoal briquettes and a way to light them OR enough wood to build a roaring fire
  • grill for your cooking area (it’s easier to place the skillet on a grill than to have it directly on the coals)
  • zip-top plastic bags to hold any additional veggies or herbs you’re bringing to add

Before You Leave Home

About the only thing you would need to do at home as far as prep work for this meal is to assemble your ingredients and chop and bag up any additional veggies you are wanting to add. Dice your onions. Chop your garlic (or buy pre-chopped garlic – my favorite way to go!) Slice up your olives. Roughly chop up your fresh rosemary or oregano so it’s all ready to simply dump into the skillet at the campsite.

At the Campsite

The bulk of the work for this recipe is just adding stuff to the skillet a few things at a time and checking for doneness.

Step 1

Prepare your cooking area. Light those briquettes or if you’re using wood – get those logs burning. You’ll want a white hot (briquettes) or red hot (coals) cooking surface. Once your fire is all warmed up – place that grate across the area so it’s ready to hold your skillet.

Step 2

If you packed your meatballs into your cooler frozen – you’ll want to check to see how defrosted they are (usually over-nighting it in a cooler gets them pretty defrosted.) However, if they’re still very frozen – you’ll want to add them to the skillet to warm up a bit first.

Add Meatballs

Step 3

Now add your extra veggies, sauce, and water. Stir. Let this simmer all together for about 15-20 minutes. Check at the 15 minute mark and make sure nothing is burning.

Add Sauce

Meatballs and Sauce on Fire

Step 4

Once the veggies and meatballs are warmed up – it’s time to add the noodles. Move your meatballs in a ring around the edge of your skillet.

Meatballs in a Ring
Now break your noodles in half and drop them into the pocket you just created.

Add Pasta
Cover the skillet and let cook for at least 10 minutes. Check at this point. If your noodles are cooked enough for you – remove them from the heat. If not – let them cook 5-10 minutes more checking for doneness.

Cover Skillet

Noodles are Cooked

Step 5

Once everything is all warmed up and your noodles are cooked – remove the cover and sprinkle your cheese on. Put the cover back on and let that melt a minute. Once your cheese is melty enough for you – pull it off the fire and let sit for a minute.

Sprinkle Cheese on Top

I also added a little more oregano because I love oregano!

Cheese Melted

Step 6

Dish that yummy stuff up! I had to add a little bit more parmesan on top because I also really love parmesan. And more cheese is never a bad thing!


This is definitely a new addition to my camping cook list because it met all of my criteria. It’s easy both to cook and clean up, it’s delicious, it’s inexpensive, and it’s filling after a long day of outdoor fun.

Happy campfire cooking!

RobinGuest Post by Robin Laulainen. Robin writes about camping and other outdoorsy stuff at Trek Southwest, pets every dog she meets, and drinks more coffee than she should. She blogs about her other passion - creating - at Make It Yourself Girl.


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