The RV Chronicles — Back to the days of the Badger Patrol

Convenience is a word best left to describe other cooks, because I’m anything but in the kitchen.

Sure, I’ve marinated my fair share of stuff in bottled dressings and I’ve used a few prepared sauces here and there. Plus I flip the Kitchen Aid and VitaMix switches like there’s no tomorrow. But when my family eats a meal, they pretty much know that just about every ingredient was assembled by my hands.

Life in the Jimmy Rockford though has caused me to revisit my days along the banks of Caddo Lake and beneath the Loblolly Pines of Rusk County, among other places in the Texas landscape. In those days, we Boy Scouts were concerned mostly about filling up. It didn’t matter whether the vittles came from a can, box or jar, so long as it was served sans ashes. I managed to make the chow on just about every outing back then, and prepared ingredients were almost a necessity. After all, would you want to eat meatballs that were mixed and rolled by the hands of a 13-year-old boy in the middle of the woods?

While I have running water, electricity and a little counter space in my current digs, I also have a lazy streak a mile long. This week’s recipe for Dutch Oven Spaghetti & Meatballs isn’t made entirely of prepared ingredients though. I used crushed tomatoes and my own spices, opposed to buying a jarred sauce, which often has added sugar (something manufacturers do to disguise cruddy tomatoes).  As for the meatballs, I’m guilty of buying a bag of the frozen ones. When it was all said and done, my daughter complimented the meal, something she hasn’t done since we hit the road some time ago.

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Dutch Oven Spaghetti & Meatballs (No Boil)

Dutch Oven Spaghetti & Meatballs — No boil. Molto delizioso!

Dutch Oven Spaghetti & Meatballs — No boil. Molto delizioso!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Dutch Oven Spaghetti & Meatballs
Dutch Oven Spaghetti & Meatballs — No boil. Molto delizioso!
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
  • 1 – 28 oz. can, Crushed tomatoes
  • 1 – 28 oz. can plus ⅓ can (about 1 cup) more, water or beef broth
  • 1 lb – Meatballs or Italian sausage links, pre-cooked (frozen is fine)
  • 12 oz – Spaghetti, uncooked & broken in half
  • 3 – Garlic cloves, minced (or the garlic powder equivalent, if you're really lazy)
  • 1 TB – Dried basil
  • 2 tsp – Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp – Red pepper flakes
  1. In a Dutch oven, combine tomatoes, water/broth, garlic, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.
  2. Add meatballs/Italian sausage links and mix well.
  3. Add spaghetti, stirring to combine. (Make sure it's submerged.)
  4. Cover.
  5. Light about 20 charcoal briquets; allow to burn until edges (not entire briquets) are grey.
  6. Place about 10-12 briquets on Dutch oven lid, and another 6-7 beneath it. This results in a temperature about 325°F.
  7. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until meat is tender and pasta is al dente, stirring regularly.
  8. Season with salt and parmesan, if desired.



  1. To answer you’re question…NO! I would not like to eat meatballs rolled by the hands of a 13 year old who’d been out in the woods all day. You’re being so inventive during this adventure and I have to say, those spaghetti and meatballs look great! Obviously your daughter thought so too.

    • adamjholland says:

      Exactly, Diane! And these meatballs, in all fairness, were carefully picked out. But, had I not found them, I would have gone with their rubbery cousins. (I didn’t feel like pre-cooking Italian sausage links). I hope all is well Down East.

  2. I’m with your daughter on this and I haven’t even tasted the dish, but it looks SO good!! Who can resist a classic dish of spaghetti and meatballs…and the fact that you made some of this with premade ingredients is fantastic! 🙂

    • adamjholland says:

      Wow. Who knew I’d get kudos for premade ingredients? But seriously, I was picky with the premade stuff. It really was a good dinner. It would taste even better out in the wilderness somewhere. 😉

  3. This dish does look good and frankly, I have not had a recipe yet for meatballs that beats having them already to go into the pan. For this kind of thing, my saved time is worth it. This looks like serious comfort food to me.
    I like to use browned frozen meatballs in a quick soup, it helps make it taste like it cooked for much longer.

    • adamjholland says:

      True that, Jill. I was a little ashamed to be using frozen meatballs. But I at least shopped for meatballs that were halfway worth a damn. Not as good as homemade, but … my home is not what it was six months ago.

  4. I really like all these campfire recipes! This one looks especially easy and spaghetti is a well loved dish in this house.

    • adamjholland says:

      Thank you Kelli. I brought along the cast iron Dutch oven for the hell of it — never intending to use it 2-3 nights a week. But it’s easy and I don’t have to dirty up my tiny kitchen. Plus, it’s really fun to use. Do you know that there are Dutch oven clubs? Everyone gets together and cooks something on-site and they go around sampling.

  5. That photo makes me want to take my tongs and dig in. I’m not a a fan of a lot of the frozen meatballs out there. What kind did you use? Trader Joes has some that are decent.

    • adamjholland says:

      Believe it or not, I used a store brand (H.E.B) that had an ingredients list far better than everything else in the freezer. As good as homemade? No. But a decent substitute.

  6. Aww Adam, you should not be ashamed of using a pre-made/frozen food. This looks delicious, I plan on adding this to our camping recipe repertoire, thanks!

    • adamjholland says:

      Thank you, Kathryn. I’m not always ashamed to use pre-made/frozen stuff, but you have to understand that the meatballs I’ve been eating for the past 20 years are worthy of being served for Sunday dinner. (This was good, though!)

      • Then it was worth it! Take care… I know what RV life is like, we did it for 6 months in a dinky 17-foot class C. Talk about small!

  7. This dish looks very taste! Your all recipes are great! congrats! :))

  8. My son is an Eagle scout. My husband never quite made it. But they both can cook over a campfire! However it is the thought of the meatballs that make me laugh. Ever since the kids were 5 years old we’ve volunteered to cook for a soup kitchen. We always did this with friends, so that made 5 kids all 5 and under, helping in the kitchen. Well, that and the 10 older kids and the 12 adults. So someone gave the job of rolling the meatballs to the 5 year olds. That is until we took it away. OMG! You have never seen such a mess in your life. And of course, that was before the day of plastic gloves! We did warn them not to lick their hands!

    • adamjholland says:

      I’m sure those 5-year-olds had a grand time rolling meatballs. No telling how much foreign … stuff was rolled with them. 🙂 The most difficult thing about earning the Eagle Scout rank is sticking with it. I was Life by age 13 … and didn’t earn Eagle until I was 17. I wanted to quit so many times and my parents would say ‘You can quit if you want, but you’re so close.’ Guilt works wonders sometimes.