Pasta is the go-to meal for busy weeknights, and it’s always a delicious experience. So delicious and convenient you want to repeat it the next day ! Maybe even bring it into work for lunch. And then you have to reheat it.
But can you reheat pasta ? When you look at it it’s such a clumpy, sticky mess you wonder if there’s any saving it. It was just fine last night ! Let’s see how we can reheat that pasta.
Can you reheat pasta ?
Yes, you can reheat pasta and you have to provide some extra moisture for lubrication. Leftover pasta has already absorbed all the water it can, either from the sauce or the surrounding air, and because of the starch on the noodles it’s now stuck together. Reheating it will mean adding a bit of moisture so the noodles will unstick and the sauce will flow again.
Do not expect reheated pasta to be as good or have the same texture as fresh pasta. Reheated pasta is softer, and you may lose some of the sauce because it’s been absorbed into the noodles themselves. There are 4 main ways to reheat pasta, and we’ve added an extra one for plain pasta with no sauce.
And as a bonus, we’ll walk you through packing a pasta lunch for work so you don’t have to worry about clumpy pasta.
Reheating pasta in the microwave
The microwave is by far the easiest and most convenient way to reheat pasta, though it may not be the most efficient. It really depends on your pasta, how much sauce it has, how big the portion is, and what kind of noodles you’ve got.
We’re going to assume you’ve got pasta with sauce on it. Plate the pasta on a plate that is a little deep (not a bowl, but not a plate) and add a tablespoon of fresh, cold water to the pasta. Seal the plate with some plastic wrap, otherwise your pasta will dry up. Over the top of that add another plate, to better circulate the heat.
Put the pasta into the microwave, set it on medium heat so it doesn’t burn at the edges, and leave it at least 5 minutes. After the initial 5 minuets touch the pasta through the plastic wrap. If it’s hot, it’s done. If not, put it back in for another 3 minutes.
Once the pasta is done remove the plastic wrap and toss the noodles a bit to get some sauce flowing and get an even temp across all the food.
And there you go, hot, not-clumpy pasta. Your second plate (the cover) should be clean because of the plastic wrap.
Read also: Can You Reheat Nachos ?
Reheating pasta on the stove
When you reheat pasta on the stove you need a wide, shallow pot (or skillet), a tablespoon or two of water, and a lid. Add your pasta, add the water (or milk, depending on the sauce) and turn the heat up. The heat and the water will make the pasta unstick, and will loosen the sauce.
Unlike the microwave, this time you have to stir the pasta occasionally. Let it heat up a little first, otherwise you’ll have broken, sticky pasta. This method takes a little longer than the microwave, but is easier to control and you can see the texture change so you know when to stop cooking it.
Reheating pasta in the oven
Some pasta dishes are best left in the oven, and it doesn’t only include lasagna. Of course, if you’ve got lasagna all you have to do is cover it and put it in a preheated low oven for 20 minutes.
If you’ve got regular pasta but want to heat it in the oven, you again need a fairly deep plate, and some water (more than the stovetop), and some aluminum foil to cover the food.
Plate the pasta, add the water on top, and put the aluminum foil tent on top. Try to get it as tight as you can, with just a hole or two at the top to release steam. Make sure the oven is preheated to medium low or low (depends on how strong your oven is).
Leave the covered pasta in the oven for about 20 minutes, possibly 5 minutes more. The steam from the water you’ve added will unstick the pasta and the sauce, and will also prevent the sides of the plate from burning the pasta. The aluminum tent will circulate steam and heat evenly on top of the pasta so the top layer heats up.
Be very careful when removing the plate ! Use oven mitts and only plate the hot plate on a kitchen towel. If you place it on the counter or table the heat difference will crack the plate. Careful when removing the aluminum cover, make sure your face is away from the steam.
Reheating plain pasta (no sauce)
If the pasts you’re planning to reheat is plain, it has no sauce, your life is much easier. All you have to do is to bring a pot of water to a boil, and dunk your pasta in there. It will unstick in a couple of minutes and you’re done.
Or, you can do the microwave method and add more water so all the pasta unsticks.
How to pack pasta for lunch at work
If the pasta you’ve made tonight is also meant for tomorrow, you have to pack it a little differently than you might first think. To make sure the noodles (or macaroni) don’t absorb all the sauce and then get clumpy, pack the noodles and sauce separately.
This way when you’re at work you can reheat the noodles first with a bit of water, reheat the sauce separately, then combine the two together. This way you get some actual sauce on your pasta.
Now, if you’ve already mixed your noodles and your sauce you should know that sauce will pretty much disappear into the noodles. Maybe you’re fine with that, maybe not. The starch on the pasta will thicken the sauce and the pasta itself will absorb all the liquid from within the sauce (any sauce).
If this happens to you at work, simply follow the microwave method we described above.
How to store leftover pasta
Leftover pasta should be stored separately, meaning the noodles and the sauce should go in separate containers, so you can then reheat them separately. This way you get more sauce, and a better texture.
Always be sure to store pasta in microwave-proof containers, because you’re likely going to reheat the food in them anyway.
You can keep pasta ion the fridge for as long as 48 hours, provided the containers are airtight.
What can you do with leftover pasta ?
Leftover pasta can be nice, but when you’ve made way too much and already reheated some of it the next day, you have to get creative. Here’s a few ideas on what to do with leftover pasta.
Add your pasta to a soup. This works especially well if you’ve got a red sauce pasta, since you can make a minestrone or a tomato cream soup and sneak in some pasta.
Turn pasta into a frittata. Simply arrange your pasta in a skillet, and lightly fry it in the smallest amount of oil (or no oil). Beat a couple of eggs and pour them on top of the pasta. This will get you one of the most filling breakfasts you can imagine, and you don’t even need bread with this one.
Turn leftover pasta into a pasta salad. If your pasta is not completely stuck together you can throw it into a salad. Add a few leafy greens, some peas and corn, and you’ve made yourself quite a salad. Of course it’s not a diet salad but it makes for a nice turn on the usual pasta lunch.