For home cooks who are budget conscious, environmentally conscious, or generally interested in streamlining their weekly meal prep, leftovers can play a crucial role in their efforts to save money, reduce waste and time saving.
However, the key to maximizing the potential of your leftovers is to come up with a plan that highlights the positive attributes of the dish while mitigating its downsides. Leftover pasta is a great example of this principle; Texture-wise, reheated pasta can face many challenges. If you’ve ever wondered why pasta often comes out soft or dry when reheated, and if you’ve ever wondered what you can do to avoid this sad fate, we’ve got answers for you, courtesy of food scientists. food and professional chefs.
Why does reheated pasta get so gummy?
When we asked a scientist and food consultant Brian Chau why refrigerated pasta tends to become gummy (and why these negative characteristics only increase during the reheating process), he gave us a straightforward answer: “Starch. The pasta cooking process extracts the starches when it is boiled. The starches, once cooled, pass through [a process called] starch retrogradation. This means that the cooked starches have gelatinized and form a gel-like structure that will solidify when cooled.
Chau gets more specific with his explanation telling us that “amylose and amylopectin in starch molecules create [that] gel-like structure. The sticky and gummy texture [causes the pasta to] freeze, which means the strands or pieces of pasta will stick together.
Cooked and refrigerated doughs can also progress past the “gummy” stage and become downright mushy. Chau explained this by saying that “the dough is caused by having too much water around the pasta”.
“When the starch retrogrades but is exposed to a pool of water at the bottom of the container, the starches interact with the water and form a pasty texture, much like the way starch dissolves in water,” he added.
Cooking pasta to order and tossing it with warmed sauce will yield the best results.
Cooked pasta can be a tricky dish, but pasta sauce—from meat sauce to cream sauce to marinara to pesto—usually keeps very well in the fridge and freezer. For this reason, the best and most foolproof way to use up leftover pasta is to “make extra sauce, then cook a batch of fresh pasta to go with the remaining sauce,” explained Nico Romo, the chef and owner of Laura in Summerville, South Carolina. Chef and cookbook author Amy Riolo also prefers this method, pointing out that “in Italy, sauces are usually reheated on the stove, but pasta is cooked fresh daily.
Sauteed in a skillet works best for pasta in sauce.
Let’s say you made a whole pound of pasta for dinner, tossed it with your sauce of choice, served it to family, friends, roommates, or even yourself. , then ended up with a stash of cooked and gravy leftovers. According to Fernando Scarpati, the chief executive of ferdy in New York, this pasta should be “jumped dry.
“That means you heat up a stainless steel skillet, pour in a teaspoon of [olive] oil into the hot skillet, add the pasta to reheat, and constantly stir the pasta, “stirring” it for three or four minutes,” he explained. “It will be warm, still firm and not mushy [through] this technique. »
To avoid overheating in the microwave, add a little water.
As a general rule, our expert sources advise against reheating cooked pasta in the microwave; Microwave heat can easily suck moisture out of starchy foods like cooked pasta and rice, so emptying out your leftover pasta pomodoro or fettuccine alfredo could leave you with an unpleasantly dry result.
But if “dry sautéed” is not an option and the microwave is your only reheating option, follow the advice of a food scientist, consultant and author Bryan Quoc Le and “Avoid reheating pasta in the microwave without a little extra water. A small splash of water will keep the pasta hydrated enough to withstand the high heat of the microwave without over-wetting it and causing the starchy mess Chau described above.
Cooked pasta can be completely reused in a new dish.
While it’s possible to reheat cooked pasta in its original form, some of our experts prefer to turn leftover pasta into an entirely different dish. “If you’re ready to reuse your cooked pasta, take a cue from the Italians and make it the base of a delicious and satisfying frittata, or [put it in] bean soup or add it to creamy vegetable-based soups,” Riolo suggested.
Online cooking show host and cookbook author Rossella Rago agrees that reusing is the best solution for leftover pasta, and she particularly favors the frittata idea: “You can give last night’s pasta a second chance by adding a few beaten eggs and grated cheese and making a delicious pasta frittata, a common practice in Southern Italy.
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