First, step away from the microwave.

By Betty Gold
Updated May 05, 2020
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Ah, leftover pasta. If you haven’t had it at least once these past few weeks, consider us awestruck.

Pasta is, after all, a near-perfect food. Whether we’re talking pre-pandemic or week whatever-we’re-at of quarantine, we can always look to pasta when we need a dinner that’s easy to prepare, affordable, and shelf-stable. It’s extremely versatile, too, which means you can dress your noodles up in whatever sauce you have on hand—or just toss them with a pad of butter with salt and pepper—for a family-friendly meal that takes 20 minutes or less.

One of the much-loved things about pasta is that you can make a big batch of it and eat it for days. But before you go cooking five boxes of fettuccini (fellow compulsive meal-preppers, greetings!), you’ll want to make sure you know the proper way to reheat your pasta.

Why? Because giving your cacio e pepe or bolognese a “quick zap in the microwave” will likely return underwhelming, rubbery-and-dry results. There’s a method to the madness that is leftover pasta. Here’s how to reheat your noodles so they taste as good as day one.

For Sauce-Free Pasta

The best way to reheat noodles that haven’t been tossed with sauce is to place them in a metal strainer and dip them into a pot of boiling water until they’re warmed through, about 30 seconds. This will not only keep them from drying out—the quick hit of intense heat will prevent them from getting mushy, too.

For Saucy Noods

If your leftover pasta has already been tossed in alfredo or meatball marinara sauce, put it into a shallow ovenproof dish, cover it with foil, and bake it in the oven at 350° F until just heated through, about 20 minutes. To make it extra gooey, remove the foil and add a sprinkle of Parmesan in the last five minutes. You can also warm pasta and sauce, covered, in a microwave or in a pan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until hot.

The Shelf-Life of Leftover Pasta

Remember, cooked noodles only stay fresh for around three days, so make sure to eat it all up before you’re forced to toss it (a travesty we’re sure you won’t be facing).

Need inspiration for more pasta-filled family dinners? Try your hand at one these delicious, easy to make pasta recipes (like Bucatini with Kale and RicottaPasta With Parsley-Almond Pesto and Fried Onions, or Shrimp and Asparagus Fra Diavolo). You can also opt to keep things simple: drizzle your leftover noodles—sans sauce—with good-quality olive oil, salt and pepper, and finish with a shower of shaved Parmesan.