Leftover pasta is just never quite the same the next day. The sauce is dried out, the noodles are bloated, and everything is in an impossible-to-untangle clump. All signs are pointing to an unappetizing meal.
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Tip 1. Stir in a Splash of Pasta Water Before Refrigerating
Before you even pack away your leftovers, add a splash of pasta water to the container with the pasta. The water will help keep your pasta and sauce moist as it sits in the fridge, avoiding that big, dry clump you usually see the next day. (And be sure to save some of that pasta water for the next day!)
Tip 2. Reheat It with Pasta Water
The next day, pull out the pasta water you reserved (or make a cornstarch-and-water substitute) and add a splash to your leftovers before reheating them. The starchy water will help loosen up the dried-up pasta and add some much-needed moisture. Working in tandem, the starch in the water will help keep your sauce smooth and add body without watering it down too much.
SpaghettiOur tests proved that once pasta is topped with sauce, flavor differences from brand to brand are very subtle. But texture is a whole different story.
Tip 3. Use the Right Reheating Vessel and Appliance
- If your pasta has a thick, creamy, and/or cheesy sauce. Test Cook Hannah Fenton recommends reheating the leftovers in a nonstick skillet on the stove. “It helps re-emulsify the sauce and heat the pasta up simultaneously,” she says. Hannah also added that a pan is preferred here due to the increased surface area, allowing for more even reheating. But if you only have a pot or saucepan handy, that will work just fine too.
- If your pasta has a lighter butter- or oil-based sauce, or you're reheating plain pasta. The stovetop method could work, but you can also just use your microwave. Add a splash of pasta water and reheat in 30-second increments.
Tip 4. Think Ahead! Halve the Pasta, Double the Sauce
If you know you’re going to have leftovers, make just enough pasta for dinner, but double the amount of sauce. Sauce is easy to reheat in a small pot the next day, and it freezes well. If you know you’ll have enough time, simply take a few extra minutes and make your pasta fresh the next day for the best-tasting leftovers.