What happens when you cook extra pasta and end up with a mountain of leftovers that you don’t want to throw away? Can you freeze it? Yes. You can freeze the cooked pasta so that it doesn’t go to waste. You don’t need to freeze raw pasta as it already has a long shelf life.
Frozen pasta really does come in handy especially when you’re tired and wish that dinner could make itself. Don’t you wish you could snap your fingers and have ready pasta? Also, freezing pasta saves you the hassle of washing the same pot every now and then after making pasta. We’ll tell you how to freeze cooked and thaw pasta for your next meal in such a way that it doesn’t get mushy:
How to freeze cooked pasta
Pasta may take a short period to cook but it actually takes longer than you think to prepare from start to finish. Usually, you will be required to boil the water first which takes about 10 minutes which is a long time when you’re on a tight schedule. Freezing pasta helps make meal preparation quicker and easier.
How you cook the pasta makes a lot of difference when it’s time to thaw the frozen pasta.
Cooking the pasta
When cooking pasta that you plan on freezing, aim to cook it al dente. This means that the pasta is not overcooked but retains a little firmness to the bite. When the pasta is slightly undercooked (but still edible), it prevents the mushiness when you have to reheat. Pasta with soft texture will not survive reheating – firmer is better.
For example, if the instructions on the packaging say to cook the pasta for about 10 minutes, set the timer for 8 minutes (a minute or two under the recommended cooking time).
Prepping the pasta
Drain the water and allow the pasta to cool for a while. You can rinse the pasta under cold running water to help them cool quickly and stop the cooking process.
Toss the pasta with a little olive oil before it’s completely cold to prevent it from clumping together as it freezes and while you’re using in your recipe later.
Packing and freezing the pasta
You can either pack the cooked pasta in a single container or in multiple containers depending on the amount of pasta that you have. If possible, store the pasta in amounts that you would typically use in a recipe.
Put the pasta into the storage containers straight from the cooking pot after tossing with oil. Try to spread out the pasta within the bag before freezing. When you let the pasta bunch at the bottom, it’ll be harder for you to reheat them evenly.
When storing longer pasta like spaghetti, it helps to make nests instead of freezing in a single layer. To make the nests, lay out the pasta on a baking sheet and use a fork to twirl the pasta. Leave a couple of inches between the nests and then put the baking sheet in the freezer. After, move the semi-frozen pasta into the storage containers.
If you don’t have freezer bags, use airtight containers, glass jars, or zip-top bags. Ensure that you have removed all air from the bag to prevent freezer burn. Store the pasta for up to 3 months.
How to thaw and reheat frozen pasta
When you’re ready to eat the pasta, it’s time to defrost it. Frozen pasta thaws quickly and you’ll have a warm and hearty meal in your belly in such a short time. The amount of time it takes to thaw and reheat the pasta is dependent on the amount of pasta you’re using. Since the pasta is already cooked, all you need to worry about is getting it warm enough to be served with the sauce and eaten.
Remove the pasta from the freezer and thaw it in either of these ways:
- The most common way to thaw frozen pasta is in a sink by running tap water over it. The only problem is that this usually takes a longer time
- Pop the pasta in the microwave. When doing this, lay the pasta in a flat container so that they can heat as evenly as possible. Cover the container lightly so that almost all the moisture is retained.
- Place the pasta in warm water to bring it to room temperature and then drain. Ensure there’s enough water to cover the pasta. Then bring the water to a boil and allow the pasta to cook for about 1 minute.
- Add the pasta to a simmering sauce and stir until the dish is ready to serve. Try not to over stir the pasta. Reheating the pasta in sauce allows you to cook to the ideal texture. The simmering sauce will quickly defrost the pasta and heat it.
- Alternatively, if you plan on using the frozen pasta for lunch later on, just pack the pasta together with some sauce and allow them to thaw on their own. By lunchtime, they should be ready.
Reheating the pasta shouldn’t take long – you want to make sure it’s heated through and doesn’t get mushy.
Freezing the sauce
Wherever possible, freeze the pasta and the sauce separately. Store the home-made sauce in small cubes and use it together with the pasta later. It will melt quickly in the microwave without exploding.
Can you freeze pasta together with a sauce?
You will have the most successful pasta storage if you freeze it separate from the sauce. This is especially because both of these take different times to thaw and reheat.
However, if the leftovers were already mixed in, you can still freeze the pasta together with the sauce. When it’s time to thaw and reheat, it’s best that you do it in the oven, in an oven-safe dish.
It’s also possible to freeze whole pasta dishes such as pasta casserole, creamy squash pasta bake without a problem. Just reheat them in the oven and you’re good to go.
Are there any limitations?
Frozen pasta (with or without sauce) is great for a quick family dinner. But are there any caveats when it comes to freezing cooked pasta? Actually, yes!
- Gluten-free pasta doesn’t freeze, thaw, and reheat very well. This type of pasta doesn’t give the best results – it barely refrigerates. For the best results when freezing gluten-free pasta, mix it with sauce first.
- Pasta that has been overcooked is likely to disintegrate when you defrost and reheat.
- When using shorter pasta like macaroni and shells, you can omit the olive oil. Another way that you can do this with longer pasta is to make sure that you cook them al dente, drain them completely then spread them out on baking sheets, straightening them as much as possible until they freeze in a single layer then you can transfer them into storage bags. Try to see what freezing method works best for you.
At some point in our lives, we have made more pasta than we can finish in one sitting. Freezing pasta, especially leftovers, is one way to ensure that you don’t waste a single piece. While fresh pasta dishes have the best flavor and texture, freezing and thawing leftover pasta the right way guarantees that you have a tasty meal for later. We hope that you learned of the best ways to store cooked pasta from this article and reheat it for a quick meal.