The Best Ways to Reheat Leftover Pasta

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Reheating pasta can be tricky, especially when sauce is involved. Here's everything you need to know about how to reheat pasta so it tastes as good as the first time.

Pasta dishes may be some of the easiest meals to make in bulk. For most people, this means a lot of leftovers that will need to be reheated later on.

If you typically just toss your plate of day-old spaghetti in the microwave, you’ll want to read this. 

We’ll walk you through the best ways to reheat pasta so it tastes as good as it did the first night. We’ll also show you how this process varies depending on the type of pasta you’re reheating and answer some important questions concerning the safety of leftover pasta.

How to Reheat Pasta

The best way to reheat your pasta will depend on two factors: how the pasta was cooked and stored initially and how you want the pasta to taste the second time around.

Each of the methods below will give you a slight variation on the final taste and texture of the reheated dish. Each method is also better suited for certain applications over others.

Reheating Pasta in an Oven

Reheating pasta in the oven is a great choice assuming you are dining at home and are looking to reheat a large portion of the leftovers. Unless you are reheating pasta that originally came out of the oven (lasagna, spaghetti bake, etc.), do expect this method to change the final taste and texture a bit.

To reheat pasta dishes that were originally baked, simply preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put your leftovers in an oven-safe pan that is lined with parchment paper, a silicone baking mat, or coated with oil and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.

For pasta dishes that weren’t originally cooked in the oven, you have a few choices. 

The simplest way is to add the pasta to a prepared oven-safe pan, cover, and cook using the temperature and time above. Pasta reheated this way will get crispy on the outside and have a bit more of a chewy/crunchy texture than the original dish.

Or, you can reimagine the meal by topping off the pasta with some vegan cheese before baking it. The cheese will help keep the pasta from crisping up and give it a whole new flavor profile! Cook uncovered as instructed above then, after the pasta is heated through, switch to broil for one or two minutes to melt the cheese on top.

While the oven works well for reheating pasta, it isn’t the most energy-efficient method. That’s why we recommend it only for reheating large portions. For single-servings, choose one of the methods below to save time and energy.

Reheating Pasta in a Microwave

If you are away from home or in a hurry to eat, the microwave can be your best friend for reheating meals. 

The trick to reheating pasta in a microwave is to use steam to keep the pasta moist as it warms up. 

Start with a microwave-safe container and a piece of wax paper or a loose-fitting lid. Add a tablespoon or two of water to the bottom of the container then add your pasta serving. Set the lid or wax paper on top and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Remove and stir the pasta, then put it back in for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Continue doing this until the dish is heated through.

By adding water and placing something over the top of the container, you create steam which helps reanimate dried, leftover noodles. And by stirring frequently, you avoid any of those noodles getting too much or too little heat.

Just be sure not to snap the lid on tight or else your container will explode as the pasta heats up.

Reheating Pasta in an Air Fryer

In general, an air fryer is not a great way to reheat pasta dishes, but there is one exception to this.

Air fryers tend to make things crispy, even more so than reheating in an oven. This feature usually does not jibe well with noodles or sauces.

Where an air fryer can come in handy is with reheating meatballs (plant-based or otherwise).

When cooking up your spaghetti and meatball feast, store the leftover meatballs separately from the sauce and noodles. This way, when it’s time for leftovers, you can pop the meatballs into the air fryer, get them nice and crispy, then add them back to the alternately-heated sauce and noodles for a delicious meal.

Let your air fryer heat up to about 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Stick your meatballs in the fryer basket and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. Check them and return them to the fryer as needed until they are heated through.

You will need to reheat the other ingredients in the microwave or on the stovetop. But taking this extra step will assure your meatballs are crispy while keeping the noodles soft and the sauce from drying out.

Reheating Pasta on the Stove

Reheating pasta on the stove is another great option for most situations and can be done in two ways, depending on how your pasta was stored.

If you kept your sauce and noodles separate in the fridge, start with a boiling pot of water. Add your plain pasta to the pot and stir for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then drain the noodles in a colander.

Add the pasta back to the warm pot then add the sauce. Cook on low until the sauce is heated through.

This method reinvigorates your pasta without drying out or adding too much liquid back into the sauce.

Alternatively, if your noodles and sauce are already mixed, you can steam the dish back to perfection using the stovetop.

Add a few tablespoons of water to a pot along with your pasta and sauce. Put a lid on and heat on medium-low, stirring every couple of minutes until the food is heated through.

Reheating Different Kinds of Pasta Dishes

The above methods will work for a variety of pasta types, but different kinds of pasta dishes lend themselves better to different reheating methods.

Here are the best ways to reheat different kinds of pasta.

Reheating Frozen Pasta

You have a lot of options for reheating frozen pasta if you have the time to wait.

Frozen pasta that has been thawed in the fridge overnight, on the counter for a few hours, or (for noodles without sauce) in a colander with cool water, you can use any of the methods outlined above.

If you have less time to wait, your best option is going to be the oven. For this, add your frozen pasta to an oven-safe baking dish and top with aluminum foil. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, then cook for about 30 minutes.

Rotate the pan and cook for about 30 minutes more until the food is heated through. For pasta that is piled on thick, you’ll have to cook longer, while thinner portions will cook through quicker.

How to Reheat Pasta with Sauce

You can reheat pasta with sauce in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in the oven. The key in any of these situations is to hold on to the moisture.

In the microwave and on the stove, this means adding a little water to the bowl or pot and covering it during the heating process to help steam the ingredients and keep them from drying out.

In the oven, this means using tin foil or a silicone topper to hold moisture in. Alternatively, you can top the pasta with vegan cheese to act as a tasty barrier to keep the noodles on top from drying out.

How to Reheat Fettuccine Alfredo

Because of the fat content of Alfredo sauce (even vegan varieties), this dish is a bit trickier to heat up than other types of pasta.

When cooled, Alfredo sauce separates into oil and water. In order to reheat it so it tastes almost as good as fresh Alfredo, you’ll need to do a lot of stirring and be careful about adding extra water.

The easiest way to reheat Alfredo is in the oven, in a covered, oven-safe baking dish. Preheat your oven to 350, cook for about 15 minutes, then take out and stir vigorously. Put it back in for another fifteen minutes, or until it is heated through.

You can also reheat Alfredo on the stovetop. The best way to do this is to bring a large pot of water to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer. Then place a smaller pot filled with your Alfredo inside the larger one. This provides a gentle, balanced heating environment that won’t dry out your Alfredo or make it too watery.

How to Reheat Macaroni and Cheese

Like Alfredo, macaroni and cheese is difficult to reheat because it has a high fat content. For this reason, you can use the same heating directions stated above and get a pretty good bowl of reheated mac and cheese.

But, if you want to take your dish to the next level, try adding a tablespoon or two of milk or plant-based unsweetened milk to the pasta before you heat it up. 

Since most macaroni and cheese is made with milk to begin with, this liquid tends to mix in and elevate the taste better than water. And that extra liquid will help keep your dish from drying out whether you reheat it in the microwave, oven, or on the stove.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you reheat your pasta, you’ll want to make sure it is safe to do so. Here are some frequently asked questions about reheating pasta safely.

How Long Does Cooked Pasta Last?

As long as it is kept in the fridge in an airtight container, most pasta will last about 4-5 days. Wheat pasta tends to last a little longer than wheat-free varieties made of beans, peas, or rice. Interestingly, noodles mixed with pasta sauce and stored tend to stay fresher longer thanks to the oils in the sauce. Cooked noodles without sauce will go bad after only 3-5 days. 

Cooked pasta from the store or from a restaurant should be eaten within a day or two since there is no way to know how fresh it was when it was served to you.

Is It Safe to Reheat Pasta?

Pasta within the windows outlined above is safe to reheat and eat. Be sure the pasta is heated through and piping hot. Pasta, with or without sauce, is safe to eat after it has reached 165 degrees. 

If you are reheating frozen pasta, be sure you mix frequently toward the end of the cooking process. This will prevent cool spots from forming that could allow food-borne illness to survive.

Can You Reheat Pasta Twice?

Food-borne illness thrives in warm temperatures. When food is cold, the growth of these bacteria and molds slows. When food is heated, the high temperatures kill most of these pathogens. It is the temperatures between these two extremes when the number of dangerous microbes in the dish can skyrocket.

For this reason, it is recommended that you only reheat foods once. 

After the initial cooking process, move the food to the fridge as quickly as possible. This will shorten that dangerous “warm” window. When it is time to reheat the food, take just the portion you need straight from the fridge and heat it to piping hot. Throw away any reheated leftovers you didn’t eat.

Vegetarian pasta and basil leaves on a white plate with dark background

How to Reheat Pasta

Reheating pasta can be tricky. Here's our favorite (stovetop) method to reheat pasta so it's as good as the first time.
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4.67 from 3 votes
Print Pin Recipe
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Diet: Vegetarian
Keyword: leftover pasta, reheat pasta
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 1 minute
Total Time: 3 minutes
Servings: 1
Author: Sara Seitz

Ingredients

  • 1 serving leftover pasta

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  • Add plain pasta to the pot and stir for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Drain the pasta in a colander and serve as desired.

Notes

This method assumes leftover pasta is separate from any sauce or toppings. See other methods above for reheating pasta in different situations.
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