A momentary lapse of concentration.
Perhaps the phone rings or someone knocks at your door and you leave your post.
By the time you head back, you see it.
You are filled with dread as you curse the disturbance and race through all of your next steps.
We are, of course, talking about overcooking pasta.
Whilst perhaps being a tad dramatic, we can safely say that overcooking your pasta is one of the most annoying things that can happen to you in the kitchen.
Soggy, sticky pasta is about as enjoyable as a kick in the teeth.
In most cases, your first though would be to dump the soggy mess into the bin and start cooking your pasta again.
But what if there was another way?
What if there was something you could do to save your overcooked pasta and turn it into something truly remarkable.
Well. There is.
We explore all of the various different ways that you can save your overcooked pasta and still cook up a delectable dish for your family, friends or yourself!
What is overcooked pasta like?
Overcooked pasta is a gooey mess that delivers a gummy, unpleasant flavour. The pasta itself is unable to hold it’s shape and will be easily mushed when handled.
This is by far our favourite technique for saving overcooked pasta and has got us out of quite a few pickles.
You are going to want to put a little olive oil or butter into a non-stick frying pan and heat over a medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted or the oil has preheated, carefully place your overcooked pasta into the frying pan.
Saute your pasta until it regains some of its firmness but be careful not to cook for too long otherwise you will have another problem on your hands; burnt, brown pasta.
Once the pasta has firmed up, you can either turn off the heat and add your sauce directly into the pan, or serve up your pasta and pour the sauce over once on the plate.
This method is another favourite of ours due to its creativity.
You are going to need the following ingredients:
- Milk – ¼ cup
- Eggs – 6
- Cheese – 1 Cup
- Garlic – 2 cloves
- Onion – 1 Onion
- (Optional) Veg – Spinach, Broccoli, whatever you fancy.
Butter or Olive Oil
- The first step is whisking together the milk, eggs, cheese, garlic and onion until completely combined. Season the mix with salt and pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Preheat a large frying pan or skillet with some butter of olive oil.
- Once heated, tip your overcooked pasta into the pan and saute like the first method we mentioned.
- Once the pasta has firmed up a tad, tip in your frittata mix. Tilt the pan to make sure the eggs have settled evenly over the pasta and cook for a couple of minutes or until the egg sets.
- Once set, bake the frittata in the oven for around 8 – 10 minutes. Once the cheese has fully melted and the frittata is nice and brown, it’s ready to serve. Invert that bad boy onto a place and eat immediately!
Add more Sauce
Another way to save overcooked pasta is to mask the gooey texture with a rich, flavourful sauce. You want to cook up a sauce so flavourful that the only thing you can focus on is how good the sauce is, not how overcooked the pasta is!
One way you can create a rich sauce is by first sauteing the pasta as we mentioned in the first instance. Once sauteed, remove the pasta from the pan and then deglaze the pan with either a cup of heavy cream or a cup of dry white wine.
Simmer the cream or wine until it’s reduced and you are left with a thick, rich sauce that will mask your overcooked pasta.
Making a tomato sauce? Check out our review of the best tinned tomatoes in the UK!
Ice and Water
If you don’t fancy a frittata and you’ve spent hours making a ragu or some other sauce, then the last 2 methods might not suit your overcooked pasta needs.
This method however, might just be the one you are looking for.
The ice and water trick is an old-fashioned method that has been used for generations.
Simply drain your overcooked pasta using a colander and rinse well with cold water. Dive into the freezer and grab a handful of ice cubes from your ice cube tray and place those on top of the pasta. Continue to rinse with cold water whilst the ice cubes work to make the water even colder.
This method will stop the cooking process immediately and it will also remove some of the starch that has built up during cooking. This starch is what makes the pasta gooey and stick to one and other.
If there is no saving the overcooked pasta for use in a traditional hot pasta dish, then why not chill it and use it in a pasta salad?
In most cases, overcooked pasta will tend to firm up when chilled and you won’t be able to notice that it is overcooked when paired with the usual elements that make up a pasta salad (Mayonnaise, cucumber, sweetcorn, etc).
Here are a couple of our favourite pasta salad combinations:
Sicilian Pasta Salad:
Pesto Pasta Salad:
Tuscan Pasta Salad:
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Pasta bakes are a pretty forgiving dish that will be the perfect new home for your overcooked pasta.
The majority of pasta bakes have a rich sauce that will do the leg work on the flavour front and a decent helping of crispy cheese that will handle the texture front.
Mix your overcooked pasta with a bechamel sauce, some steam vegetables, tune chunks, top with cheese and bake away from 15 mins or until golden brown.
There you have it, overcooked pasta saved and turned into a delicious tuna pasta bake.
How to Avoid Overcooking Pasta
If you’d like the avoid overcooking pasta from here on out, then follow these simple steps:
Use a Big Pot
This is a super common mistake that people make. Cooking pasta in pot that is too small will mean that there is not enough cooking water and the temperature of the water will fluctuate more than a larger, more suited pot.
Salt your water
No explanation needed. Salt your water. Words to live by really. Use a minimum of 2 tablespoons of salt but it all depends on how much you are cooking.
Don’t add your pasta before the water is boiling
Ensure your water is rapidly boiling before you even think about adding your pasta to the pot. If you add your pasta before the water is boiling, it will be sitting in lukewarm water and will become clumpy. Don’t do it.
Don’t Add Oil
You simply don’t need it. Cook the pasta correctly and there is no need for oil.
Give the pasta a stir
The moment you add your pasta to the boiling water, give it a stir. Continue to do this until the pasta is completely cooked. Stirring the pasta will prevent the noodles from sticking together and help it cook evenly
Use a timer
Whatever the packet of pasta says in regards to cooking length, set a timer for 2 minutes earlier. When the timer goes off, dive in there with a fork and carry out a taste test. The pasta is ready when it’s slightly firm or as the Italian’s say ‘al dente’ (to the tooth).
It’s worth remembering that the pasta will continue to cook even when it’s been drained, so account for the additional cooking time when tasting.
If you need a kitchen timer, we’d recommend this one.
In most cases, dry pasta only takes around 6-8 minutes to cook and fresh pasta only takes around 1-2 minutes. It’s worth staying nearby and sacrificing that time in the name of perfect pasta.