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Food & Recipes

Chef’s Lettuce Leaf Trick Ensures That Reheated Pasta Tastes As Delicious The Second Time Around

Bye-bye soggy noodles, dried out pasta and sauce that separates!

A bowl of pasta is delicious in all of its saucy, al dente (Italian for “firm to the bite”) glory. But when it comes to leftovers, all that mmm can quickly turn to meh. Warming up pasta can be a cooking minefield: The pasta could heat unevenly leaving cold spots, or it could be evenly heated but dry out leaving crispy bits, or it could just turn into a soggy, mushy mess. That’s why we asked two chefs to share their tips on how to reheat pasta so you can enjoy it just as much the second time around. Keep reading to learn how you can optimize the texture and the flavors from any refrigerated or frozen pasta dish.

The key to perfectly reheated pasta

With most pasta reheating methods, moisture is needed to prevent the noodles from clumping together and warming up unevenly. Also, it helps the sauce reach a velvety consistency again and fully coat each strand.

Splashing a bit of liquid such as water, milk or stock over the pasta is an easy way of keeping the noodles moist during the reheat process. But chef and culinary consultant Emily Hansen has a surprise trick up her sleeve: She likes to cover the pasta with a watery veggie like lettuce to create that much-needed steamy environment without adding too much moisture to make the dish soggy. Read on for her quick method.

For a speedy meal: how to reheat pasta in the microwave

Quickly reheating pasta in the microwave doesn’t have to involve pasta sauce splattering all over the inside of your appliance. Below, Chef Hansen shares these five steps for microwaving cold pasta in under 10 minutes without making a mess.

  1. Transfer the pasta from an airtight container to a microwave-safe bowl. 
  2. Place a leaf of romaine lettuce over the top of the pasta and cover with microwave-safe lid or plastic wrap. (Note: The moisture from the lettuce prevents the pasta strands from drying out and ensures it cooks evenly.)
  3. Cook at medium-high heat for around 4 to 5 minutes before removing the lettuce and cover.
  4. Stir the pasta, cover and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes until hot. Cool for 2 minutes before enjoying.

And if you don’t have a lettuce leaf, chef Claudia Sidoti says you can add 1 to 2 Tbs. of water to the pasta before putting it in the microwave. 

For a big batch of noodles: how to reheat pasta on the stove

Another method worth trying is the stovetop, especially if you’re reheating a large amount of sauced pasta. Reheating in a pan also gives you more control over the temperature for even reheating. Plus, frequently stirring the pasta as it’s heating up prevents the sauce from separating. Here, Chef Hansen shows us in six steps how to pasta on the stove.

  1. Place a saucepan over medium heat and add a generous splash of milk, heavy cream or stock to the pan.
  2. Once the liquid begins to simmer, add the noodles
  3. Stir until the noodles start to loosen. 
  4. Add another splash of liquid and increase the heat to medium-high.
  5. Cover with a lid and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid evaporates and the pasta is heated thoroughly. 
  6. Remove the pan from the heat and serve.

For pasta casseroles: how to reheat pasta in the oven

Busy weeknights call for having baked ziti or noodle bake ready to reheat and serve right out of the dish. Fortunately, Chef Sidoti shares how to reheat a frozen or refrigerated pasta bake in the oven as a hearty and cheesy dinner option — she likes to sprinkle water on top before covering to create a bit of steam that prevents to dish from drying out.

Reheating frozen baked pasta

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. With the pasta bake in an oven-safe dish, sprinkle 2 Tbs. of water over the top of the casserole. Cover with foil.
  3. Bake until the casserole is warm in the center, about 1 hour.
  4. Uncover and heat for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. The casserole should reach an internal temperature of 165℉
  5. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Reheating refrigerated baked pasta

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Drizzle the top of the casserole with 2 Tbs. of water before covering the dish with foil.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes. Uncover pasta and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes. Check to ensure the casserole reaches an internal temperature of 165℉.
  4. Allow the dish to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve.

    (Click through for more specific guides on how to reheat lasagna and how to reheat Mac and cheese so it’s saucy and cheesy again.)

A pasta-perfect recipe worth reheating the next day

Our test kitchen loves classic pasta dishes because they’re the epitome of comfort in a bowl. Below, you can find their favorite way to make pappardelle tossed in a rich meat sauce — which goes from stove to table in under 30 minutes!

Pappardelle with Meat Sauce

A recipe for Pappardelle with Meat Sauce as part of our guide on how to reheat pasta
Serhii Shleihel/Getty

Our deliciously simple sauce lets you savor the flavor of long-simmered Bolognese in half the time.


  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced 
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 (24 oz.) jar tomato-basil pasta sauce
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • 12 oz. dry pappardelle pasta
  • ½ cup shredded Italian blend cheese
  • Parsley leaves (optional)


  • Active: 20 mins
  • Total time: 20 mins
  • Yield: 6 servings
  1. Generously coat 12-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over mediumhigh heat. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and moisture has evaporated, about 5 min., adding garlic during last 30 seconds of cooking time. Remove from skillet; reserve.
  2. In same skillet, over medium-high heat, add beef; cook, stirring occasionally to break up meat, until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and discard fat from skillet. Add pasta sauce, wine, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and reserved mushroom mixture to skillet. Bring to boil; cover. Reduce to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated, 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to a boil; cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Return pasta to pot; add sauce mixture. Toss until evenly coated. Sprinkle with cheese. If desired, garnish with parsley.
  4. Note: Cool and store leftovers in airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

Keep reading for more stories on how to reheat your favorite dishes:

Reheating Pizza: The Skillet Trick So Good You’ll Never Use An Oven Again

How to Reheat Shrimp So They Stay Sweet and Succulent — Chef’s #1 Secret

How to Reheat Rotisserie Chicken So It’s as Delicious as the Day You Bought It

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