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Jan 16, 2011 12:15 PM

Ques. re: holding cooked pasta 90minutes before serving

Hi, I’ll be making spaghetti and meatballs for a crowd of 35. There will be about ninety minutes between the time I cook the pasta and the time of serving (in a different location). Other than advising me this is a stupid idea, can anyone offer me some tips for not wrecking the noodles?

I assume I’ll need to mix a little sauce into the cooked pasta to keep it moist and un-fused, and then provide the balance of the sauce on the side at time of serving. I’m flexible regarding the type of noodle, if that helps.

Thank You

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  1. Add some sauce so it doesn't stick together then when you are ready just add the pasta to the hot sauce on the stove. Should work.

    1. Rinse with cold water and drain in colander until dry. Toss with EVOO. On site place pasta in colander again then refresh in hot top water, drain and proceed.

      4 Replies
      1. re: letsindulge

        Interesting....I assume you've tried before and the sauce adhered well to the noodles afterward? (not that I'm serving to an audience of gourmets, of course...)
        Thanks again, you guys.

        1. re: VTB

          It's what I've done at Corporate dining rooms with excellent results. Likewise if you're at home you can refresh on stovetop in simmering water.

          1. re: letsindulge

            +1. And a big nod to Will Owen's comments and technique. I cook to about two minutes before al dente, (if you bite a strand, there will be a white undercooked core) drain well, stop the cooking process by chilling under cold running water, toss with a very small amount of olive oil (doesn't have to be EVOO, no reason for that) refresh by submerging in simmering water briefly or by reheating it in the sauce (best way, imo) as alwayscooking outlines.

            Don't chill the pasta between tossing with oil and reheating. Don't toss it with sauce. I don't like to keep it stored in water, either. Wrap the cooked pasta well, it can dry out. Since you're planning on serving it in 90 minutes, the oil will keep it from sticking without much more oil absorption. When you reheat by the hot water method, the water will remove the oil and the sauce will still coat. If you reheat in sauce, the very small amount of oil won't matter.

            Pasta shape doesn't matter too much, although I'm of the opinion that the heartier shapes fare better with longer holding times, as opposed to long noodles. It's more about cooking whatever shape you choose to an extreme al dente first.

            I like to call it blanching the pasta. I worked at a small brick oven pizza joint for a few years that a friend of my owned In Brooklyn NY. I was the pasta queen there, to say nothing of the years I spent prepping pasta for catered parties. We didn't have the ability to cook pasta to order in our little kitchen, so we would blanch linguine, spaghetti and penne, or shape of the day in the late afternoon as close as possible to evening service, chill under cold water, set aside, and reheat quickly in whatever sauce was required, a la minute, or the Italian expression equilavent of that technique, per minute.

            This method is truly not as great as pasta cooked to order, but is perfectly acceptable delicious fare for a party.

          2. re: VTB

            For years the celebrity chefs have cautioned against using oil in pasta cooking water or tossing it with oil after draining, since it makes the sauce slide off. Mixing with a little sauce is fine, as is letting it drain and cool, then running it under hot water and redraining before saucing at the time of service.

        2. While my experience has been with paste pre-cooked to not quite al dente, then kept in cold water and reheated on site, your need to transport it makes the method from letsindulge a better one. Whatever you do, do NOT add any sauce early on; that would be absorbed into the pasta and make it mushy. I know, I've tried it! Bad move, unless you're feeding kids or Midwesterners …

          1 Reply
          1. re: Will Owen

            I'll second Will's response. I've held pasta for large parties by cooking it very al dente and quickly cooling it in its liquid (or moving it fresh cold water and reserving a large quanity of the cooking liquid). When I serve it, I'll finish the pasta in the sauce with some of the reserved pasta water. It won't be perfect since the pasta has closed and won't absorb all the sauce it normally would - most people won't notice.

          2. Might you use ziti or penne instead of spaghetti? I think they hold up better than spaghetti---it's also easier to serve. Just a thought.

            1. Restaurants do it all the time. Rather than try to explain all the possibilities for accomplishing your goal allow me to refer you to this link:
              which says it as well as I ever could.

              1 Reply