From penne to spaghetti to elbows, just about any cooked pasta can be frozen for later enjoyment. You can freeze a whole batch or pre-portion single servings for easy thawing come dinnertime. Sure, you could let your pasta chill in the fridge instead to eat in three to five days, provided you toss it in olive oil, let it cool before chilling and then dump it in boiling water for a few seconds before eating. But freezing tends to be more foolproof (we’ve all been burned by freakishly-textured refrigerator noodles, right?) and ensures you have delicious carbs ready-to-go for months ahead.
Below are step-by-step instructions on freezing plain cooked pasta. If you’ve already combined your pasta leftovers with sauce, feel free to freeze them together, ideally in an oven- or microwave-safe dish for easy heating later on. If you haven’t combined them, freeze the pasta and sauce separately. And FYI, there’s really no point in ever freezing uncooked pasta because it’s shelf-stable, meaning it’s essentially non-perishable and won’t go bad hanging in the pantry, according to the USDA.
- Cook the pasta and remove it just before it reaches al dente (meaning heated throughout but firm when bitten). This ensures that the pasta will be able to withstand thawing or baking without turning to mush or falling apart. Undercook it a little more if you’re going to be adding it to something like lasagna, casserole or baked mac and cheese.
- Let the pasta cool completely before freezing it. Tossing it in a bit of olive oil while it’s still warm will keep long noodles and short pasta alike from sticking or clumping together. If you’re working with fresh pasta instead of the store-bought boxed stuff, toss it in flour rather than oil after it’s dried for an hour or so. Cook’s Illustrated tried this method out and found that the homemade pasta kept for up to four weeks in the freezer without any signs of oxidation.
- Arrange the pasta on a baking sheet or plate once it’s cool. Place short pastas like ziti or rigatoni in a single layer. Long noodles like spaghetti or angel hair can be piled into small, fist-sized nests instead, then arranged in a single layer. Transfer the baking sheet or plate to the freezer.
- Once fully frozen, transfer the pasta to a reusable container or freezer-safe bag.