How to Keep Pasta Warm Ahead of Dinner (Because No One Likes Cold, Sticky Noodles)

Fresh pasta is a thing of magic. It’s tender, carby and oh so comforting. But let it sit in the colander too long and you’ve got a dry, sticky mound of dough that’s far less appetizing. Believe it or not, there are a few ways to help your noodles retain their moisture and keep from sticking to each other. Here’s how to keep pasta warm for a crowd.

1. Use a Slow Cooker

Setting it and forgetting it is the most hands-off method. Simply cook the pasta to your taste (or undercook it slightly if you’re planning on leaving it in the slow cooker for hours in sauce), drain it, grease the inside of your Crock-Pot with olive oil or cooking spray and dump the pasta in. Greasing the insert will keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom and burning, but it won’t keep the noodles from sticking to each other. So, add sauce, butter or olive oil to the pasta and toss or stir to coat it evenly. Then, set the slow cooker to warm and let it be until dinnertime.

2. Use the Double Boiler Method

Fill a large pan or pot halfway with water and bring it to a simmer. Set a second pot or pan atop the first and add the pasta. Toss the pasta in olive oil or sauce so the noodles don’t stick, then cover the top pot or pan so the pasta doesn’t lose any moisture. Stir the pasta periodically to heat it evenly and prevent burning.

3. Use a Chafing Dish

Just like you see at a wedding or a buffet. While the chafing dish ensures that your pasta will stay hot for a long time, it can also dry the pasta out and cause sticking if there’s no water reservoir between the food and the heat source. (This steams the food so it stays both warm and moist.) First, drain the pasta and rinse the noodles (this removes excess starch, which can cause stickiness). Then, toss the pasta in olive oil or whatever sauce you’re planning to serve it with and add it to the chafing dish. Stir it every so often so the pasta on the bottom doesn’t overcook and turn mushy.

How to Reheat Pasta

The key to making pasta ahead of time is keeping the noodles moist. Once they dry out, they’re bound to stick. After slightly undercooking and draining the pasta, toss it in olive oil and transfer it to a plastic zip bag. Store the bag in the fridge until you’re ready to eat it, then just cook the pasta on the stovetop again. Either reheat it in the sauce you’d like to serve it with or give it a quick shock in boiling water to zap it back to life.

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taryn pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...