Cold-Holding Pasta Sauce for Service?

Joined Sep 28, 2016
Hi there, I have a VERY small space that allows for take-away only. I'm thinking of doing pasta, but I'm not very experienced in it and looking for help. I was originally thinking to premake 3 or 4 sauces to be held cold, along with some vegetables, sous vide chicken, baked meatballs, and pasta that has been cooked a few minutes shy of being done. When an order comes in, vegetables into the skillet, then sauce, then protein, and finally the pasta to finish. I was talking to a friend and she said pasta sauces do not hold well, especially cream sauces. But then I came across this video, and they are holding 8 sauces for service (hot or cold I don't know).

So my questions are (1) do you think the sauces in the above video are being held hot or cold? (2) If Im planning on finishing in the skillet, are holding sauces cold acceptable? (3) If I want to have a cream style sauce, should I make a bechamel, hold it cold, and then add flavorings (parmesan, cajun spice, mustard, pesto, etc) to the pan when its reheating?

I know a bunch of sauces can be made a la minute, but I have a tiny space and live overseas in a country where it's difficult to find and retain good staff. I would much rather myself make and prep sauces in the morning to have them consistent, then rely on my staff for just the assembly of the dishes. I have a SMALL space and for what my setup allows, I would like to do something along the lines of the video above.

THANK YOU very much!!! Your input and suggestions help in ways you can't imagine!
Joined May 5, 2010
Hey Steve....I see you posted in another forum with questions about sauce.
What you are basically doing here is what we call a pasta station at a buffet. Offering sauces, pasta and proteins, quickly cooked and served.
When I did these for the buffets, I offered 3 sauces, (Alfredo, Marinara, and Meat) with choices of pasta, vegetables, and proteins. In our case the sauces were hot and we had a small pot of simmering water for the pasta.
You don't need to have anything hot in your case. You get a customer, have your pan hot to start off the cooking process. The sauce can be added to heat through after the vegetables are cooked, then add the protein and lastly the pasta. Your prep will consist of making the sauces and cooking the pasta, then portioning them and keep them refrigerated, checking on them and the proteins you offer daily for freshness.
Best of luck.
Joined Sep 28, 2016
chefross chefross , thank you very much for your reply, it's much appreciated! While I can get by in the kitchen, pasta is something I don't have much experience with. Reading your comment alleviates some stress and let's me know that what I'm hoping to do is in fact doable. Thank you very much!
Joined Mar 1, 2017
To answer your questions:

1) Yes, I think the sauces in this video are held hot. Like chefross said, there's probably some sort of water based heating system under the holding pans that's keeping the sauces hot.

2) If you are finishing in the skillet, adding cold sauces is never a good idea. For one, the cold sauce will kill the heat in the pan. That's usually not a good thing. Second, some sauces don't react well going from cold to hot in a matter of a few seconds. You always want to add hot sauces to hot dishes, cold sauces to cold dishes etc. If you only have space to hold 2 or 3 sauces hot, then, only offer two or three sauces. You can change up what sauces you offer daily or weekly for some variety if you want.

3) For the bechamel, see my reply to your other post about bechamel sauce. Again, you want to heat up the bechamel in a separate pan with a small amount of water to prevent it from scorching. Bring it to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. You can add your seasonings/flavorings at any time. If it were me, I would flavor the bechamel before chilling it to allow the mixture to "marry."

Good luck. :)
Joined Jan 31, 2012
I used to do these AYCE pasta bars for private parties quite regularly. My set up was,
(self service)
disposable bowls
pasta choice (usually tortellini, fettucini, penne, pre cooked held cold)
various veggies, basil etc (held cold)
spices and flavoring (eg, paprika, oregano etc)

(chef served)
(at this point i would dump their pasta veggie & seasonings into a skillet and dump the bowl. Then continue, )

(choice of meats, chef served)
pre cooked, chopped, held cold... usualy beef, pork, chicken, shrimp)

Into the pan on aportable burner to heat, then they'd tell me
their sauce choice--marinara, meat sauce, pasto, alfredo,
shrimp sauce (with ginger and garlic)
ladelled cold and into the hot pan (slowly) to heat thru.
Plated and handed back. Fresh parm and pepper available.

I'd vary it somewhat but that was the jist.
Point being every thing was precooked and held cold, I got nothing but compliments, and I personally never had a cold sauce in a warm pan problem even with alfredo, which of course is the worst for possible scorching and sticking.
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Joined Sep 28, 2016
meezenplaz meezenplaz Thank you for explaining how you ran things at an AYCE pasta station, much appreciated! And good to hear that cold sauces can be added (carefully and slowly) to a hot pan. I don't have much space for more equipment so if I can make things work with what I have, I'll be very happy! What you described is exactly what I want to do and what my kitchen allows. I'll give it a go and if I find I'm having some problems, I'll look at other alternatives. Cheers!
Joined Sep 28, 2016
sgsvirgil sgsvirgil Thank you for your reply and information on both sauces and saucing in the pan. I'm going to experiment with a few methods to see what works in our kitchen and I appreciate the concerns you brought up! You guys folks are great!!
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