Cooking Pasta Ahead of Time

Joined Dec 13, 2010
Tonight my husband and I are having a party for 30 people - I am serving a baked pasta dish, spaghetti and meatballs and chicken marsala.  I have a lot of pasta to cook.  I've read on the internet that you can cook it ahead of time until it is just underdone, drain it, put it in a bowl with a bit of olive oil and toss slightly and store in fridge and then refresh in boiling water just before you plan to serve.

After making literally two gallons of sauce and 100 meatballs, I don't want ot screw the food up by having the pasta go wrong.

Have any of you cooked pasta ahead of time and if so, what was your method?
Joined Feb 8, 2009
I do it all the time in our Cafe, I toss it with just enough of oil to coat so it's not starchy. I bring mine back up in a steamer in the Cafe and I use a pot of hot water at home. You can also store in 1 gal Ziploc bags if it takes up less room in your fridge.................Take care and i hope your party goes well...................ChefBillyB
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Joined May 22, 2010
Undercook, drain, do not rinse. Do not toss in oil.

air cool (avoid rinsing any starch away at all.)

this way, you heat you sauce, and upon heating your pasta in your sauce, it helps to thicken it.
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Joined Sep 18, 2008
Adding to PraireChef, I'd portion after draining, not necessarily into individual servings but definitely into the portion size you will be heating for service.

Example: Say you are using a 12" sauté for heating and YOU are comfortable with heating, oh, 2 cups of sauce for, oh, 1 pound of cooked pasta. I'd portion the cooked pasta into 1 pound packages, zip-loks, mounds, whatever. That way there is no "fighting the cold pasta" to separate it, breaking or mashing it in the process. Simply heat the sauce (whatever amount YOU are happy with, I like the least amount to dress the pasta, but that is ME /img/vbsmilies/smilies/crazy.gif), add the portioned amount of pasta, toss to heat and distribute, serve.

Personally, I'd heat anything like meatballs separately and simply top the pasta when it is hot. It takes a while to heat the meatballs and that is, to me, too long for warming the pasta.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
I agree with all the above but at different type of services.

For volume as you are doing yes cook then rinse then a little oil.

But for a la carte drain dont rinse or  

oil serve right away  this keeps some of starch on pasta which helps hold sauce. Or if not right away drain, cool, no oil and bag pre rportion.. Why no oil  the oiled pasta will not hold the sauce as well.   By putting in bags you assure uniform portion to every customer and its clean and picks up no offensive odor(Pasta Does) If You use oil, I do not suggest olive oil as it has a flavour.. If bagged try to use within 2-3 days at most at 40* or lower.

P/S The consuting co. in the above post seems to specialize in old age or seniors homes and health care  a far cry from restaurants and commercial  food places as we are not running hospitals.
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Joined Mar 2, 2009
One other note.. if you have your pasta precooked, in a very al dente form, this will be a step to make your pasta hot and tasty when you bring it to the table.   Keep about cup or two of the pasta water you used to cook the pasta originally.. about a cup or two.   After you have put the al dente pasta into boiling water to heat (not too long), you'll drain that one.   Put that cup or two of reserved pasta water in so it boils and add the pasta along with some of your sauce to the mix.   Stir the pasta until the small amount of water is absorbed along with the sauce.  You'll know as it'll start to thicken slightly.  This will be the Italian way to "finish" the pasta.

Pasta when cooked is like a sponge and will absorb flavors.   The addition of the starchy pasta water and the sauce allows the pasta to "suck in" those flavors and thoroughly "heat" the pasta so, when plated, it's steaming hot.   Most people drain the pasta and pour the sauce over it and by doing so, the pasta is just pasta... with the finish, you make it a 'dish'...

Buon appetito..
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Every brand of pasta cooks a bit differently. I find Barilla the best of the supermarket kind. Commercial pasta inn 20# boxes is the starchiest and may require a bit of a rinse if held for a while . A lot of other brands are made by same company I.A Pasta Corp, they also pack supermarket brands. Also I NEVER cook Linguini ahead only to order as it does not hold well and is delicate and thin.
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