18 Creative Ways To Use Up Leftover Pasta

It's fair to say that we Americans love our pasta. According to a report by the International Pasta Organization (via Share the Pasta), the average American eater consumes nearly 20 pounds of it a year, with 86% of people reportedly eating it at least once a week. And what's not to love? It's slathered in sauce, garnished with veggie or meat accents, and filled with flavor. Well, there's one thing we admittedly don't love ... the leftovers. 

Maybe it's a little harsh, but we can really only stand mushy microwaved pasta for the first two spoonfuls. We've just realized that it's plain unappetizing. The other logical solution to counteract our leftover woes would be to make a single serving of pasta, but who makes a single serving of pasta? Instead, we're left with Tupperware containers full of penne, time and time again.

In an effort to repurpose our leftover pasta into something both appetizing and approachable to eaters of all ages, we've tried and tested the best ways to deal with our pasta predicament. Here are some of our favorite ways to transform your noodles into something exciting. 

Use it for a breakfast frittata

Frittatas are a protein-packed breakfast perfect for meal-prepping or cooking for a crowd. And if you have leftover spaghetti, you can make your eggy frittata extra special. Take last night's leftover pasta, either with or without sauce, out of the fridge for your frittata di pasta. The most common noodle shapes for this Italian dish are spaghetti, fettuccine, bucatini, or vermicelli because they're thin and can hold up to the eggy mixture. 

Start by mixing your noodle of choice with raw eggs and any other veggie or meaty additions to personalize your frittata. Then, pop it into a hot oiled pan and cook it until browned and firm. Then, carefully flip over the cake and cook it on the other side so it has the same texture. This dish is served by Italian street-food vendors sliced like a pizza, which makes a fun and exciting way to present your leftover noodles. 

Swap your pastry for a noodle pie crust

You may not think of pasta when you think of "pie" — but you probably should. You can transform pasta into a savory pie crust by mixing it with a bit of egg and cheese to bind it together. This trick works for effectively any type of pasta, except filled pasta like ravioli and tortellini. As for cheese, we recommend choosing one based on the other flavors in your pie. If you're making a spin on mac and cheese and filling the center with buffalo chicken, for instance, you might go for a cheddar. But for more traditional Italian flavors, opt for a mozzarella. 

This crust only requires a few ingredients: leftover pasta (with sauce) and eggs to bind it together. You can press it into a pie plate and bake until firm before filling it with your other favorite toppings. Sunday night dinners will never look the same! 

Substitute it for starch in your breakfast casserole

Even celebrity chefs have to find creative ways to use up their leftover dinner components. Stanley Tucci transforms leftover pasta for breakfast by turning it into a casserole. Tucci uses leftover farfalle (bowtie) pasta for this hack — with an upgrade, of course. He starts by cooking down garlic, onion, pancetta, and peas in a pan before adding his cooked pasta, béchamel sauce, Parmesan cheese, and butter. He then bakes the pasta in a dish and serves it with a poached egg on top. Although Tucci digs in in the morning, you can eat it at any hour of the day. 

You can also use leftover pasta for your traditional breakfast casserole instead of potato hash or tater tots. Try using fun pasta shapes, like Tucci's recommendation of farfalle. Or, top it with elbow macaroni and a ton of extra cheese for an excuse to eat mac and cheese for breakfast. 

Use your leftover rigatoni for pie

Sometimes, making a pasta dish is all about taking some extra time to make it special. The most whimsical way to use leftover rigatoni is to create a rigatoni pie. This dish requires you to methodically stack the pasta on its side in a pan before baking it, but we assure you the effort is worth it.

The ideal pasta for this pie is left sauceless and placed in a fridge for about two days to allow it to firm up. Line the pasta so the holes are sticking up in a honeycomb shape. Then, pour the sauce over the top of the pie and add a layer of melty cheese. The key to helping your pie keep its shape is to leave it to sit on the counter for a few hours before slicing it. This will allow you to slice this pasta dish like a pie. You can also substitute the rigatoni with any other totally tubular pasta, like ziti or penne. 

Fry your noodles for pasta chips

Pasta chips are one of the most underrated ways to use up your leftover pasta. And the best part about this snack is that you can make it in your air fryer with very little effort. You'll want to use cooked and cooled pasta for this recipe. Any shape works, but our favorites are penne and farfalle because you can easily hold them and dip them into a sauce. 

Toss the shapes with some oil (for the crispy factor) and desired seasoning or Parmesan cheese before cooking the noodles until crispy and firm, tossing halfway through the cooking time to ensure all sides are properly baked. You can serve your pasta chips with numerous sides, including whipped feta dip or warmed pasta sauce. 

Stuff it into garlic bread

Pasta and garlic bread are like the peanut butter and jelly of the Italian food world. And if you want a way to use up both your leftover pasta and garlic bread, check out this simple hack. You'll want to start with firm rolls; grinder rolls or store-bought Italian loaves work fine. Make a straight slice through the center of the bread to open it up like a hot dog roll. Depending on the size of the sandwich, you can also hollow out the center of the bread to fit your pasta. 

Once you have your cut-out, you can bake it with shredded cheese and garlic butter before filling it with leftover sauced pasta and more cheese. You can also add a meat sauce or meatballs for extra protein.

Mix it into a creamy pasta salad

Pasta salad is one of the most obvious and easy ways to use up your sauceless pasta. For the ultimate pasta salad, think about mixing up different textures and keeping all of the ingredients the same size. For example, if you plan on using penne for your pasta salad, try to use items like cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and quartered cucumber pieces to ensure you get a little bit of everything in every bite. 

You'll also want to avoid pasta like spaghetti or angel hair because it's too dainty and long to fit in each forkful. Other pasta shapes that don't work as well are any that have to be served hot, like tortellini. Our favorite shapes that do work well in pasta salad include cavatappi and fusilli because they have a larger surface area to hold onto seasoning and flavor. 

Freeze it for later

If you make a ton of pasta for a celebration or gathering, your first inclination might be to freeze it for later. In theory, this is an excellent idea because it's easy to reheat quickly for dinners throughout the week. 

There are a few important things to keep in mind if you're cooking pasta with the intent to freeze the leftovers. You should cook your pasta slightly al dente since reheating it in a microwave with sauce will cook it further. You can also freeze small portions of pasta in nests before transferring them to a freezer bag. When it's time to cook the pasta, pop individual servings on a plate, and you're good to go. Cooked pasta will last in the refrigerator for up to five days, while frozen leftovers can last upwards of two months before you'll need to throw them out. 

Add it to your stir fry

The main qualm we have with leftover pasta is that it always gets mushy and sad. The best way to amp up the texture is to stir-fry your leftover pasta rather than pop it into the microwave. Similar to how you should always use leftover rice for fried rice, you should use leftover noodles for stir fry. When the pasta is allowed to dry in the fridge for a few days, it has a tougher texture that more readily absorbs oil and, consequently, flavor. 

Leftover pasta works as a great substitute for Asian noodles like udon or vermicelli. Add your pasta to the pan or wok with hot oil and aromatics to prevent your pasta from sticking together in one glob. Then cook the pasta down with protein, a sunny-side-up egg, or your favorite veggies, to round-out the dish.

Transform them into fritters

Everything is better when it's fried in hot oil. Pasta fritters are a take on a potato pancake, but instead of using potato, you're going to use leftover pasta instead. Any type of pasta works for these fritters, including long, stringy spaghetti or short penne pasta. You'll also want to use sauced pasta for this recipe so the patties stick together in the pan. 

Combine your sauced leftover pasta with eggs, shredded cheese, and breadcrumbs. You can play with the ratio of breadcrumbs to other ingredients to ensure that your patties stick together. Once your patties are shaped, pop them into a pan with hot oil and cook on both sides until golden brown. We love serving these fritters with a container of extra sauce. 

Substitute it for soba in a sesame salad

Cold soba noodle salad is a deliciously fresh Asian salad that is easily customizable with your favorite source of protein, including shrimp, steak, or tofu. Traditionally, the salad is made with buckwheat soba noodles, but you can also substitute any standard spaghetti for the recipe. Simply add the noodles to a container with freshly chopped mango, tomato, snap peas, and cucumber pieces, and top it with a sesame marinade. 

Soba salad is one of our favorite recipes to make for lunch meal preps. The longer you allow the marinade to sit on the noodles and the veggies, the better the flavor. Plus, it's a great dish to send the kids to school with because you don't need to heat it up to enjoy it. 

Add texture to canned soup

Canned soup may be cheap and convenient, but it's not always the most appetizing. If you open a can of soup to see it lacking in the "stuff" department, you can amp it up by adding leftover pasta. You don't have to worry about fishing the noodles in your minestrone or chicken soup out, though; these pasta pieces are cooked in alkaline salts, so they never get soggy. The trick to avoiding spongy noodles in your soup is to always warm up the soup separately from your pasta. This will prevent the noodles from taking up too much water. 

The exact shape of your noodly addition will depend on your soup. It's one way to use up more unique pasta shapes like tortellini or leftover lasagna sheets. 

Bake it into a mold

Anyone who has ever cooked up leftover anything for children knows how difficult it can be to get them to love leftovers. After all, why would you when there's a McDonald's down the road? One of the easiest ways to convince your little ones to enjoy leftover pasta is to transform it into a novel, fun shape. One of these is a spaghetti donut. Pop Pasta popularized this whimsical leftover special, but it can be made in your home kitchen, too. 

Start by combining your leftover sauced spaghetti noodles with eggs, shredded mozzarella, and a splash of heavy cream. You can bake these donuts around a muffin tin or a greased donut mold. In fact, muffin tins are a great way to bake your leftover pasta into bite-sized morsels. 

Add it to a sandwich

Leftover pasta can be more than just a vector for pasta sauce; you can also use it to add extra texture to your sandwiches. If your household is a fan of game-day fare, transform your slider buns into spaghetti sandwiches. You can top your sandwiches with meat sauce or stick with a plain spaghetti sauce. To make your pasta conducive to eating, you should also slice it into bite-sized pieces before placing it on the sliders and baking. 

Another sandwich where leftover pasta shines is on a grilled cheese sandwich. We love adding a scoop of macaroni and cheese to an already cheesy sandwich — especially when the pieces of pasta inevitably fall off the sandwich and get crisp on the pan.

Replace lasagna sheets with pasta

Imagine you're making your classic Sunday lasagna, but you find out you don't have any lasagna sheets in your pantry. What will you do  besides sheepishly going to Costco for a take-and-bake lasagna?

Lasagna is in your future with one simple swap. Instead of hassling over lasagna sheets, use a layer of leftover pasta in your dish instead. There are numerous types of pasta that could work for this upcycled lasagna, but spaghetti is the best for layering with toppings because it's relatively flat. 

Start by layering pasta on the bottom of the dish and topping with ricotta and mozzarella. Intersperse your layers with other traditional lasagna toppings like ground sausage or vegetables. Once your dish is assembled, bake it in your oven until the cheese is gooey. 

Put it on a pizza

Is putting leftover anything on a pizza a cop-out? For some folks, it might be. But we think it's just being resourceful. 

The trick to combining these two Italian favorites is to cook your pasta until it's just al dente. Cooking it any longer will cause it to get mushy in the oven. You can also experiment with different sauces on your pizza. While the marinara sauce is classic, you can also choose a white pizza topped with Alfredo-sauce noodles. Or, during the summer months, enjoy an olive oil-based pie with pesto-tossed noodles. 

We recommend using a smaller noodle shape for this pizza rather than a stringy spaghetti. Pasta, especially in sauce, tends to be very heavy and dense, so you'll only need to add enough pasta to your pizza to have a noodle in every bite. Add too much, and you risk weighing down your pizza and rendering it soggy. 

Pop it into a waffle maker

Your waffle maker is a good tool for transforming your leftovers. If you like the experience of eating crisp leftover pasta rather than a bowl of soggy mush, you'll want to get your waffle iron heated up. The trick for making this dish isn't just adding the pasta to the iron; cheese is a helpful ingredient to making a crust on the outside of your pasta. You'll also want to avoid any soggy ingredients, like the chunks of tomato floating around in your sauce. 

Once your greased iron is heated up, place a layer of cheese into the bottom of the waffle iron and top with lightly sauced leftover spaghetti and extra cheese. It's important to note that your pasta is already cooked, so you are just pressing it into the iron so it comes together in one mass. 

Add it to your tacos

Are we back on a 2007 episode of "iCarly"? The Nickelodeon show may have popularized spaghetti tacos, but we're bringing it back over 15 years later. The dish is first made by placing cooked, sauced spaghetti noodles in hard taco shells with meatballs and cheese. Each bite gives you a little bit of crunch, which is a rarity for spaghetti. 

The pros of making this dish at home are numerous. They're super kid-friendly and loved by eaters of all ages. Plus, you can make them more Tex-Mex by seasoning your pasta sauce with taco spices, or adding some extra cooked ground beef for a boost of protein. We recommend sticking to hard taco shells for this recipe rather than soft burritos for a satisfying textural contrast.