The Best Way To Prevent Leftover Pasta From Absorbing Sauce

Leftover pasta can either be the best thing ever, or the worst.

Sound a little extreme? Picture this.

You're standing in front of an open refrigerator. It's the middle of the night. The dim fridge bulb casts the only light in the otherwise dark kitchen. Inside, it's there, like a holy grail: that Tupperware of cold leftover mac and cheese. It's been waiting for you. Just like that, your rumbling stomach and your midnight snack craving are cured.

On the flip side, picture yourself getting a little fancier in the kitchen. Of course, you love making a cooking-show-worthy sauce from scratch, but have you ever come back to those leftovers only to find your pasta absorbed nearly all the sauce overnight? What a waste! It can make even the gnarlier store-bought pasta sauces look more appealing. But don't get discouraged. There's a simple solution to one of the most common (and most frustrating) kitchen queries for the modern home cook, and you probably have all the ingredients you need already.

Olive oil

If you're preparing a pasta dish at all, you're probably already cooking with olive oil. No alfredo or ragù is complete without that olive oil flavor. Not only is it a delectable staple, olive oil is a scientifically-backed tool for preventing absorption. It's like that old adage about "oil and water." According to TedEx educator John Pollard, oil doesn't dissolve in water because water is composed of polar molecules and oil is not. The polar molecules in water are attracted to other polar molecules, which excludes the non-polar molecules, causing oil to clump together at the surface of the water instead of dissolving.

To make this science work for you and your leftovers, try this simple step. After boiling your pasta, drain or rinse it like normal, then transfer the cooked pasta to a bowl of olive oil and toss, via Smithsonian Magazine. This will prevent your sauce from sticking to the pasta and absorbing. Just be sure not to add any oil to the water. How much olive oil you'll need depends on how much pasta you're cooking, but in general, the pasta should be thoroughly coated without swimming. 

So, go ahead and spend time creating that perfect sauce, and rest assured that your leftover pasta won't absorb it all by lunchtime tomorrow.