Recipes

How to Fix Undercooked Pasta and Save Your Meal

Making pasta seems super easy—right? All you do is put it in boiling water, drain it, and add your favorite sauce. However, this is often easier said than done. If you’ve cooked your pasta and found that the texture isn’t quite right, there’s a good chance you’ve either cooked it too long or undercooked it.

While there’s not a lot you can do for overcooked pasta, you can still salvage pasta that didn’t cook for long enough. Learning how to fix undercooked pasta can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to get dinner on the table! Here’s what you need to know.

How to tell if pasta is undercooked

Before you try to fix your pasta, you’ll need to figure out whether it’s overcooked or undercooked. Pasta that is soft and mushy is usually overcooked, while if it’s crunchy and hard, this is a good indication that you haven’t cooked it for long enough.

Pasta cooked perfectly tends to be tender on the inside and a bit firm on the outside. This is also known as “al dente,” which  means “firm to the bite.” The best way to tell if pasta is cooked correctly is to pull one piece out, let it cool enough so you won’t burn your mouth, and taste it.

Can undercooked pasta make you sick?

If you find that your pasta is undercooked, don’t worry. In general, undercooked pasta doesn’t present any immediate health risks. However, fully cooked pasta is easier for your body to digest and break down. It’s also important to note that there’s a risk of salmonella poisoning if your noodles are made with raw eggs. In addition, you could get sick from undercooked noodles if you have a gluten allergy.

Tips for cooking pasta

To cook pasta perfectly the first time, start by choosing a large pot and adding enough water so the pasta can be fully submerged. Once the water starts boiling, make sure you add salt. This will help bring out the flavor of the pasta. As a general rule, if you’re cooking one pound of pasta, you’ll want about one tablespoon of salt for every four cups of water.

Wait until the water is fully boiling before you add your pasta. Once you do, be sure to stir it right away. Each type of pasta requires a different cooking time, so be sure to follow the instructions on the package. You’ll want to start checking sooner than the time indicated, though, so you don’t overcook it.

pouring pasta into boiling water.

How to fix undercooked pasta

If you find that your pasta is undercooked, it’s not the end of the world. These simple fixes can turn things around and save your meal.

1. Reboil undercooked pasta

If you’ve just dumped the water and discovered that the pasta is still crunchy, the easiest thing to do is simply put it back in boiling water. When you do this, it’s important that you stay by the stove the entire time, testing the pasta every 30-60 seconds to make sure you don’t end up overcooking it. If you’re lucky enough to have some of the salted water you just used, that’s ideal. Otherwise, new water will work just fine.

2. Cook your pasta in the sauce

If you’ve already added the sauce, you can cook the pasta in the sauce for a few minutes. Just remember that this will cause the sauce to thicken. If necessary, add a bit of water, being mindful that the pasta will absorb some of the extra moisture.

Make sure to stir the pasta gently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Be careful not to be too rough, though, as aggressive stirring can break up the pasta.

3. Reheat undercooked pasta in the microwave

If you’re in a hurry, you might find yourself asking, “Can you microwave undercooked pasta?” The answer is yes! To do this, put the pasta in a glass dish or on a microwave-safe plate. Cover it with microwave-safe plastic wrap, leaving one corner open for the heat to escape. Cook the dish for 1 to 2 minutes, then check to see if the pasta is done. If not, repeat the process.

Note that the plastic wrap may be dangerously hot. Wait a few minutes for it to cool before touching it, or use a spoon to pull it off.

microwaving pasta to reheat and cook.

4. Fix your pasta with a steamer

To fix undercooked pasta in a steamer, you’ll use about half as much water as you did to boil it. Put the pasta in the steamer tray and cook it either in the oven or on the stovetop. Be sure to check it every 2 minutes or so, taking care not to overcook it.

5. Fix undercooked pasta in an Instant Pot

Once you master the Instant Pot, you’ll enjoy perfectly cooked pasta every day. While you’re learning, though, it’s common for mistakes to happen. Remember that after cooking pasta in an Instant Pot, you’ll want to let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes before you decide whether it’s cooked properly.

If it’s still pretty crunchy, you’ll be glad to know that learning how to fix undercooked pasta in Instant Pot is super easy! Just add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water to the pot, re-seal it, and allow it to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes before checking it again.

Enjoy a pasta dish for dinner this week

Has all this talk about pasta left you craving your favorite Italian meal? Why not add it to your meal plan for the week? Just decide what ingredients you need, then sign in to Instacart to create your grocery list. When you’re ready, you can have a professional shopper buy all of your groceries for you and deliver them right to your door.

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Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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