How to Revive Leftover Pasta…

Leftover pasta after the liquid treatment

Before.... Leftover pasta

Do you ever eat leftover pasta?  What do you do to revive it?

I love batching something, and use it little by little to create many different dishes later in the week and I even blog and teach people how to do that, but pasta is one of very few things I don’t over-make.  Because, noodles are best when it’s cooked, right off the pot.  The older they get, the stickier they become.
As many of you read on my previous post, I hosted a cooking class party last Sunday at our kitchen, and as a host, I wanted to make sure to be prepared, and have more than enough food.

I got carried away, and served and showed how to make all these dishes:

  • Appetizers
    • 2 kinds of Mushroom bites (one with goat cheese, one without)
    • Mushroom, spinach and feta cheese gozleme (Turkish version of Quesadilla)
    • Crudite with pesto mayonnaise
  • Served during the Class
    • Made Sauteed button mushrooms and Asian mushroom mix (use these as a base)
    • Okara Quiche with chicken, leeks, asparagus, mushrooms, and gruyere cheese
  • Dinner
    • Magic Mushroom Soup
    • Tuna and Mushroom Pasta, Japanese Style
    • Kinoko Mizore Ae (Japanese Mushrooms and Grated Daikon Salad with Ponzu Sauce)
    • Cranberry and Fruit Relish with Whipped Cream

A lot of mushrooms, I know.  But this class was called “Flexipes: Mushrooms and Beyond”, and designed to teach people how to make a large batch of something (in this case, sauteed mushrooms), then turn it into many different dishes throughout the week (or later if they choose to freeze it).   Naturally, a lot of mushrooms had to show up on the menu.   The good news is, when you make them different flavors and treatments, people often don’t feel they are eating only mushrooms — and no one complained.  Phew!

Pretty much all the food was gone, except the pasta.  I forgot the fact that they ate quite a bit of appetizer and okara quiche before dinner, and made extra in case people were hungry.

Well, something I don’t like more than old pasta is throwing away perfectly good food.  Almost all Japanese have “Mottainai” as a motto. “Waste not”, it means.  So, I needed to do something with this pasta leftover.

So I decided to moisten the pasta with a little bit of liquid (I used vegetable broth I had on hand, but you can use other kind of broth, white wine, pasta water, or even water in a pinch), covered and microwaved it.

Of course, it was not quite as good as newly cooked al-dente pasta, but it was far better than leftover pasta without that treatment, or pre-made pasta from store.  And I definitely liked the fact that I was able to eat it just by heating up.  It’s hard to see on the photo, so just try it and see what you think.

In any case, it’s best to mix the pasta with the sauce as soon as you cook it.  Plain pasta without anything starts to stick right away, and will be harder to revive, especially spaghetti.  Even worse are capellini and flat pasta like linguini.

So the best pasta practice is, in my opinion:

1. Make the exact amount of pasta, and eat it right away.

2. If there’s any leftover, make it into pasta salad as soon as possible.

3. Mix the pasta with sauce or dressing right away or, if undressed,

4. As a last resort, sprinkle with a little bit of liquid on top, cover and microwave, and enjoy the time -saving!

So what do you do with your leftover pasta?

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Kitchen Tip du Jour: Do the Math on Paper First When Multiplying a Recipe

Do you ever need to double, triple or make it half or one third of a recipe?  If so, read on…  It could be your life saver (or at least your dinner saver!)

When you are following a recipe, and need to change the portion, don’t do the math in your head.  Write it down — ideally right next to the original volume of each ingredient, and how many serving it is for.  If you cannot write it down next to it (say, it’s your friend’s cook book, the recipe is online and your printer is broken, etc.), then at least write down the original measurement on a piece of paper, and write down the multiplier and do the math.

For example:

Original recipe  2 servings                          Your portion: 6 servings (6/2=3 is the multiplier.)

1 Egg                                             X3                  3 Eggs

4 oz flour                                    X3                  12 oz flour

2/3 cup water                          X3                  6/3 cup = 2 cups water

As you can see, especially when you have to deal with 3 (especially 1/3) it gets complicated. 

This is even more true when you are using a recipe from a different country — meaning those who uses metric system.  Since I grew up in Japan with metric system, I used to get confused with American measurement of oz and pounds often, resulting in quite a bit of frustration and less than perfect dishes.  Once I start writing them down, all I need to do is just to follow that amount.  Believe me, do the math first, then cook is so much easier than trying to do the math as you prep and cook! That kind of switch-tasking or multi/tasking end up costing you a lot of time.

So rather than trying to save time and end up with huge frustration and disappointment (and an inedible dish), take time to do the math on paper first when changing th portion of a recipe.  And as always, when adding stronger flavored ingredients and seasoning, taste as you add them gradually.  The same is true for liquids (water, broth etc.)

The biggest bonus: By writing down the convenient portion for yourself directly on the recipe, you will save the time to do the math next time!

So just remember to write them down!

Do you have any kitchen tips that help you save time and frustration? Look forward to hearing your tips in the comment section!

PS: This hold true for most of the things, especially for cooking that doesn’t require much chemistry or precision, yet not EVERYTHING is multiplied ie oil, salt, baking soda, baking powder.  Thank you Sam, for pointing that out.

  If you are cooking for a crowd, this resource gives you further details about super-sizing a recipe. 

 Another resource about reducing a recipe portion.  This one also talks about cooking time difference, etc. 

As a rule of thumb, the cooking time is affected by the type and size of the pan (esp. the bottom surface) heat, how much moisture the food cooked has etc. so it’s best to determine how much longer you need to cook by the look, smell and taste/texture.  Remember, a recipe is a guideline, not rules.

Kitchen Tip du Jour: Wipe Dirty Butts and Dishes with Paper Towel for Easy Cleaning.

Do you “HATE” cleaning up the mess after dinner?

Do you want to know some cleaning secrets?

This was a big issue for us, especially because there are only 2 of us, we barely use dishwasher, i.e. we have to do dishes by hand everyday!

So, here’s the Kitchen Wizard cleaning tip!

The best thing to do is to use some paper towel (wipe) and hot water  to help loosen sticky food and oil first, leave it for a while, then proceed with washing with sponge and detergent as usual. The hotter the water, the better – just pour liberal amount and let it soak in hot water for a while and do the other dishes while you are waiting. By the time the water is not hot any more, the rest of the cleaning job will be much easier.

For this reason and to boil water faster for pasta, tea, etc., we have an electric kettle in the kitchen. They are everywhere – Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon, etc – and cheap.  It’s worth every penny.

If you don’t like the idea of consuming too many paper towels, you can even use the soiled napkin from dinner, . (BUTT, just don’t use the paper towel you used to wipe your baby’s butt!)

Unlike baby butts, you don’t need these fancy moist towelletts. It’s better to use very hot water with sturdier paper towel for dishes.  (I like Bounty.)

For dirty baby butts, soft and warm. For dishes, on the other hand, sturdy and super HOT (because they won’t scream, and actually like it that way.) Different cleaning supplies for different jobs.

This hot water trick also works for stove top and kitchen counter.  On the flat surface, carefully and slowly drizzle a little amount of very hot water to just wet ONLY the soiled area to loosen up a gunk, and then wipe with a clean paper towel or dish towel.  Please be careful… otherwise, you’ll have to clean a huge hot puddle and may even be burning yourself. Not fun.  Also make sure there’s no plastic around!

Then use detergent and re-wipe if you choose to. (I like Green Works.)  That’s it!

Because of this tip, our dish duties are more joy now.  Plus, my husband is more willing to do dishes… without me asking…  Nice, isn’t it?

Kitchen Tip du Jour: Always Keep Leftovers to Repurpose into Many Other Dishes.

Many people ask me how I can whip up variety of dishes so easily.

It’s because I have many pre-prepped food that can be used in many different things.

For example, when my sister-in-law, and her family was visiting, I was able to whip up a Turkish Eggplant dip in less than 5 min.  If you make from scratch, this would take well over 1 hour.

Yesterday, I made a spicy Spanish omelet for breakfast in less than 10 min. It would take about 45 min to one hour if you follow a normal recipe.

For lunch, I made flavorful Moroccan style Chickpea & Chorizo Chowder for quick lunch.  Time required?  To heat up the soup, about 5 min as well. If you make this from scratch, this too could take quite a while.

So why I can make these dishes that take a long time so quickly?  All from scratch!

“Is she really a wizard?”

No… I wish!

It’s all because I grilled extra eggplants when we BBQ a few days before, and saved the flesh in the fridge.

It’s all because when I was making clam with chorizo dish, I saved some sautéed onion and chorizo mixture before adding the clams, and kept it in the fridge.  All I did was adding that and (also leftover) sautéed potatoes to beaten eggs. All I did for the chowder is to add can of garbanzo beans and chicken broth (or even water!) to the chorizo mix and heat it up and puree with a stick blender.

Now you can see how many different varieties of dishes you can create by combining these leftovers and some other things you have in your pantry, fridge or freezer.

That’s why I am able to cut so much time from cooking the next time.

This is quintessence of Kitchen Wizard style cooking.

You can do the same.  Always keep leftovers to repurpose into many other dishes, so cooking & eating will be always a breeze and fun. Even when you don’t have time.  You’ll impress your family and friends for sure.

It’ll be like a magic! You too will feel like a wizard.

And never underestimate the power of leftovers!

Kitchen Tip du Jour: Label everything with contents and date.

Label everything with:

  • Contents: ex. how its cooked, what’s in it, what part, vegetarian or not, etc.
  • Date: when it’s cooked, frozen or reheated.
  • (Optional) Serving size or portion:  Ideal to change the amount left over on the label as it’s used up.)

Use abbreviations as needed.  Make sure they are easy to decipher to you and those in your household.

Example:

  • SH P Chix Breast, 7/16, (2)  — shredded, porched chicken breast, made on 7/16, 2 breasts
  • ST onion/chorizo mix, 7/15  (1 c) — Sauteed, onion, chorizo mixture, made on 7/14, 1 cup
  • Lentil Soup, VN, 7/14 (4)  — Lentil soup, Vegan, 7/14, 4 servings
  • GR Turkey, 7/2 (4 oz) — ground turkey, frozen on 7/2, 4 oz portion

You get the idea.

This will make your life a lot easier… and save a ton of time and frustration! (Especially for something frozen.)