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Cooking Tip: Make Pasta for a Crowd by Cooking Ahead!

When making pasta for a crowd, say 8 or more, you have to make multiple pounds of pasta which takes more time than just a single pound.  Oftentimes you end up waiting for the pasta to finish cooking before you serve, or the pasta gets down way too early and cools down.

Getting the timing just right on pasta can be infuriating but when you use a simple restaurant trick, it’s completely foolproof.  Just cook the pasta ahead!  See most restaurants will pre-cook their pastas, usually undercooking it a little so then all they have to do is re-heat it and finish the cooking process so they can quickly get the meals plated.   So if you have a crowd coming over and you’re going to need to cook 2 or more pounds of pasta, you can pre-cook it up to two days in advance and leave it in the fridge.

Just cook up the pasta as you normally would, I recommend undercooking it by about a minute.  If you’re making longer pasta like spaghetti or linguini, we started using this Rachel Ray oval pasta pot a few years ago.  I’ll admit I laughed at my wife for making the purchase initially, but we actually use it quite often for both longer pasta and other uses.  You don’t need near as much water as you do in a tall pasta pot, nor do you need to bend down the pasta strands into the boiling water as they start to cook because the pot is long enough to hold the full length of the dry pasta.

Drain it into a colander and then rinse immediately with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Really rinse it well!

Let the pasta rest for a minute to let some of the cold water drain off and then coat and toss with olive oil, you can do this right in the colander.

Transfer to a ziplock bag or an airtight container and leave in the fridge for up to two days.

When it’s time to prep for the party, simply stage a pot of water on the stove and get it hot.   It doesn’t even have to be boiling, just good and hot and ready on the stove.  Now when the meal is ready and you’re set to serve the pasta, simply drop that pasta into the hot water for 1 or 2 minutes just to get it good and hot again.  Drain and serve with your favorite sauce.

A pasta pot like this one makes the re-heating and serving process really easy because you can simply drop portions of pasta in the hot water, lift the strainer, drain and serve.  Just keep repeating for as many portions as necessary.  I generally heat up about 3 portions at a time.

Voila!  I use this trick all the time when serving multiple pounds of pasta.


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