Genius Ways To Use Leftover Pasta Beyond Reheating

Bowl of pasta
Bowl of pasta - Liudmyla Chuhunova/Shutterstock

When you've had a long day at work and your stomach is grumbling, diving into a complicated recipe that will take an hour or more to make is not an option. Instead, you might decide to boil up some pasta, heat up some marinara, and call it a night. If you're planning a special occasion and want to make a truly delicious meal, however, the thought process might be the same, because the beauty of this humble starch is how seamlessly it fits into just about any meal plan. There are countless pasta recipes that are dangerously delicious and suit every occasion, whether you need a quick bite to eat after a stressful day or an elegant, indulgent meal to impress. Most of us have at least one bag of pasta in our pantry at any given time and are ready to employ it at the least provocation.

No matter how many times you make pasta, however, it's hard to get the quantity right. Maybe you weren't following a recipe and overshot the portions, or maybe you'd just rather have too much pasta than too little. In either case, you'll need to figure out what to do with the leftover cooked pasta. Sure, you could simply reheat it the next day, but with a food so versatile, why not try something a little different? Here are 14 ways to see this beloved starch in a whole new light.

Read more: Ingredients To Take Your Scrambled Eggs To The Next Level

Make Fritters

Stack of fritters
Stack of fritters - nelea33/Shutterstock

Once you realize that you can turn just about any leftovers into fritters, you'll start looking at the contents of your fridge differently. You can transform dull, canned vegetables into fantastic fritters, but pasta might be an even tastier option, especially when you're stuck with leftovers that are already covered in sauce or mixed with vegetables and have been in the fridge for over a day. All those other ingredients mean that you won't have to worry about adding extra seasonings, and the longer the pasta sits in the fridge, the more it will start to stick together like glue. This isn't particularly appealing if you're thinking about reheating and consuming it as-is, but it's perfect for fritters, which need their ingredients to stick together in order to hold their shape.

Making leftover pasta fritters is just like making crispy fried zucchini fritters. You'll need flour, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper, and bread crumbs in addition to the leftover pasta. Once you've roughly chopped the pasta and turned the ingredients into a sticky mixture, shape them into patties and fry them on the stovetop until they're golden and crispy.

Add It To A Frittata

Pasta frittata
Pasta frittata - denio109/Shutterstock

You might think that frittatas are the less exciting, crustless cousin of quiches, but we're willing to bet that pasta frittatas will change this perception. They're also blissfully simple to make. All you need is leftover pasta, eggs, salt, pepper, and cheese. You can also add bacon, herbs, and sautéed veggies if you want to take things to the next level. This recipe does not require any chopping of the pasta, even if you're using spaghetti. In fact, longer strands are better since they'll be more likely to poke out of the surface of the frittata and become toasted and crispy in the oven.

The main difference between frittatas and quiches (aside from their lack of crust) is cooking time. Quiches can take up to 40 minutes to bake, while frittatas need only around 15. If you cook them in an oven-proof skillet on the stovetop first, they'll need even less. The process is surprisingly simple and quick, but there are pitfalls, and you should keep in mind the mistakes everyone makes when cooking a frittata. For example, if you're going to add milk or cream, be sparing. Frittatas have enough moisture without added dairy, and it's better to play it safe than end up with a result that doesn't hold its shape.

Turn It Into Soup

minestrone with pasta
minestrone with pasta - Yelenayemchuk/Getty Images

Pasta is one of the many starches that you can use in soup. Whether you're using whole wheat penne or classic macaroni shells, it provides a springy texture and a filling dose of carbohydrates. You can toss pasta into just about any soup, regardless of whether the recipe calls for it. Simply grab a handful and dump it in the soup about eight minutes before you pull it off the heat. If you want to build up a soup around leftover pasta, however, minestrone is an excellent option. Light, flavorful, and full of vegetables, it's a standout option for weeknights when you want something healthy and straightforward. The Italian soup often includes some type of protein, such as beans and meat, but pasta will help bulk it up so you don't have to include any side dishes with the meal.

To make it, start by sautéing the veggies you've chosen. Onions, carrots, and potatoes are traditional components, but you can also include squash, celery, kale, or anything else you have lying around in your fridge. The familiar red broth in minestrone is made with canned tomatoes. Our minestrone recipe also calls for bay leaves to intensify the flavors. Since the pasta is already cooked, it's important to add it at the last moment to ensure it doesn't disintegrate into a doughy paste. Give it no more than five minutes on the heat and serve the soup immediately.

Make Mouthwatering Pastitsio

Pastitsio - from my point of view/Shutterstock

For fans of lasagna, pastitsio is a must-try recipe and the unsung hero of pasta dishes. On the surface, it looks a lot like its Italian cousin. Once you slice into it, however, you realize that it's in a league of its own. Instead of layers of lasagna noodles, tomato-based meat sauce, and ricotta, it's made with a layer of penne pasta, meat sauce spiced with clove and cinnamon, and a thick layer of cheesy béchamel. This is not the kind of dish made with leftovers that you pull together in under 30 minutes. It may even take longer to make the original pasta dish that produced the leftovers you're trying to get rid of. But if you have the time to conquer a multi-pronged recipe that produces rich, seductive comfort food, it will not disappoint.

Traditional recipes use penne, but if you're stuck with another type of pasta like fusilli or tortiglioni, it will work equally well. You could even use spaghetti in a pinch, but it will change the texture of the finished product. In addition to the pasta, you'll need a counter-full of ingredients, including ground beef, onions, garlic, tomato paste, flour, eggs, milk, and Parmesan. This is a rich dish, as evidenced by the four cups of whole milk and the entire stick of butter that goes into our recipe. For a lesser-known iteration of a beloved comfort food, however, it is worth every calorie.

Try Your Hand At Apple Kugel

Apple kugel
Apple kugel - Kristen Carli/Mashed

For those who are looking for a truly surprising way to use up their leftover pasta, apple kugel is the way to go. Part breakfast, part dessert, it is without a doubt one of the most unique ways to enjoy the rest of last night's penne. If you think about it, though, it makes sense. Pasta is a neutral starch that does not have any intrinsically savory hallmarks. We turn bread, sweet potatoes, and even rice into sweet recipes all the time, so why not give pasta a similar makeover?

Noodle kugel is a traditional Jewish casserole that can be sweet or savory. Sweet versions often include custard and dried fruit, but there is plenty of flexibility as long as you're using noodles as the base ingredient. Our apple kugel recipe, for example, takes a stripped-back approach with just three ingredients -- apples, pasta, and applesauce. Once these ingredients have baked for 40 minutes in a casserole dish, the pasta will be suffused with sweet apple flavor. It's the perfect dish for a healthy dessert or unique breakfast.

Make Cheesy Pasta Skewers

pasta skewers
pasta skewers - Susan Olayinka/Mashed

If you're looking for an appetizer that is both quick and unique, put pasta skewers at the top of your list. They are easy to make and contain familiar comfort food flavors, but their presentation is anything but ordinary.

Start by threading your leftover pasta onto skewers. Rigatoni and ziti are the best varieties to use for the recipe, but with a little patience, you could probably manage it with penne as well. In fact, as long as the pasta can be skewered without falling apart, you can use any variety you like. Once the skewers are chock full of pasta, brush them with marinara, bury them in cheese, and let them cook in the air fryer or oven for five minutes. It's that simple. The results are gooey with cheese, crunchy with air-fried pasta, and so delicious you'll want to eat them as the main dish.

Make Pasta Muffins

egg muffins
egg muffins - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

When you've already eaten pasta for dinner, you might not want to repurpose it for the next night's meal. Instead of throwing it out, why not turn it into a mouthwatering breakfast? Although the starch is usually featured on dinner and lunch menus, it can make a delicious centerpiece for the first meal of the day. One of the best options that will be a hit with kids and adults alike is to turn them into egg muffins. Full of flavor, protein, and carbohydrates, pasta egg muffins are a well-rounded breakfast that will provide the fuel you need to start your day.

All you have to do is preheat the oven, grease a muffin tin, roughly chop the leftover pasta, and whisk it with eggs and seasonings. For more vitamins and flavor, add grated veggies, cheese, and ham or bacon. For a crunchy texture, combine melted butter and bread crumbs and sprinkle it on top before putting the tin in the oven. Baking might seem like a big ask for a weekday morning, but these only take about 35 to 45 minutes to make and can be stored in the fridge for several days.

Use It To Stuff Peppers

stuffed peppers
stuffed peppers - Rudisill/Getty Images

Whether you're looking for a light main course or an attention-grabbing side dish, stuffed peppers fit the bill. They also have the benefit of being highly versatile. You can stuff them with cheese, rice, meat, and vegetables, to name a few. Whatever leftovers you have lying around, there's a good chance you can toss them in there, too. Pasta is no exception. With its neutral flavor and absorbent texture, it's a natural fit for the dish.

Start by slicing off the tops of the bell peppers and removing the seeds and membranes. Your filling can consist of anything you want it to. Our easy stuffed bell peppers recipe contains ground beef, diced onions, garlic, tomatoes, corn, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, and cheddar cheese, but feel free to be creative and opportunistic. To create an even texture, roughly chop the pasta. Once the filling has been sautéed, pile it into the prepared peppers, top it with cheese, and bake it for about 40 minutes.

Make A Casserole

pasta casserole
pasta casserole - from my point of view/Shutterstock

Casseroles are the scrapbooks of the culinary world. When your fridge is full of incongruous savory ingredients, just give them a little sauté, pop them in a casserole dish, cover them with cheese, and let them bake for 30 minutes. Nine times out of 10, you'll end up with something not only palatable, but delicious. Leftover pasta is one of the best ways to fill out a casserole dish. It absorbs flavor easily while also providing texture and structure, making it much more appealing as a base ingredient than rice.

Casseroles can be made on a whim, but if you want to take a more secure route, we've got plenty of options to try that will help you get rid of that extra pasta. For classic Italian flavor, opt for an easy spaghetti and meatball casserole. With handmade meatballs and leftover pasta, it's bursting with flavor and only takes 45 minutes to make. If you'd rather deviate from the usual pasta pairings, our chicken bacon ranch casserole recipe is every bit as indulgent as spaghetti and meatballs, but with different types of meat and a whole other world of flavor.

Make Shakshuka

shakshuka - sweet marshmallow/Shutterstock

Shakshuka is a North African dish that has become a staple of North American brunches. Made of stewed tomatoes and veggies with eggs poached on top, it's a quick, satisfying meal that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Many shakshuka recipes also call for feta, paprika, and cumin. The result is a healthy yet rich dish that is packed with flavor and can stand alone as a meal when it's served with bread.

There are many variations to the standard recipe that bulk up the dish or add new flavors. Meat is a popular choice, as are grains like rice and farro. Pasta is another excellent option. Since it is often paired with tomato-based sauces anyway, it's surprising that the starch isn't added to shakshuka more regularly. You can make it even more familiar by using pasta sauce, or opt for a more traditional route by crushing and stewing fresh tomatoes. Make sure not to skip any of the spices. In the case of shakshuka, the deliciousness is all in the details.

Make A Mac And Cheese Sandwich

Buffalo chicken mac sandwich
Buffalo chicken mac sandwich - Lauren Schumacker/Mashed

If you love mac and cheese as much as you like grilled cheese, we have good news: you can combine these two comfort foods to create the sandwich to end all sandwiches. Even better, it includes buffalo chicken just for good measure. This grilled buffalo chicken mac and cheese sandwich recipe is not for the faint of heart (or appetite), but it will hit the spot for anyone who loves cheese, carbs, and crispy chicken wings. As far as getting rid of leftover pasta goes, it's a winner. It takes about an hour to make, which might seem like a lot to ask for a sandwich, but keep in mind that you're making everything from scratch -- including the buffalo chicken -- and that the results will knock your socks off.

To make it, you'll need a range of ingredients, including chicken breasts, buffalo sauce, honey, several types of cheese, dry mustard, paprika, nutmeg, milk, ranch dressing, and, of course, plenty of leftover pasta. To keep things somewhat healthy, the chicken is baked instead of fried, but make sure you butter your bread on both sides to ensure the perfect amount of flavor and crispness.

Turn It Into An Omelet Filling

omelet - Cook Shoots Food/Shutterstock

There are plenty of fillings you should never put into an omelet, such as condiments that add too much moisture and crunchy grains that clash with the texture. But pasta is one of the few options that is both a delicious addition and rarely used. Most omelets contain a mixture of vegetables and cheese, but when you add pasta, the dish becomes a complete meal -- no side of toast necessary. Unlike other recipes that require the pasta to be plain, omelets benefit from pasta that has extra ingredients and flavors. If you had pasta with meat sauce last night and don't want to simply heat it up and eat it again, putting it in an omelet is the perfect way to enjoy it again without realizing that you're recycling last night's meal.

The process is simple, though mastering the art of omelet-making takes practice. If your pasta is already seasoned, you can simply add it to the omelet before folding it in half. Otherwise, make sure to include other ingredients for flavor.

Make Pasta Ratatouille

ratatouille - nelea33/Shutterstock

Ratatouille is an elegantly simple dish that screams French sophistication. It was created in Nice and was a staple meal for peasants who used any fresh vegetables that were available in their gardens. As such, there is no definitive recipe, though zucchini, bell peppers, and eggplant are the most common components. Ratatouille is a vegetable dish, but if you're hungry and trying to turn it into a complete meal, you'll probably need to add a few extra ingredients to make it feel filling.

Pasta is an obvious choice, turning the classic French dish into a fusion with Italian cuisine. The addition doesn't dominate the mild flavor of the vegetables, nor does it turn the lightness of the dish into something heavy and meaty. The only downside is that pasta makes it harder to arrange the ratatouille into an elegant swirl the way you might see in pictures, but the convenience and deliciousness outweigh the aesthetics.

Make Pasta Chips

pasta chips
pasta chips - Susan Olayinka/Mashed

You can add pasta to pretty much any savory dish if you set your mind to it, but few recipes aside from mac and cheese or pesto pasta feature the starch front and center with almost no supporting ingredients. Enter the pasta chips TikTok trend. The app is full of unique air fryer recipes, but few of them are ingenious enough to catch the attention of our recipe developers. Pasta chips are an exception. Made by air-frying cooked pieces of pasta until they are the perfect texture for dipping into delicious tomato-based sauces, they are quick to make -- especially when you're using leftover pasta -- and they put a whole new spin on the pantry staple.

To make pasta chips, all you need is cooked pasta (note that long, thin ribbons like spaghetti and tagliatelle will not work for this recipe), Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning, olive oil, garlic powder, and salt. Combine these ingredients until the pasta is fully coated, and then put the pasta in the air fryer or bake it in the oven for 10 minutes. Make sure you have some marinara on hand for dipping.

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