Par-cooking pasta?

My neighbors just had a baby, and I was thinking of bringing them a dish I made recently that I thought was really tasty -- fusilli with smoky red pepper sauce. I was planning to give them the sauce separate from the pasta, and I'm wondering if it would work to undercook the pasta by a couple of minutes, and give the food to them with instructions to simmer the pasta in the sauce for a couple of minutes to reheat. I always finish cooking my pasta in whatever sauce I'm making, but I've never waited a period of hours between cooking the pasta in water and finishing it in the sauce. Will the fusilli continue to cook too much if it sits out for too long between steps? Wondering if this will work OK or be a mess...thoughts?

Kristen W.


Kristen W. September 29, 2012
Thanks, all! I'm glad to know this will work, and am grateful for the excellent tips!

Boulangere, here's the sauce recipe (I made it on the fly from what I had in the house, so it's not a super-precise recipe): cut one smallish onion into thick slices and tossed in a little EVOO, cut the top off a head of garlic and wrap it in foil, and take 2 large or 3 small red bell peppers (not sure if these needed a shmear of EVOO as well or not, since the skin gets removed, but I chose to shmear them), and put them all on a baking sheet under the broiler until the peppers are well-roasted, the onions are brown in spots, and the garlic is soft.

(The next step introduces chicken into the sauce, which is totally optional. I put it in b/c I like the infusion of the chicken juices into the sauce, and my husband is always happier if I add some meat.)

Meanwhile, cut about a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and season w/ S & P. Saute in a skillet with a little EVOO until the chicken is barely cooked through, and remove the chicken and set it aside. Pour off as much of the fat from the pan as you can without pouring out the juices released from the chicken.

When the peppers are thoroughly charred, put them in a ziplock bag and waited until they're cool enough to handle; then remove the skin. Transfer the peppers, onion, and garlic (cloves removed from skin, of course) to a blender with about 1/4 cup + 1-2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream, somewhere between 1/2-1 tsp of Spanish smoked paprika, and S & P to taste. Then transfer the blended mixture into the skillet and simmer gently for a few minutes until it thickens a little. Add chicken and simmer for a minute until heated through; add pasta (and about 1/2 cup pasta water) to finish, and voila! Hope you enjoy it if you make it! IMHO, it's the smoked Spanish paprika that makes the dish. That stuff is magical...
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 29, 2012
Yeah, new baby! Here's a past hotline post that may be helpful:
Author Comment
I concur; rinsing the pasta under cold water and tossing it with a spoonful of olive oil will hold it perfectly. The other thought is to make the sauce just a TOUCH looser than normal (maybe an extra 1/4-1/2 cup of water) to account for the extra cooking time and the absorption by the pasta - your undercooked pasta will absorb more water than properly al dente pasta will.
boulangere September 29, 2012
Your plan is not only extremely kind, but also flawless. Par cooking the pasta is what restaurants do regularly. I'd suggest cooking your pasta only about halfway, then cooling it completely under cold running water, and finally tossing it with some olive oil before packaging it in ziplock bags. The instructions you plan to include are perfect. The only caveat may be that the sauce not be too spicy for a breastfeeding mother. I'd actually love to see your sauce recipe!
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