How to Fix Undercooked Pasta | 4 Methods to Salvage The Meal

More than a few times, I started draining pasta and then realized it wasn’t done. Oops! But not all is lost.

There are found different ways you can salvage the meal if the pasta is not entirely done:

  1. Boil more water- Bring another pot of water to a boil and drop the pasta back in to cook another minute or two.
  2. Microwave it- Cook it in the microwave for just a minute or two.
  3. Soak it in the sauce- Drop the pasta into the pot of sauce and let it cook until done;
  4. Convert it- Turn the meal into a baked pasta dish

Let’s go through each option in more detail:

Pile of fresh pasta in a strainer

1. Boil Another Pot Of Water And Cook The Pasta Until Done

This is best if you catch it fast and it hasn’t cooled.

Just add fresh water back to the pot and bring it to a boil. Drop in the pasta, and cook it for a little longer until it is completely done.

If you choose this method, there are a couple of things to do:

  1. Watch the pasta carefully and test it every minute or so to be sure the pasta is not overcooked.
  2. Add salt to the water since reboiling in plain water will remove the salt from the pasta.

If you need to cook the pasta a little longer and you still have the water that it was cooked in, that is the best possible option.

Just reheat the water to boiling, put the pasta back into the pot and cook it for just a little longer, testing the pasta often to be sure it doesn’t become overcooked.

2. Cook The Pasta In A Microwave

If your pasta is just a little undercooked, the quickest method of cooking it until done is to:

  1. Put it into a microwave-proof bowl.
  2. Cover the pasta with water.
  3. Cook it on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until done.

Check it often, at least after every minute of cooking time, to make sure it doesn’t get overcooked!

3. Add The Pasta To The Sauce And Continue Cooking

If you have a pot of sauce simmering on the stove, you can drop the pasta into the pot of sauce and continue cooking it until the pasta is done.

This would not be my favorite way of fixing the problem, however, for two reasons: 

  1. Some people like a lot of sauce, and some do not.
  2. The pasta will soak up the sauce rather quickly. This will be fine if you have plenty of sauce, but if not, your pasta dish may be a little dry.

4. Turn Your Dish Into A Baked Pasta Dish

This could be a very good option for you if you have the extra ingredients on hand.

No matter what kind of pasta you have prepared, this will work.

  1. Layer the pasta with sauce and ricotta or cottage cheese in a baking pan, and top the whole thing with mozzarella. You can also use cheddar cheese if you do not have mozzarella on hand.
  2. Then bake your dish until the cheese is bubbling and your pasta has finished cooking, and your family and friends may never know that you undercooked the pasta.

Nothing Worked- What to Do?

Young woman standing in the kitchen thinking

This is the last resort, but if you feel like your pasta is completely hopeless, it is probably the way to go.

Just start over and cook a new batch. This time, however, you will remember to test the pasta to see if it is completely done before you drain it.

Make sure you have plenty of time before the meal must be served. you can

Can You Soften Pasta Without Boiling It?

Pasta can be softened without boiling it.

Here are 3 options:

  1. Drop your pasta into the sauce on the stove and let it simmer right along with the sauce. This works particularly well if you are making a baked dish like baked ziti and adding other ingredients, like a thick layer of cheese on top.
  2. Layer sauce and the pasta in a baking dish and cooking it in the oven for a few minutes.
  3. Putt he undercooked pasta into a baking dish with just a little water, cover the dish with a lid or with a sheet of foil, and bake it in the oven until the pasta is done.

How To Tell If Pasta Is Undercooked

In order to test the pasta to see if it is done, there are a couple of different methods you can use. 

  1. The best method for testing to see whether pasta is done is to cut or bite into a piece of it and just take a look at one side. If the pasta has a small white spot in the center, then it is not done and should be cooked longer.
  2. You can also taste the pasta which will immediately let you know whether it is done. Pasta that is not entirely done will be chewy.

Can You Re-cook Undercooked Pasta?

You can re-cook undercooked pasta by putting it back into boiling water and cooking it for a short time longer.

If you still have the original water, it was cooked in, use that, but be sure to bring it back to a boil before dropping the pasta back in. If you do not have the original water, use fresh water but bring it to a boil before adding the pasta.

If you find yourself in the position of recooking undercooked pasta, be sure to watch it very closely and test for doneness at least every minute because overcooked pasta cannot be salvaged, and a new batch of pasta must be cooked.

How Long Does It Take To Cook Pasta?

Uncooked pasta with a timer sitting in it

The length of time it takes to cook pasta depends on a couple of things.

  1. The type of pasta
  2. Whether you are cooking it done or al dente.

Each package of pasta will contain written directions that should be followed closely. However, I have found that I need to cook pasta a little longer than what the package directions state, but part of it is a matter of personal preference and the exact way you like your pasta cooked.

So, do what I do, set a timer for the length of time instructed by the package directions, and then taste at least every minute or so until the desired doneness is achieved.

Here is a table that lists the recommended cooking times for most of the more frequently used types of pasta.

Type of PastaAl denteCooking Time
Angel Hair4 min.5 min.
Bowties8 – 10 min.10 – 15 min.
Fettuccine8 – 10 min.10 – 13 min.
Fresh Pasta1 – 2 min.2 – 4 min.
Gluten Free6 – 8 min.8 – 10 min.
Lasagna10 – 13 min.11 – 15 min.
Linguine9 – 11 min.10 – 13 min.
Macaroni8 – 10 min.9 – 12 min.
Manicotti8 – 10 min.10 – 12 min.
Pappardelle6 – 9 min.7 – 10 min.
Penne10 – 12 min.12 – 14 min.
Ravioli4 – 6 min.5 – 9 min.
Rigatoni8 – 10 min.9 – 14 min.
Rotini7 – 9 min.8 – 10 min.
Shells7 – 10 min.9 – 12 min.
Spaghetti8 – 10 min.9 – 12 min.
Tortellini8 – 10 min9 – 11 min.

Note: Most dry pasta takes around 10 minutes to cook, but to make sure your pasta is not overcooked and ruined, it is a good idea to start checking the pasta at about 8 minutes so that you can make sure it is perfect every time.

How To Prevent Pasta From Sticking Together

Many years ago, a friend of mine who is of Italian descent showed me a little tip.

To prevent pasta from sticking together, all you have to do is add a small amount of cooking oil or butter to the water when you put on a pot of water to boil pasta.

I never measure the amount of oil, but just pour in a little bit when I add salt to the water. The amount is no more than 2 or 3 teaspoons, but it really does the trick to keep the paste from sticking.

Of course, you still have to stir the pasta occasionally as it cooks to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Just in case you need a good spaghetti sauce recipe that is quick and easy to make, here is one I’ve used for years:

Is Chewy Pasta Undercooked Or Overcooked?

Pasta that is chewy is undercooked and should be cooked a little more.

However, if you are cooking the pasta al dente to go into a baked dish which will be cooked a little longer after the other ingredients are added, the problem will be solved. The pasta should be done by the time the baked dish has finished cooking.

Pasta that is soft and mushy is overcooked and cannot be salvaged. It should just be discarded.

Can You Cook Pasta In The Microwave?

You can cook pasta in the microwave by:

  1. Placing it in a large microwave-proof bowl.
  2. Cover the pasta with water.
  3. Cook on high for the length of time stated on the package directions.

Important: You will need to add a few extra minutes, usually 3 to 4 minutes, to the cooking time and check to see if it is done after each minute of cooking time.

In addition to cooking pasta in the microwave, the best way I have found to heat pasta is by using a microwave.

All you have to do is put the cooked pasta into a microwave-proof dish and heat it on high for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the amount you have to heat, and you are ready to eat. You can either heat the pasta with or without the sauce.

Can You Cook Pasta In A Rice Cooker?


The rice cooker is one of those new kitchen cookers that serve more than one purpose. Not only does a rice cooker do a great job of cooking rice, but it also cooks pasta as well.

The most important thing is to make sure your cooker will handle the amount of pasta you are cooking. Like rice, pasta doubles in volume when cooked.

To cook pasta in a rice cooker, just follow these easy directions:

  1. Put 1 cup of pasta into the cooker.
  2. Add enough water to the cooker to just cover the pasta.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of oil and sprinkle in a little salt. Stir well.
  4. Close the lid to the cooker and set it to “cook.”
  5. Open up the cooker once or twice during the cooking cycle to stir.
  6. Remove the cooked pasta from the cooker as soon as the cook cycle ends to avoid scorching the pasta.

Pro Tip: When cooking spaghetti, break it in half before adding it to the cooker.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss Does Food Cook Faster Covered or Uncovered? (Lid on vs Off).

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts