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Loving Leftovers: How to Re-Use Spaghetti


Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.


Welcome to My Kitchen

If you have been following me for a while, you will recognize that utilizing leftovers in a thoughtful way (not simply zapping them in the microwave) is not a new concept. In fact, this is my sixth article in a regular first-day-of-the-month series on using leftovers in a thoughtful, frugal, and tasty way. The first installment focused on leftover mashed potatoes, the next month on meatloaf, stale bread, and then too many zucchinis. Last month the topic was leftover barbecue.

An important fact to know about me: I don't just like pasta—I LOVE pasta. Perfectly-cooked spaghetti with marinara sauce or a meaty bolognese is heavenly, but let's be honest; the leftovers are boring and rather uninspiring. Let's re-purpose that leftover spaghetti and give it a reason to live.

Before we create the perfect use of spaghetti leftovers, don't we need to have the perfect spaghetti? Just in case you don't (or wonder if there is something better than the recipe you have in your file), here is my version.


How to Make Perfect Spaghetti

The Sauce


  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
  • 36 oz. (4 ½ cups) chicken broth
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced basil
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste


  1. Heat a heavy 5-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  2. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken broth to the tomato paste and stir until well blended.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Cover and cook over low heat for 2 hours.
  6. Remove the bay leaves before serving.

A Few Simple Rules to Remember:

  • Use a large pot and lots of water.
  • Start with cold water and bring to a rapid boil over high heat by covering the pot with the lid.
  • Add about 2 tablespoons of kosher salt per pound of pasta.
  • Do not add the salt until the water has come to a boil (salted water takes longer to come to a full rolling boil).
  • NEVER EVER EVER add oil to the water.
  • Spaghetti should be cooked just before serving—make the sauce wait for the pasta; never make the pasta wait for completion of the sauce.
  • Add the pasta all at once and keep the heat high so that the water will return to a boil as quickly as possible.
  • Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
  • Do NOT cover the pot.
  • Start timing your pasta once the water has returned to a boil. Spaghetti usually cooks in 8 to 12 minutes.
  • Begin testing your pasta after it has boiled for 5 minutes. Remove a small piece and taste it—it should be tender but still firm. The Italian phrase for this is al dente (ahl-DEN-tay) which means "to the tooth." Your pasta should have a slight resistance (feel chewy) when you bite into it. I call this "Goldilocks" pasta—not too soft, not too hard (in the center), but just right.
  • Before draining your spaghetti, remove and set aside about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  • Drain but do not rinse the pasta.
  • Toss the pasta with about 1 cup of the sauce. If it seems to "thick" stir in some of the reserved pasta water.
No, no, no!

No, no, no!

Yes, please!

Yes, please!

Leftover Pasta Fritters

Nagi is one of my favorite food bloggers. I know I can always rely on her to have something creative and new, and she certainly didn't disappoint on this recipe for fritters made with leftover pasta mixed with sauce. She used leftover spaghetti with red sauce, but the beauty of this recipe is that you can use any leftover pasta—any shape, any sauce.

Now, isn't that thrifty?

Leftover Spaghetti Frittata

What if you have excess pasta, but no extra sauce? Make a frittata. Frugal Italian cooks have been doing this for generations (perhaps centuries). Combine pasta and eggs, toss in whatever else might be lingering in the icebox (we're talking old-school here), bake and voila—you have a savory tasty meal for your family, and you've rescued leftover bits of this and that from being wasted.

Spaghetti Pie

Here's an idea that is actually a mash-up of the first two recipes. Leftover pasta is used to shape a "pie crust," and then is filled with meat and sauce, covered with cheese, and baked to make an easy one-dish meal for your hungry family.

Spaghetti Braid

The manufacturers of Rhodes frozen bread dough developed this recipe. At first glance, you might think that spaghetti wrapped in bread is too-carby, just over-the-top. But I've rationalized it in this way; it's the same as eating spaghetti with garlic bread, just a different shape. Enjoy.

Pour Man's Minestrone Soup

(Adapted from GoodCheapEats.com.)


  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Italian sausages, cooked and sliced
  • 4 cups cooked spaghetti with sauce
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large stockpot combine the water, potato, carrot, beans, and sausages. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
  2. Stir in spaghetti and cook another 5 minutes until soup is hot. Adjust seasonings to taste, using salt and pepper.

What If You Have Just Sauce Left Over?

Don't toss out leftover sauce, even if there are only a few spoonfuls. Portion it into an ice cube tray. Once frozen the spaghetti sauce cubes can be stored in a zip-lock bag. Plop one or more into a pot of soup or stew for a burst of flavor.

Or, if you save enough of them, you just might find that you have enough to reheat and serve anew with pasta. Here we are again. The circle of life.

© 2018 Linda Lum


Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 02, 2018:

I love pasta too and would love trying out new pasta dishes. Thanks for the creative and inventive leftover spaghetti recipe ideas. I would try them out soon.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 01, 2018:

Rochelle, in my book pasta is never a bad thing. Thanks for stopping by.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 01, 2018:

Oh, Lori, it sounds as though you really admired your great aunt Marg. I take this as a huge compliment. Thank you so much. She probably shared her timeline with my parents who were young adults during the Great Depression. Nothing goes to waste.

Thank you for your kind words and support.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on October 01, 2018:

I agree-- we always agree that spaghetti, macaroni and other pasta dishes are always better warmed-over.

Lori Colbo from United States on October 01, 2018:

I just ate dinner and dessert and this still made me salivate. I raised four boys. I live alone now but still, tend to make more than I can eat. I do eat the leftovers, but usually, I don't like them. You remind me of my great aunt Marg. If there were two tater tots left over she would save it and I don't know what else she did with it but you can throw it into almost anything. I will copy and paste these and keep them in my recipe pile.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 01, 2018:

Mary, please let me know if you try it.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 01, 2018:

I have never reused spaghetti. These are great ideas on how to reuse it but the one I love most is that spaghetti braid.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 01, 2018:

That's really the way all pasta should be cooked. Take it to all dente and then let it finish cooking in the sauce. The sauce flavors the pasta and the starch of the pasta thickens the sauce. Symbiotic

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 01, 2018:

I never thought about mixing the sauce with the spaghetti before serving. Great idea! Your leftovers look delicous, although I am trying to keep my calories low right now, so some owrk better than others for me. Thanks for the recipes.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 01, 2018:

Flourish, I don't know how long I'll be able to keep up this series, but there are at least 4 more written and waiting for me to push the "publish" button.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 01, 2018:

Shauna, I don't think there's a bad way of eating pasta. We are full-steam ahead for Fall weather here, so I'm thinking tons of pasta, soups, and stews.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 01, 2018:

You can reuse spaghetti? Whoa! You really are a diva! I usually have my husband “clean it up” or I freeze it, but this is great.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 01, 2018:

I haven't eaten spaghetti and red sauce in quite a while. I just find it too heavy for Florida weather. However, I eat pasta all the time. When I have leftover spaghetti or pasta and no sauce, I usually just add milk, butter, salt and pepper and reheat it. I know it sounds kind of lazy, but noodles with milk and butter was a favorite after school snack when we were kids. I still love it!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on October 01, 2018:

Bill, you are always entertaining. Just like my cat--I put up with your antics. Have a great Monday, my friend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 01, 2018:

Re-use it? I just keep eating it until it's gone, no matter how many days that takes. Me thinks my approach to leftover spaghetti is easier than your approach. lol I'm sure glad you like me and are willing to put up with my nonsense.

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