5 ways to recycle leftover pasta

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

Artisan pasta maker

Who feels like eating warmed up pasta for dinner tonight? I knew it! No one! Nobody likes soggy, microwaved pasta. Even if you are a student on a tight budget, there’s not need to eat yukky stuff. In this post, I’m going to teach you 5 ways to recycle leftover pasta that are tasty and easy to implement. 


We have all done this: our eyes, bigger than our stomach, decide to make us cook so much pasta to feed a whole football team, reserves included. Then we find ourselves eating warmed up pasta for the next few days, or worse, forgetting it in the fridge, and then having to throw it away because it has gone bad. 

I don’t know you, but I don’t particularly like to eat warmed up or microwaved pasta, and I dislike even more throwing away food.

So, what to do?

Thankfully, there are tasty ways to recycle leftover pasta, and this involve creating brand new dishes out of it. 


Some of memes created about the difficulties of measuring pasta!

In Italy we have several ways to recycle leftover pasta, some of them very easy, others a little more fiddly, but all of them extremely tasty. 

From the classic frittata di maccheroni, the traditional Neapolitan way to reuse pasta, to the more sophisticated timballo di maccheroni, keep reading to discover 5 ways to recycle leftover pasta.

You can use these suggestions to create your own special pasta recycling recipe.  Just remember one thing: microwaving the pasta is usually a bad idea, as it goes soggy and disgusting. If really in a hurry, or not feeling like cooking complicated things, sautee your leftover pasta in a little oil or butter. It will taste a 1000 times better than anything microwaved. 


“If you don’t want end up cooking always too much pasta (or too little), invest in a good scale (click HERE to check my favourite one) and weight it! The average portion is 85 grams of dried pasta per person. If you are hungry, make it 100 grams. If you are not a big eater, go for 70 grams.”

The 5 ways to recycle leftover pasta

First way: Frittata di maccheroni (pasta frittata)

pasta omelette

This is my and my children’s favourite pasta recycling method: make an omelette! Especially good if the pasta you have is undressed spaghetti or other long pasta.

It’s a little like preparing tortilla: beat few eggs (it all depends from how much pasta you have, but I would go for 2 eggs for every 100 gr of pasta) and season them with salt, pepper, and some grated parmesan cheese. Toss the pasta in the eggs to coat it evenly. 

Take a pan, pour some frying oil in it, and turn the heat on medium high. Tip the pasta in and cook both side until they get a nice golden colour.

To make this dish even more yummy, you can stir diced cooked ham or crispy bacon in the eggs. Tip half of the pasta in the pan. Layer with sliced mozzarella, and cover with the other half of the pasta. Cook both side. Delicious!


PRO TIP: you can also bake the frittata di maccheroni in the oven at 200°C/ 400°F/ gas mark 6 for 30 minutes

Second way: pasta al forno (baked pasta)

Another tasty way, especially withe leftover pasta with tomato sauce, it’s to make a pasta bake. Very simple to make, but it takes longer to cook than the frittata di maccheroni, so you will need to plan it a little in advance.

Just divide the pasta in two portions.  Sprinkle an oven dish with a little olive oil, then spread one portion of pasta. Then you can add, in the center, whatever you have in the fridge that inspires you. Usually, I like to add: cubed mozzarella, cubed salami, some cooked ham, some frozen peas, if I have leftover meatballs, I crumble them all over, chopped boiled egg, mushrooms,… Then, cover with the rest of the pasta, sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese and chopped basil on top, and bake in the over at 200°C/ 400°F/ gas mark 6  for about  45 minutes, or until the tops has taken a lovely golden colour.

If the pasta is too try, you can add some more tomato sauce. For a more luscious dish, stir in ricotta or a little bechamel.


PRO TIP: This dish is an excellent way to use any leftover cheese, vegetables, and cured meat before they go bad!


baked pasta

Third way: timballo di maccheroni

timballo di maccheroni
timballo alla napoletana

Timballo di maccheroni is pasta bake by the power of 100!!!

Rich, delicious, and …… Did I say delicious? It looks majestic on the tables, but it’s relatively easy to make.It requires some time, dough. You will need a deep fluted plain cake mould (LIKE THIS ONE).

Prepare a filling of you choice, but mostly we use minced meat, mozzarella, vegetables such as mushrooms and peas, and tomato sauce. You will need to cook the meat like a RAGÙ, but here you won’t have to be following a specific recipe, you can be as inventive as you like, and you can go lazy on the cooking time.

There are two ways of making the timballo di maccheroni. The first is by using the pasta as shell for the filling (as in the top picture on the left). For this, you will need a large pasta shape that can be easily picked and placed the way you want (the pasta in the top picture is ZITI LUNGHI). then you can dump your meat to fill the shell, then cover the base (which is actually the top when your prepare it) with more pasta to close your timballo. Bake for 45 minutes in the oven at 180°C/ 350°F/ gas mark 4.

The other way is to use aubergines or pizza dough as a shell, The aubergines shell is traditional from Sicily, whereas the bread is traditional from Naples (picture on the bottom left).

For the aubergines versions, fry the sliced aubergines, the alyer them on the baking dish until you cover it. Pour in the pasta, encriched with a meaty tomato sauce, to which you can add peas, ricotta, and some mozzarella if you like, the seal it with more aubergines. Bake in a pre-heated over for 45 minutes at 180°C/ 350°F/ gas mark 4.

For the bread version, make of buy some pizza or plain bread dough (I don’t give measurements here, because it all depends how much pasta you have: bear in mind that you will have to seal the pasta in the dough completely). Spread the dough thinly in an lightly oiled oven dish, making sure that you have enough dough over the border to close into a parcel. Fill with pasta seasoned with meaty tomato sauce. You can go overboard with the ragu, as this recipe wants more sauce than pasta. Fold the dough over the pasta to seal it. cut a cross over the top of the filled bread, to let the steam out. Bake for 30-40 minutes in a preheated oven at 200°C/ 400°F/ gas mark 6).


PRO TIP: Fort his dish you want to use pasta such as rigatoni, which traps the ragu well. Penne can also be used.

Fourth way: pasta salad

This is the way to use when it’s summer, and when you have plain leftover pasta. Just make a delicious pasta salad.

For this dish, the ideal pasta are short pasta such as penne, fusilli, and especially farfalle and ruote.

Rinse the leftover pasta in cold water to remove the starches and separate it. Put it in a bowl, and add vegetables and other ingredients to make a hearty salad.

My favourite combinations:

  • Mozzarella, tomatoes, green olives, roasted pine nuts, and  diluted in olive oil
  • Tuna, tomatoes, spinach leaves, boiled eggs, black olives, and olive oil
  • Prawns, rocket, cherry tomatoes, red onions, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar
  • Tuna, cucumber, sweetcorn, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil


PRO TIP: don’t leave the pasta salad dry: use olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice to season it and bring the flavour to the next level.

baked pasta

Fifth way: Frittatina napoletana

pasta omelette

This last way takes a little more work, even though not as much as for the pasticcio, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort. Frittatina Napoletana is a traditional street food from Naples. I used to eat it often when I had the munchies back in my university days.

Despite its name, the frittatina napoletana doesn’t contain any eggs. It’s more of a pasta fritter rather than a frittata.

Traditionally made with bucatini, you can use other long pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti. For this recipe the pasta must be without a sauce.

You will need boiled peas, ham, mozzarella, bechamel, and batter.

Blanch the pasta for a minute to warm it up and “wake up” the starches. Prepare a bechamel, or use a ready made one. Mix the pasta. peas, and diced ham with the bechamel, then put everything in an oven dish. press down with the back of a spoon to level up and compact well, and leave it in the fridge for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the batter with water, flour, salt, and pepper, making sure to avoid the formation of lumps. Cover and set aside.

When the 2 hours have passed, take the pasta from the fridge and -with a 8 cm round cookie cutter- cut into shapes.  Compact any leftover pasta into similar shapes, not to waste anything.

Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Dip the pasta circles in the batter, then fry them for 5-10 minutes each side, until it turns a lovely golden colour. Leave to cool down for a minute or so, then serve warm.


PRO TIP: You can freeze the frittatine di pasta. Best to freeze them after you batter them, and before frying them. Leave to defrost int he fridge before cooking.



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