How to Cool Pasta Quickly

Pasta in colander

Patsa is a versatile cooking ingredient and a staple in many households. With the wide variety of shapes, sauces, and toppings available, there is sure to be a pasta dish that suits everyone’s taste. And in most instances, pasta is enjoyed hot.

However, there are still cases when it needs to be cooled properly after being cooked, such as when making pasta salad or batch cooking for the week ahead.

The issue with this is that pasta can take a while to cool down, and many people don’t have the time to wait.

Luckily, we know a few tips and tricks that can help you with this. Read on to learn how to cool pasta quickly without taking away from the enjoyment of your dish.


What’s the Quickest Way to Cool Pasta?

The most common way of cooling down pasta is by running it under cold water. This is by far the quickest and most efficient method, and you can speed the process up even further by using ice-cold water.

Here are the steps to follow if you’re in a rush and need cool pasta fast:

  1. Drain your pasta in a colander
  2. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice water
  3. Place the colander into the bowl so that the pasta is fully submerged
  4. Leave to chill for around 10 minutes
  5. Lift the colander from the ice bath and allow the pasta to drain

At this point, you can either dress and serve the pasta straight away or store it in the fridge for up to five days.

If you’re putting it in the fridge for later, let the pasta dry after submerging it in the icy water. We also suggest you coat it in olive oil before storing it to prevent clumping.

Pasta in colander under tap

What’s the Best Way to Cool Pasta?

Although putting cooked pasta in cold water is the quickest way to cool it down, doing so also removes the layer of starch coating your pasta.

This may not seem important, but this starchy layer is what helps the sauce cling to the pasta shapes.

Therefore, if you have time, we recommend the following method for cooling down pasta instead.

The process will take roughly an hour, but it leaves the pasta’s starch coating intact so that your pasta pieces are deliciously coated in a thick layer of sauce.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Drain your pasta and allow it to air dry
  2. Lightly coat the pasta in olive oil to prevent it from clumping together
  3. Spread the pasta onto a baking tray in an even layer
  4. Leave the pasta to cool for 30 minutes
  5. Once at room temperature, place the baking tray in the fridge to cool down further

When using this method, it’s important to leave the pasta to air dry (step 1). Doing so allows the olive oil to cling to the pasta shapes better to prevent clumping completely.

Before moving the pasta to the fridge, you can dress it however you desire, but we only suggest doing this if you are going to eat the pasta on the same day.

Pasta salad

Top Tips for the Perfect Pasta Salad

One of the most common reasons to cool pasta after cooking is to use it in a pasta salad.

There are a wide variety of recipes out there (check out BBC Good Food’s selection if you’re looking for some inspiration), all of which can be used as a standalone dish or a delicious side.

When making pasta salad, people commonly make a few mistakes. Unfortunately, these mistakes can take away from the dish, so we advise using these tips to ensure it comes out perfect every time:

  • Use dried pasta in small pieces: When choosing a pasta shape, it is best to go for small pieces that have lots of gaps in them, such as fusilli or penne. This will help the sauce stick to the pasta and make it easier to eat. Dried shapes are also better as they are more likely to hold up once the pasta is cooled.
  • Make sure the pasta is fully cooked: When cooking pasta, many people prefer to cook it al dente. While this is fine for hot dishes, pasta becomes chewier when cooled, so you will want to cook it slightly more when making pasta salad. Make sure not to overcook it, though, or it will become mushy. An extra minute or two of cooking is all that’s required.
  • Salt your pasta water: If you don’t already, try seasoning your water with salt before adding in the pasta. Cold pasta dishes typically need more seasoning than hot ones, so this is an easy way to add a boost of flavour to your pasta dish without any extra effort.
  • Dress the pasta on the day: Batch cooking is all the rage nowadays, especially among those who have a busy schedule. Pasta can be cooked up to 5 days in advance when stored in the fridge, but we advise you only add dressing on the day it will be eaten. While dressed pasta is edible after that, your salad may become soggy as more of the sauce is absorbed.