Cooked spaghetti hardens as it dries out, so keeping it moist will prevent it from growing crunchy and brittle. Hardened spaghetti is most likely to be an issue after hours or days of storage. Eating spaghetti soon after you cook it eliminates the hardening issue, even if your pasta is cooked al dente. Cooked pasta stored at room temperature is also unlikely to harden much; however, cooked pasta is a potentially hazardous food because of its moisture content so don't store it out of the refrigerator for long.
Undercooked and Overcooked
Undercooked spaghetti tends to get hard because it hasn't absorbed as much moisture as fully cooked or overcooked spaghetti. When cooking spaghetti that you know you'll later store as leftovers, cook it until it is fully tender but not soft enough to break apart or grow mushy. Fully cooked spaghetti is soft all the way through, while al dente pasta retains some of its firmness, especially in its center. Overcooked spaghetti is least likely to harden, but it can absorb so much moisture that it releases some as it cools, diluting seasonings and sauces.
The Importance of Covering
Cover bowls and containers when storing leftover spaghetti in the refrigerator. Leaving them open makes the pasta dry out and harden. Foil or plastic should fit snugly over plates, bowls or pans, and containers should have tightly fitting lids.
Cover the Pan
Spaghetti can also harden in a pasta bake, especially the top layer which is exposed. It takes longer to heat the dish through than to dry out the pasta, but covering the pan keeps the moisture inside and keeps the spaghetti from hardening. Keep spaghetti bakes covered until they're heated through. Use a metal stem thermometer to determine whether the spaghetti bake is cooking in the inside. It should reach a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Once it is fully heated, remove the foil or cover and bake the dish for five minutes longer to let the cheese brown.
Softening Hardened Spaghetti
All is not lost if your spaghetti has hardened: you simply need to soften it up by adding moisture. Restore hardened spaghetti by cooking it in a steamer for two or three minutes. If you don't have a double layer steamer or a vegetable steamer basket, use a metal colander sitting over a pan of boiling water. Alternately, drop hardened spaghetti in boiling water for 30 seconds to return some of its moisture, as long as it's not coated with sauce, of course.
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