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Rehydrating Pasta

An interesting question regarding rehydrating pasta for "faster pasta prep" came from Lori of Illinois:

Lori told me: "Although I've been looking around, I have not had any luck finding any reference to dehydrating cooked pasta."

rehydrated pasta on a fork

Guest Post by Lori

For Faster Pasta Prep and Energy/Water Savings

Laura continued: "By that I mean in certain emergency situations, wouldn't food prep be faster and use less water if pasta (noodles, spaghetti, etc.) were also cooked, then dehydrated and packaged for long-term storage?

'Instant' rice comes to mind as an example of a product already on store shelves (albeit they're in short-term packaging).

Any prohibitions to adding pasta products? Any special considerations in preparing - packaging - storing?," asked Lori.

Lori said she would cook some pasta, let it sit after vacuum-packing, and then rehydrate/cook it again:

"Today I cooked my previously-cooked-and-dehydrated al-dente pasta and it took just about the same amount of cooking time in boiling water ... so unfortunately, I can't see any benefit to dehydrating cooked pasta to save energy resources, sadly!" Lori said.

But That Didn't Deter Lori's Attempt to Dehydrate Noodles!

Lori was supposed to be going out of town for a few weeks but wrote back with this: "I never made my trip out of town, an ear infection got in the way so while stranded at home I did dehydrate three different kinds of pasta, elbow macaroni, wide noodles, and the small mostaccioli.

My dehydrator dried each of the three types in about 3 hours.

I experimented with two temperature settings, one at 150 degrees (suggested by a backpacker) and the other at 135 degrees. Both turned out about the same, needing about 3 hours.

The wide noodles were a thicker specialty brand, not the thin flat noodles, which I did at the higher temperature."

Lori is using Nesco's newest Gardenmaster FD-1018P, a 1000-watt dehydrator that has a faster drying time. It will handle up to 30 trays.

Lori continues, "People who may try this at home using other makes and models may find their drying times are longer."

Experimentation Time...

Lori said: "Let me have some time tomorrow to experiment."

She continued to search online after her initial contact with me and discovered backpack/hiking websites where the food discussion threads were very helpful.

"Rehydrating pasta may take about the same amount of time, but as I recall, the backpacking board discussions pro vs con did point out that when rehydrating pasta, less water was needed as opposed to when the pasta was originally cooked," Lori shared.

She noted that when cooking, if too little water is used, then you see problems with the water getting starchy and the noodles sticking together.

"Maybe the real benefit and savings to rehydrating pasta is with water usage and not fuel consumption. In a particular scenario—like people hiking or camping and to all those people out east after the hurricane and now have no electricity and their drinking water may be questionable and difficult to acquire—potable water resources could be an issue.

I'm guessing that the investment in dehydrating cooked pasta will have value for the weekend warrior or casualties of mother nature—people whose need is outside the box of the typical money-saving homemaker," Lori added.

The Final Rehydrating Pasta Results are In!

Lori says: "I just finished my first reconstitution test!"

Macaroni

"I put 1 cup of dehydrated macaroni into a small stainless steel bowl, then poured 1 cup of boiling water over the pasta, and covered the top of the bowl with a small plate to keep the heat and steam enclosed.

Maybe next time I'll add a towel around the whole deal for added heat retention.

I set a kitchen timer for 20 minutes, figuring it might take a tad longer to rehydrate since the water was no longer boiling.

I removed the top 3-4 times to give the pasta a stir and make sure the macaroni had sufficient water available for maximum absorption.

Maybe that was unnecessary after the initial 'pour, stir, and cover'. It's just what I did out of curiosity because it was the first time I attempted this.

After 10 minutes, the pasta had that 'cooked look' and at 7 minutes left I had to taste test and would say the macaroni was at the al dente stage. I let the remaining time run out.

The stainless steel bowl, of course, had cooled down some, but was easy to handle. The pasta was softer and more like what everyone is used to. I poured out the remaining water and ended up with 1/3 cup of slightly cloudy water," Lori noticed.

To Lori, Rehydrating Pasta was a Success

"I only needed to boil 1 cup of water for my 1 cup of small macaroni pasta, with a small amount of water left over. Less energy consumption, a fraction of the water to finish it off, and then a 20-minute or so wait.

So the hiker/backpacker has something going there and people stuck in a disaster situation can put food on the table faster and not squander their fresh drinking water, which mostly gets thrown away if cooking using conventional methods.

Additionally, the hikers also will use the zipper-style freezer bags to reconstitute their dehydrated meals. No pots and pans! After adding water, they can put their baggie into something called a 'Cozy' (typically a quilted cloth pocket) which insulates the cooking food until ready to eat," Lori said.

assorted dry pastaCourtesy of Camtasia - Registered User

Wide Noodles and Mostaccioli

"I measured out 1 cup each of the pasta. The noodles I snapped in half so as to get a full cup of pasta. I found smaller stainless bowls of the same size and put each on a pot holder, and found some thicker terry kitchen dish towels to wrap (insulate) after the water was added.

I added 1 cup boiling water to each bowl, gave a good stir, and covered the bowl top with a hard plastic cutting board. A towel was wrapped around the two adjacent bowls and two more were placed on top of the cutting board ... so it was pretty hard for the heat to escape!

Twenty and more minutes later (I got wrapped up in an episode of "Picker Sisters" on Lifetime ...oops!) I checked on the bowls. They were pretty much done and did need a little more stirring to separate some 'stick-together clumps'.

Again, when draining off the excess there was about 1/3 cup of water from each bowl. The noodles are perfect and ready for use.

Think 'cool kitchen' in August, with little or no added humidity from pots of boiling water, and the AC not running more because of the added heat! So there is an energy savings of sorts.

Hope my slightly different process of reconstituting and preparing will have some value to some of your readers," Lori concluded.


Thank You, Lori, for sharing your faster pasta prep regarding rehydrating pasta with us!

Let Spaghetti Bolognese 'Stand' Overnight!

Nick wrote to us from Wales, UK, and wanted to let us know of his 'experiment' with Spaghetti Bolognese.

This is what he said: "Cooked up my own spaghetti bol this week, combining the pasta & sauce and standing overnight to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce before dehydrating.

Once dry and brittle, I put a large portion in a wide neck 1-ltr vacuum food flask, added boiling water to just about cover it, and added the fitted lid. Hey presto! Packed lunch at work eaten directly from flask... experiment successful.

The flask is feather light, virtually unbreakable, and costs very little at the local cheap-goods shop. The food was hot and just about the right sauciness without pouring anything off!"

Great idea Nick! Thanks very much for sending this in. :-)

Lori and I hope you enjoyed reading rehydrating pasta! Read more about rehydrating food here.

Don't forget to get your free "Six Simple Steps" eBook where I share how to dehydrate food safely!