The Mushy Mistake To Avoid When Making Slow Cooker Pasta Dishes

penne bolognese in a bowl
penne bolognese in a bowl - Kivoart/Getty Images

The slow cooker is a dream machine for busy cooks. Whether you work from home or in the office, or just don't want to spend your evenings laboring over dinner, this appliance allows you to dump in your ingredients and let everything simmer all day long. But while you can set it and forget it in many cases, there are a few tricks to using a slow cooker that you'll want to remember anytime you're making a pasta-based dish.

These devices often cook food for up to 10 hours, which is ideal for tenderizing meat and letting flavors meld together. When your dish involves pasta, though, you'll want to leave that one ingredient out of the slow cooker for the most part. Most noodles only need about 10 minutes in boiling water until they're ready to eat, and if you let them simmer for hours and hours, you'll end up with a mushy final product that may disintegrate in your dish. So, instead of pouring your pasta in the slow cooker from the get-go, either make it separately or add it in as the last step in your recipe.

Read more: 44 Types Of Pasta And When You Should Be Using Them

How To Include Pasta In Slow Cooker Dishes

noodles going in boiling water
noodles going in boiling water - Strigana/Shutterstock

For most dishes, it's a safe bet to cook your pasta outside of the slow cooker and stir it in at the end. If you go with this option, you can still add it to the slow cooker fully cooked so it can warm up and mix with all the other ingredients, but make sure to do so right before you serve it. If you're using a small pasta like pastina, or thin noodles like angel hair that you're afraid of overcooking, you can also turn your slow cooker to the warm setting or turn it completely off before adding your noodles. In both cases, the food inside should still be warm enough after hours of simmering that you'll get a hot meal.

If you want to cook your pasta in the device, make sure it's the last part of the preparation. This works especially well in dishes like tortellini soup or minestrone, where you don't need the noodles in the mix for the full cooking time. Once you stir the raw pasta into your slow cooker, keep in mind that you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly since the liquid inside is usually simmering, not boiling. For instance, macaroni typically takes about 7 minutes to boil on the stove, but it may require twice that time at a lower temperature in a slow cooker. Taste your noodles to determine when they're done, and enjoy your dinner as soon as they're ready.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.