I often make up a box of pasta (dried) with some sauce that I make from leftover ingredients for work the next day. The sauce is always either tomato or cream cheese based.
By lunch the next day, the pasta has soaked up a good amount of the excess sauce that was previously filling the base of the box. Aside from storing the pasta and sauce in two separate boxes, is there anything I can do when cooking to avoid this happening? It does not appear to be a problem in supermarket ready meals.
If I plan on storing my pasta in the fridge with the sauce, I take the pasta out of the boiling water and immediately rinse it in cold water. I rinse until the pasta has cooled completely. Make sure to drain it well. Afterwards, I either mix a little sauce in the pasta to help keep it from sticking or just put the sauce on top.
Basically I'm trying to stop the pasta from continuing to "Cook" in the sauce.
Adding a little milk (to the creamy pasta) or water before reheating cooked, wet pasta is a good idea because pasta will continue to absorb the moisture in the sauce and 'cook', leaving it dry and overcooked.
You can compensate for this in large quantities (like supermarket meals) by slightly under cooking the pasta and relying on this process of moisture absorption and reheating to finish the cooking process.
The problem might also be caused by the fact that cooked pasta releases gluten, which thickens your sauce. "Washing" your pasta before putting the sauce in it, as suggested, is a good method, but probably the most simple thing to do in general is to keep your sauce a bit more liquid, and mixing your pasta with a bit of olive oil just before you add your sauce. This way your pasta is somehow "coated" with oil which could prevent a bit the soaking of your sauce.
I've started pulling out the leftovers before finishing cooking a pot of pasta, so that the leftover portion is only partially cooked, rinsing them and letting them cool before adding any sauce. This works best if you know the portions that work for your family/guests, but is especially handy when trying to enforce measured portion sizes.
I found an extra-yummy recipe for mac and cheese where you put the hot pasta in the casserole, add some butter, mix until it melts, then add the sauce. It's the first recipe I've found where the sauce didn't soaked into the pasta. I wonder if the butter makes a barrier.
I feel your pain, I'm wondering if maybe putting the sauce on the bottom and the pasta on top might help, hopefully that means it will only be the absolute bottom of the pasta that soaks up the sauce? Then maybe stirring it together just before reheating..
What I like to do when I'm making pasta and chicken is to first cook the chicken and add the sauce to the chicken. Then I boil the pasta. When I'm ready to serve, I simply serve my pasta on the bottom with the sauce and meat on top. If u want to cook everything together and have leftovers the next day, you can always cook everything the way I said, put some pasta aside in one Tupperware, chicken and sauce in another container and then cook the rest of the meal together if you like