Here’s everything you need to know about the shelf life, storage, and spoilage of pasta (both dry and fresh). Learn how long it lasts, what’s the best way to store it, and when to get rid of it.
We buy a package of penne, farfalle, and some tortellini. Then we buy two boxes of spaghetti. And sooner or later, we find ourselves asking the question: does pasta go bad?
So if you’ve got three (or six) half-open packages of pasta, you’re not alone.
And if you’re not sure if you can still use that pasta, this article is right up your alley. Read on.
How To Store Pasta
Let’s start with dry pasta. You should store dry pasta in a cool and dry area, preferably in the pantry or in the kitchen.
Once you open the package, you can leave the pasta in it, or transfer it to an airtight container. A container protects the food product from any moisture much better than plastic packaging does.
Unlike flour, there’s little sense in storing dry pasta in the fridge or freezer.
When it comes to fresh pasta, either store-bought or one you made yourself, it needs to be chilled. That means you should store it in the fridge or, if you’d like to extend its shelf life, in the freezer.
Once you open the package of store-bought fresh pasta, transfer the rest into an airtight container. The same thing goes with leftover homemade pasta.
Last but not least, cooked pasta leftovers go into the fridge in an airtight container, just like leftover pasta salad (here’s how long pasta salad lasts) and macaroni salad do. And if you haven’t mixed the pasta with sauce, toss it with extra virgin olive oil. This way you will avoid clumping.
If the pasta is already mixed with sauce, no need to add anything else.
Looking for info on ramen noodles? We have a whole article covering ramen noodles.
How Long Does Pasta Last
Again, let’s start with dry pasta. Pretty much all dry pasta comes with a “best-by” or “best if used by” date. That date is not an expiration date, but only a rough estimate of how long the pasta will retain its freshness. This staple food will easily last in good quality for much longer than that.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say for how long exactly, but it easily should last for longer than 6 months. That period stays pretty much the same for both opened and unopened packages.
In short, at a certain point, dry pasta won’t taste as good as it used to and you will probably need to discard it for quality purposes.
When it comes to fresh or homemade pasta, it’s good for only a couple of days. If it’s a store-bought one, the “use-by” date on the package is a pretty good estimate.
For homemade pasta stored in the fridge, it’s best for only 3-4 days. If you’d like to save it for longer, freezing the fresh pasta is pretty much the only option.
Last but not least, cooked leftovers. If stored properly, they usually retain good quality for about 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Lasagna leftovers last about 4 days as well.
To keep the leftovers for longer, you can freeze cooked pasta. Please note that the quality of defrosted and reheated pasta isn’t ideal. How good it really is depends on the sauce and the variety of pasta you’re using.
If you’d like to make cooked pasta in bulk for the week ahead, it might take a few tries until you find the perfect pasta and sauce for that.
|Dry pasta (unopened and opened)||Best by + 1 year|
|Fresh pasta (store-bought)||Use by + 1 – 2 days|
|Fresh pasta (homemade)||3 days|
|Pasta leftovers||3 – 5 days|
Please note that the periods above are rough estimates. Dry pasta will certainly last longer, but its quality might not be as good.
How To Tell If Pasta Is Bad
When it comes to fresh pasta, it should be pretty obvious if it’s spoiled or not. When you notice any discolorations, like white specs or signs of mold, throw the pasta out. Same thing if it developed an off or funny odor.
If none of the mentioned signs appear, your fresh pasta should be fine. Of course, if it’s already a few days past the “use-by” date, it’s probably better to stay on the safe side and discard the pasta anyway.
Cooked pasta leftovers have very similar signs of spoilage. Brown or black specks, white spots, or any signs of mold mean you should throw the pasta out. Same thing if it smells off, or you store it for longer then like 5 days.
Dry pasta, in most cases, doesn’t go bad in a way that it gets moldy and unsafe to eat. Not unless some moisture or other substances reach it.
The biggest enemy of dry pasta is little pantry bugs. Because of that, when you store dried noodles for an extended period, it’s good to thoroughly check the contents of the container before using them. If you can find any little bugs in there, discard the pasta. If there aren’t any bags or other visual signs of spoilage, the pasta is almost certainly safe to eat.
As mentioned earlier, pasta degrades in quality over time. Because of that, after a few years of storage, pasta’s taste might be not as good as you’d like it to be.
If you store pasta for a couple of years, it’s a great idea to cook some of it to find out if it’s still okay in terms of flavor. You don’t want to discard a great spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs because of unpalatable pasta.