Does Pasta Go Bad?

Dry pasta is a kitchen staple that often sits in the cupboard for months or even years at a time. 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? Even if we eat pasta regularly, there’s undoubtedly a container (or more) sitting in the corner of the cupboard that’s there for longer than you remember. If you’re not sure what to do with that pasta, read on to learn about storage, shelf life, and going bad of this kitchen staple. In this article, we will also cover fresh pasta and pasta leftovers, so if you’re looking for more info on that, we’ve got you covered.

(credit:Dottie Mae )

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 the 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 too. 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.

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. To keep them 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.

Pantry Fridge
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 either way.

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, won’t go bad in a way that it gets moldy and unsafe to eat. Not unless some moisture or other substances will 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 the noodles. 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.