Pasta is almost a universal language. It is enjoyed all over the globe. Different recipes and different styles of cooking pasta can bring people together.
But what happens if you’ve cooked too much pasta, and your family or friends have not finished all of it? Should you throw it out immediately? Should you store it in the fridge? And if so, how long does pasta last in the refrigerator?
How Long Does Pasta Last in the Fridge?
There are many factors that come into the longevity of cooked pasta. Generally, cooked pasta stored in the fridge can stay edible for 3-5 days. This is as long as the refrigerator has a temperature of 40°F or lower.
If you freeze it, it will last even longer. Pasta can remain good for one to two months if stored in the freezer.
Factors that Contribute to Spoilage of Cooked Pasta
Here are some factors that play a role in how quickly pasta can become spoiled and unsafe to eat
Uncooked pasta is not at risk for bacterial growth, because the main thing that bacteria thrive on is moisture. The opposite is true for cooked pasta, of course, since the noodles have become plump after being cooked in water.
This is why it’s essential to keep a closer watch on cooked pasta as compared to uncooked pasta.
Sitting at Room Temperature
The general rule of food safety is that you can only let the pasta sit out at room temperature for two hours. The longer you let it sit out, the higher the risk of contaminating it with bacteria, which can lead to spoilage. Plus, the longer it stays at room temperature, the less safe it is for storage in the freezer or fridge.
You not only need to worry about the pasta itself, the water you cooked it with, or how long it has been sitting out. You need to take into consideration the ingredients you’re cooking the pasta with as well. Certain toppings or sauces, for instance, can accelerate spoiling. Mayonnaise and milk products are great examples.
It’s not uncommon for us to cook in batches, freeze, then reheat for later use. It’s more economical, sure, but this isn’t the best practice if we are thinking of food safety. The rule of thumb is to reheat pasta only once! Reheating won’t kill all of the bacteria that have managed to grow and hide in the pasta, plus it might have been contaminated with other forms of bacteria by being inside the refrigerator for a certain period of time.
The way you store pasta is also very important. To make sure you are keeping pasta safe while storing it, make sure it’s not too hot (after cooking) before placing it into a resealable bag or container. Spread the pasta out evenly to let it cool on its own and quicker in the fridge. This reduces the ability of bacteria to grow and spread.
Do note that if the pasta has been sitting out for over 2 hours, it’s best to throw it out instead of storing it.
Freezing is another option for storage. If you freeze pasta, make sure to freeze it with the sauce. This is because pasta (on its own) tends to “mush” up when it’s time to thaw and reheat. If properly stored in the freezer, it can last for up to two months.
Spotting Spoiled Pasta
Believe it or not, the best way to spot pasta that has gone bad is by using your senses. For instance, check the color of the pasta: if you spot a slimy and discolored appearance, chances are mold will form soon enough.
Next, smell the pasta. If it’s sour, it has certainly gotten worse.
Why are these important to check? Aside from the unpleasant flavor and smell, there are serious health risks to eating spoiled pasta (and food in general)! You can get food poisoning – and that is never a fun experience.
Some Tips on Cooking and Storing Pasta
Enjoy these bits of pasta wisdom:
- Unless you plan on feeding a big crowd, try to gauge the serving size of your ingredient portions versus the number of people who will partake in the meal.
- The best containers for storing pasta are shallow and airtight containers. They maximize cooked pasta’s shelf life. Resealable plastic bags are good, too.
- Bacteria thrive when exposed to moist food, between 40 and 140°F. This is why freezing or storing in the freezer helps halt bacterial growth. Room temperature is not good for food safety.
- Freezing pasta at zero degrees (0°F) will be kept safe almost forever, as long as it is kept in airtight containers and the temperature does not rise.
- After thawing frozen pasta, you can keep it for another three or four days inside the refrigerator before reheating or cooking. However, already thawed and reheated pasta (whether in hot water baths or in the microwave) should be eaten as soon as possible.
- When in doubt, throw it out. It is not recommended to “taste” and test suspicious-looking or smelling pasta.
- Always practice good hygiene. Wash your hands when preparing, cooking, and reheating pasta. Your hands might “look” clean, but microscopic bacteria might be right there on them. Handwashing is a great step to ensure food safety!
There you have it! I hope that this article has answered any questions you have about cooking, storing, thawing, and reheating pasta. All economy and practicality aside, the most important thing is to practice food safety. Don’t risk your health for a plate or two of questionable pasta!
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