Who doesn’t love a good plate or bowl of pasta? For me, I love having pasta, especially at family gatherings since some households typically bring one form of pasta dish.
This staple is quite versatile, and as such, can be manipulated into many dishes.
For this reason, it is a widely consumed carbohydrate globally.
But what do you do when you are the host and you end up having a bunch of cooked pasta dishes left? It’s not like dry pasta that can remain in your cupboards and pantries for weeks, months, and years.
Leftover pasta certainly will not last that long, especially if it contains meat sauce.
But you definitely don’t want to waste all that delicious food, so the question remains; how long does cooked pasta last in the fridge?
Well, in this article, we will answer that question and also look at consuming leftover pasta, how to store pasta, the signs of impending spoilage, and more.
Here's What's In Store For You...
- How Long Does Pasta & Pasta Sauce Last In The Fridge?
- What is Pasta?
- The Origin of Pasta
- How Long Can Cooked Pasta be Kept in the Fridge?
- How to Store Cooked Pasta In The Fridge
- How Long Does Cooked Pasta Last In The Freezer?
- Safely Reheating Pasta
- How long does cooked pasta last after being frozen and thawed?
- Signs That Your Pasta Has Spoiled
- Extra Tips to Keep Your Pasta Fresh and You Safe
- Final Thoughts
How Long Does Pasta & Pasta Sauce Last In The Fridge?
What is Pasta?
Before we dive into looking at the shelf life for leftover cooked pasta, let’s first look at the makeup of pasta.
Understanding the composition of pasta will aid us in truly grasping why the shelf life is what it is and when the signs of spoilage are evident.
Pasta is a type of noodle that is made from flour, water, and eggs.
However, pasta is traditionally made from durum wheat with eggs and/or water.
You can also get pasta made from buckwheat, rice, and barley. These days, you can even find gluten-free pasta on the market.
Once an unleavened dough is formed, it is then pressed into a flat sheet or rolled into varying shapes.
For fresh homemade pasta, the process and ingredients are the same. After they are made into the shapes of choice, they are then boiled in hot water.
The Origin of Pasta
There is still great controversy surrounding the true origins of pasta.
There are those who believe that pasta is originally from China, brought into other parts of the world by Marco Polo.
Then there are others who suggest that it was first made in Italy.
What historians are sure of though is that the initial set of known pasta was made originally from rice flour.
However, early Italian pasta was in the shape of long, slim strands and were made from wheat. The types made from rice were more welcomed in the eastern side of the world.
How Long Can Cooked Pasta be Kept in the Fridge?
The length of time that your cooked pasta can be kept in the fridge is dependent on the type of pasta that it is and how it was prepared.
Although the cold temperature within the refrigerator will slow down the spoiling process, cooked pasta has a much shorter shelf life than uncooked pasta.
Therefore, you may be required to store cooked pasta in the freezer or fridge. Its longevity inside the fridge is again dependent on what the pasta was made from; wheat, flour, eggs, etc.
As a rule of thumb, cooked pasta typically can last up to seven days inside the fridge. But here is a breakdown according to type:
- Fresh homemade wheat pasta: 4–5 days
- Fresh store-bought wheat pasta: 1–3 days
- Cooked wheat pasta: 3–5 days
- Lentil-, bean-, or pea-based pasta: 3–5 days
- Gluten-free pasta: 3–5 days
- Tortellini or other stuffed pasta: 3–5 days
- Lasagna or other cooked pasta with sauce: 5 days
By now we know that sauces will also affect how long your pasta lasts, so here are some specifics for the more commonly used ones:
Tomato red sauce
- cooked tomato sauce will keep four to five days
- spaghetti that has meat in its sauce will keep the standard four to five days
Alfredo white sauce
- Alfredo sauce can be kept for up to five days.
How to Store Cooked Pasta In The Fridge
Storing cooked pasta is not as simple as it seems whether it is homemade fresh pasta or store-bought pasta.
How long your cooked pasta last in the fridge is highly dependent on the storage process.
Therefore, as soon as your pasta has properly cooled off, place any leftovers in resealable ziplock bags or airtight containers then place them in your refrigerator.
Ensure that you squeeze out excess air from the bags and that the containers are quite shallow.
Have your refrigerator maintain a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or lower to keep your leftover pasta good.
DO NOT place warm pasta into your refrigerator.
If the pasta is warm when refrigerated, it will encourage the growth of bacteria, causing your leftovers to go bad real quick, according to the World Health Organization.
Additionally, the recommended wait time for cooling your pasta is two hours but we know you may need to have it out for more than two hours.
How Long Does Cooked Pasta Last In The Freezer?
If you have a massive amount of leftover pasta and you won’t be able to eat it all within a week, another option is for you to freeze it.
That’s right, you can freeze pasta for up to two months and it will retain its quality. But it is essential for you to properly store it.
Of course, you can freeze cooked pasta for more than two months; however, the quality will begin to diminish but at least it will be safe to consume at any time.
To properly store your pasta leftovers in the freezer, ensure you place the cooked leftovers in an airtight container or resealable plastic bag, like a ziplock bag.
Also, it is important that you keep your freezer’s temperature at 0°F.
The pasta will keep perfectly preserved at this temperature for as long as you want.
Safely Reheating Pasta
The best way for reheating your plain pasta is by placing it in a strainer and submerging it into boiling water for about 30–60 seconds.
If your leftover pasta has sauce on it, place it in a skillet over medium heat while you stir gently until hot to your liking.
Or you can always try placing it into the oven for around twenty minutes at 350°F (176°C).
Your next option is to pop it into the microwave in a covered microwave-safe dish.
Ensure you use the microwave’s reheat function and at intervals, you need to stop and stir the pasta to avoid having cold spots when you are ready to eat.
Eat your reheated pasta as soon as possible. Remember, cooked pasta shelf life is short but the reheated one is even shorter.
As such, we recommend not eating it after two hours since by this time bacterial growth would have started.
How long does cooked pasta last after being frozen and thawed?
So, after freezing your cooked pasta, you are ready to thaw and use some. After eating, you still have a bit left that you want to save for later.
But how long will this previously frozen, now thawed, and reheated pasta last?
Well, not long.
In fact, it is recommended that once you thaw and have reheated your pasta, especially in the microwave, you need to consume it immediately.
However, most cooked pasta that has been thawed in the fridge and is not yet reheated can remain in the fridge for another three days and sometimes four days but no longer.
Signs That Your Pasta Has Spoiled
The moisture that is on the pasta will cause bacteria to grow eventually and this is why your pasta will go bad even when it is stored properly in the fridge.
To determine if this delicious kitchen staple has gone bad, you can simply look at it, smell it, or feel it.
While looking at it, you may notice discolorations, green or white mold that sometimes looks a bit grayish.
If it is really bad, once you open the bag or container, you will notice a strong odor right away. If not you should smell a slight spoiled scent when you put the container to your nose.
If you touch it, the texture will feel slimy or gooey and it is at this time that visible mold begins to grow.
So once you spot any of these signs, be sure to discard the pasta.
Absolutely DO NOT taste it or the pasta sauce.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, eating food that has already spoiled can be detrimental to your wellbeing, as the bacteria that has caused the food to go bad will also cause you to become sick.
You could end up with vomiting, diarrhea, stomach upset, food poisoning. It can also lead to death.
If you are at any point unsure of the freshness of your food, then your safest option is to throw it out.
While we don’t encourage anyone to waste food, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Just go ahead and buy some more pasta and store it properly so it can retain good quality!
Extra Tips to Keep Your Pasta Fresh and You Safe
- To prevent your pasta from clumping together, before you place it into the container, drizzle a bit of olive oil on it.
- Food safety recommendations are that you only reheat pasta once.
- It is best to serve to-go sauces.
- Pay attention to the expiration date when buying pasta, if it is expired, it does not taste good and will go bad even faster.
- If you cook pasta often, attach the preparation dates to each container.
- All the containers for storage should be properly washed and dried, as bacteria grow rapidly in moist environments.
- Use individual dishes for each pasta dish with a different sauce.
Pasta is a well-loved staple and a very popular form of comfort food for so many in many countries.
This product can be made from several grains and cooked in numerous styles, like a pasta salad.
You can also add a variety of sauces, including beer cheese sauce, alfredo, and tomato sauce.
Unfortunately, cooked pasta develops bacteria and will spoil if not properly stored.
Also, this is the reason you should try to consume pasta as soon as it’s cooked and place it in the fridge or freezer as soon as it is cool.
Refrigerated pasta will last much longer.
Unlike storing dry pasta, plain cooked pasta or pasta with sauce will require a bit more effort to ensure it lasts.
If you have had your leftovers in the fridge for over five days, you should check for signs of spoilage before eating and never eat spoiled food.
If you don’t know when next you will have it, place it in the freezer.
Practicing proper hygiene along with storage techniques will help make your cooked leftovers that you, family, and friends can eat at a later time.