Who doesn’t love pasta? We know that we are obsessed with it!
There is so much you can do with it! Make lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, mac and cheese, chicken Alfredo – and these are only the most basic examples. Pasta is a staple meal in the homes of many and is as versatile as a piece of string.
Usually, we tend to buy quite a lot of pasta, especially if it is on sale. Why wouldn’t you when pasta is practically immortal; or is it?
Can pasta go bad? No matter what type of pasta you use, fresh, dried or cooked, pasta can go bad. Each of these has its own expiry period and signs that they have gone past their prime. On average, fresh and cooked pasta will last a couple of days while dried pasta will last a couple of years.
If you want to learn more about the shelf life of pasta and the signs that your p[pasta has gone bad, continue reading this jam-packed article.
Read Also: (The Best Pasta Pot Reviews for 2020 – A Buying Guide / Best Pasta Maker for 2020 & Electric And Manual Machine Reviews)
Types of Pasta
There are two main categories of pasta; fresh and dried.
Fresh pasta is made as it is needed. It can be made using 3 basic ingredients; flour, egg and salt. There are many variants of ingredients (for instance you can use different flours or add oil and spices), but the bases of a fresh pasta remain the same.
A dough is formed which is kneaded, rested and rolled and shaped. Once shaped into the type of pasta you want, the pasta is boiled for only a couple of minutes (1-3 minutes depending on the thickness).
The other type of pasta you get is dried pasta, or as some people refer to it, factory-made pasta.
Dried pasta is made in the same way fresh pasta is with preservatives sometimes added. The main difference comes in when the dough is formed, the pasta is shaped and then it gets dried.
This type of pasta has a considerably longer cooking period as it needs more moisture before it becomes soft. The cooking time can be anywhere from 8-15 minutes, depending on the shape and size of each piece.
Under these two main classifications of pasta, you also find different types which are usually classified according to their shape.
We aren’t going to name all of them, but some of the most common shapes are elbow macaroni, spaghetti, linguini, lasagne sheets and pasta shells.
Can Pasta Go Bad?
Pasta can definitely go bad, no matter what type it is.
Moisture is one of the key factors when it comes to food spoilage. This is because bacteria (harmful or otherwise) need moisture to grow and multiply. This is why fresh produce like vegetables and fruits go off extremely quickly.
The ingredients that pasta is made from, egg and flour, are both very prone to spoilage once used.
The sugars in the egg are very beneficial to bacteria and the carbs in the flour (also a form of sugar) as well.
This means that fresh pasta will go bad much quicker than dried pasta. It has a moisture content of anywhere between 45-70% depending on the type of pasta it is (and of course the recipe).
It also contains fresh, uncooked eggs that aren’t always safe to consume, especially not sitting out. The flour will also promote bacterial growth.
When manufacturers dry fresh pasta, the goal is to get it to a moisture content of between 15-22% (the lower the better). This means that there is a lot less moisture for bacteria to use and therefore the product will last much longer.
Even though it lasts longer, dried pasta also eventually expires and becomes hazardous to consume.
How Long Does Pasta Last?
Fresh pasta and dried pasta are essentially two different products and therefore have very different characteristics.
Fresh pasta that has been shaped and not cooked can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days, or frozen for 4 weeks. Once the fresh pasta has been cooked, it should be consumed within a day.
Dried pasta on the other hand is an entirely different story. When stored correctly, dried pasta can last up to two years!
As soon as you cook dried pasta (meaning it rehydrates and gets moisture) you must consume it within a day or two.
How to Store Pasta?
The best way to store fresh pasta (uncooked of course) is to either dust or toss the pasta pieces or sheets in flour. Tip; use the same flour you used to make the pasta.
Once the pieces are properly coated, store them in an airtight container or reseal-bag and place them in the refrigerator for up to two days.
The flour prevents the pieces from sticking to each other and will absorb any moisture that forms on the pasta during the storage time.
Fresh pasta must be stored in the refrigerator (around 40˚F / 4˚C) to prevent any bacterial growth and keep the pasta fresh for as long as possible.
Dried pasta can be kept in its original packaging and sealed with plastic or saran wrap. You can also decant it into an airtight container. Place the container in a cool dry place like a pantry or food cupboard.
The ideal temperature to store dried pasta at is between 68˚F – 77˚F (20˚C – 25˚C).
If you want to store cooked pasta, you can toss the batch in oil to ensure it doesn’t stick together when refrigerated. Tip; use neutral flavored oil so that the pasta flavor remains unaffected.
Store the cooked pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
How Can You Tell If Pasta Has Gone Bad?
The signs that pasta has gone bad differ for fresh and dried pasta. Naturally, fresh pasta will show more prominent signs than dried pasta due to its moisture content.
Fresh and cooked pasta have very similar signs. Your pasta has gone bad when;
- The pieces become slimy or mushy and you cannot separate them.
- The pasta has a sour smell to it. This is due to the egg that is rotting and bacteria that produces carbon dioxide and acids.
- The pasta starts to discolor and get a grey hue to it.
- There is mold on your pasta.
If any of these signs occur, you have to throw it out immediately as it is not safe to consume.
With raw pasta, the signs that it has gone bad are much more difficult to recognize. The possibility of mold growth is next to none unless stored in a very humid area or exposed to moisture.
If by the odd chance there are insects inside the packet, or the pasta doesn’t smell like pasta, you should discard the pasta immediately.
At most expired dried pasta will become crumbly if it is extremely old, but the likelihood of your pasta ever sitting in a food cupboard for 5 years is very slim.
Your intuition is usually best and if you are unsure, rather toss it out and don’t risk it.
Is It OK to Use Expired Pasta?
We wouldn’t recommend eating cooked or fresh pasta beyond their expiry dates or the average amount of days we’ve set out above.
Dried pasta usually has an expiry date printed of about 1-2 years from the manufacturing date. In our experience, pasta can last longer, but rather stay away from it once it has reached the 2-year mark.
There are many risks to consuming expired pasta. Once bacteria grow on it you can develop symptoms of food poisoning anywhere from mild to extreme. The type of bacteria that is most often found in expired pasta can even cause death.
Most of your symptoms will be related to your digestive system and you could experience diarrhea, cramps, nausea and vomiting.
Keep in mind that if you are eating a pasta dish with other ingredients that have expired, they also carry their own risks.
Rather be safe than sorry and throw out any doggy pasta!
Can you freeze pasta?
You can definitely freeze pasta, cooked or uncooked.
Fresh pasta can be placed in an airtight container and frozen for up to two months before being cooked.
Dried pasta can be frozen, however, that is very unnecessary. The drying of the pasta is already a preserving method and therefore additional freezing isn’t required. Dried pasta has a shelf life of 2 years and you will most likely have used a bag by then.
Once the pasta has been cooked, you can also freeze it for a couple of months.
Be sure to check your frozen goods every couple of weeks to make sure they are still safe to consume.