The most reliable way to store a large amount of leftover pasta is to keep it in the refrigerator.
But how long does cooked pasta actually last in the fridge?
And does it matter if it is made with or without a sauce?
What about freezing cooked pasta for later use?
Does it affect its texture in any significant way?
Keep reading to find the answer to these questions and more.
How long does cooked pasta last in the refrigerator?
It’s easy to overestimate the amount of pasta you need when you’re cooking for a large family crowd.
This leads to a ton of leftover pasta that ends up in the fridge. And since eating the same meal everyday gets boring pretty quickly, the pasta often sits in our fridges for more than just a day.
However, unlike dry pasta which is practically everlasting, cooked pasta can’t sit in the fridge indefinitely.
This is because it contains moisture that attracts all sorts of nasty bacteria and fungus.
So how long can you keep cooked pasta in your fridge before it spoils?
Plain cooked pasta can last between 3 – 5 days in the fridge before it spoils. If the pasta is made with tomato sauce or other eggless sauces it can be kept for up to 5 days. In case it contains mayonnaise or other perishable products the pasta will be good for 2 – 3 days.
With that said, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind before you toss your spaghetti in the fridge.
How to properly store cooked pasta in the fridge?
In order to properly store cooked pasta in the fridge, you’ll first have to drizzle some cooking oil to prevent it from clumping.
You can use olive oil or any neutral tasting cooking oil such as canola oil or vegetable oil.
Once you’ve added the oil, you should let the pasta fully cool down. This will prevent perspiration and decrease the risk of spoilage.
After the pasta has cooled off, you should transfer it into an airtight plastic bag or container and put it in the fridge.
It’s important to make sure that the storage container you’re using is sealed tightly so there isn’t any air.
The presence of air along with the moisture of the pasta can create a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
If you plan on eating the leftover pasta in the next two days, you can mix it with your pasta sauce.
Otherwise, it’s best to keep them separate since the pasta will absorb some of the moisture and become mushy.
When you’re ready to consume it, you can reheat your pasta in boiling water if it was kept separately.
In case you mixed it with the sauce, you can reheat it on the stove or bake it in the oven for 20 minutes at 375°F (176°C).
You can freeze cooked pasta for later use
If you want to extend the shelf life of your leftover pasta beyond a week, you can put it in the freezer.
Freezing cooked pasta for later use works similarly to storing it in the refrigerator.
You drizzle in some cooking oil to prevent it from sticking, place it in an airtight bag and toss it in the freezer.
However, it’s best to freeze the pasta separately from the sauce since they have different thawing times.
When kept in the freezer, cooked pasta can last for up to 3 months before it starts to spoil.
However, its quality will start to slowly degrade after the second month due to its high water content.
Once you’re ready to consume it, you can thaw the frozen pasta in boiling water for a few minutes.
You can also thaw it under running water, but this will take you more time.
How to tell if cooked pasta has spoiled?
Just as any other type of premade food, pasta can spoil if it’s left in the fridge for too long.
You can tell that cooked pasta has spoiled by observing its texture, smell and color.
The first sign that usually points to spoilage is the appearance of a slimy substance that covers the pasta.
This typically happens right before you can observe visible mold growth.
Another visual cue you can use to determine if cooked pasta is still fresh is discoloration. If the pasta has become gray or white then it’s most probably spoiled.
In some cases you may be able to tell the pasta has gone bad by smelling it. If you notice any odd odors wafting from it, then it’s best to toss it out.
Eating spoiled pasta can lead to food poisoning caused by several foodborne pathogens.
One of the most common pathogens that affects pasta is a gram-positive bacteria called Bacillus cereus.
Consuming foods contaminated with Bacillus cereus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and even lead to death.
Therefore, it’s best to throw away leftover pasta that shows any of the aforementioned signs of spoilage.
My short recap
The best way to enjoy a pasta dish is while it’s still brimming hot. However, we often overestimate the amount of pasta we need to cook and end up with leftovers.
When stored in the refrigerator, leftover pasta generally lasts between 3 – 5 days before it spoils.
In the freezer, this timeframe extends to three months with a slow decline in quality after the second month.
If you’re unsure whether your pasta is still safe to eat, you should examine it to rule out any signs of spoilage.
If your pasta is beyond salvation and you crave some you can take a look at my recipe for Creamy Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta.