Pasta is one of the world’s favorite foods.
Traditionally made from wheat, there are now many more types of pasta, such as peas, lentils, beans, and other gluten-free varieties.
While dried pasta can last in your pantry for years, you may wonder exactly how long it keeps in the fridge once it has been cooked.
This article reviews how long different types of pasta last in the fridge and the best storage practices to keep them fresh as long as possible.
How long do different types of pasta last in the fridge
Like other precooked foods and leftovers, cooked pasta should be stored in the fridge.
This is because cooked pasta contains moisture that eventually leads to mold growth, and cooler temperatures slow the expiration process.
It’s helpful to know how long you can expect different types and preparations of pasta to last in the fridge before they should be discarded.
The expected fridge-lives of different types of pasta are mainly based on the main ingredient — for instance, whether it’s made from lentils, or wheat, or contains eggs.
Here’s how long some of the most popular types of pasta will last in the fridge:
- 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
Note that these are general expectations, and individual dishes may vary, but you can assume that most cooked pasta lasts for less than 1 week.
It’s still essential to examine your pasta and make sure there are no signs of spoilage before you eat it.
Summary: Cooked and fresh homemade pasta should be stored in the refrigerator to slow mold growth and preserve its freshness as long as possible. Most pasta last in the fridge for 3–5 days.
Signs that pasta has gone bad
You can usually tell whether your pasta has gone bad by looking at it and feeling it.
One of the most telling signs of expired pasta is that it has become slimy or gooey, which usually occurs right before visible mold begins to grow.
You may also notice a dullness or discoloration, such as a grayish or whitish hue.
Sometimes you may even be able to smell that your pasta has started to go bad and should be thrown out.
Risks of eating expired pasta
Eating old pasta could make you sick if harmful germs grow on it, which may affect people differently.
You may experience symptoms of food poisoning that range from mild to severe, depending on what’s growing on the pasta you ate.
The most frequent symptoms of foodborne illness are gastrointestinal in nature, causing upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting.
One of the most common foodborne pathogens growing on old pasta is B. cereus, which can cause cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. In severe cases, this bacteria has even been known to cause death.
Suppose you eat old pasta with other ingredients, such as meat, eggs, or dairy products. In that case, it’s more likely to be exposed to other common germs like Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium, or Listeria.
To minimize your risk of foodborne illness from eating leftover pasta, it’s best to follow the general shelf-life expectations above, examine your pasta before eating it, and practice proper storage techniques.
Summary: Eating expired pasta comes with the risk of an array of foodborne illnesses, which can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting. Look for signs of spoilage before eating leftover cooked pasta.
The best way to store pasta
Once you have cooked pasta, let any leftovers cool thoroughly and then store it in the fridge within 2 hours of being cooked.
Suggested read: What is cross-contamination? And how to avoid it
Moisture trapped when warm pasta is sealed up and placed in the fridge can create the perfect environment for bacteria or mold to grow.
Pasta in the fridge should be stored in shallow, airtight containers or resealable bags.
It can be helpful to toss the leftover cooked noodles in olive oil to prevent them from sticking together too much in the fridge.
Lastly, keep your refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or lower to preserve cold foods.
How to safely reheat leftover pasta
When you’re ready to enjoy leftover pasta, you can either enjoy it straight from the fridge cold or reheat it using a few recommended methods.
If you’re eating plain pasta without sauce, you can reheat it by placing it in a strainer and submerging it into boiling water for approximately 30–60 seconds.
Leftover pasta with sauce can be placed in a heat-safe dish and baked in the oven for approximately 20 minutes at 350°F (176°C).
It can also be placed in a skillet on the stovetop and warmed over medium heat, stirring gently to heat it thoroughly.
A covered microwave-safe dish can also work well for leftover pasta, using your microwave’s reheat settings and gently stirring until there are no cold spots.
As long as your pasta has been refrigerated adequately at 40°F (4°C) and you’re enjoying leftovers promptly, there’s a low risk of bacterial contamination if you want to eat it cold.
If reheating, heat it thoroughly to at least 165°F (74°C) and eat it within 2 hours to prevent bacterial growth.
Summary: To optimize its shelf life, cooked pasta should be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F (4°C) or lower in an airtight container or resealable bag. Leftovers can be enjoyed cold or reheated using boiling water, the stovetop, the microwave, or the oven.
Pasta is a popular food around the world, and it’s made from several bases, such as wheat, legumes, and gluten-free grains.
Suggested read: Does flour expire? Shelf life, safe storage, and more
While dried pasta has a long shelf life in the pantry, cooked and fresh homemade pasta should be eaten somewhat quickly. Most cooked pasta only lasts in the fridge for between 3–5 days before it starts to show signs of expiration.
Eating expired pasta has risks similar to those associated with eating other expired foods, such as foodborne illness.
This makes it essential to follow proper handling, preparation, and fridge storage techniques and eat your cooked pasta in a reasonable time frame.