Is It Okay to Eat Cold Pasta the Next Day?

Is It Okay to Eat Cold Pasta the Next Day?LiudmylaChuhunova /Depositphotos

Sure, you can eat cold pasta the next day (as long as you stored it properly). Here’s everything you need to know on the topic.

You made more pasta than you could eat and, now, you’re wondering what to do with it. So you found yourself asking, “Can you eat cold pasta the next day?”

Cooked pasta stays good for 2 to 3 days in your fridge, which is why it’s totally fine to eat cold pasta the day after you prepared it. Consider reheating the pasta to bring out its aroma and depth of flavor.

There’s a certain je-ne-sais-quoi about the way the taste of leftover food saturates and intensifies that you can’t get from consuming it fresh.

How to Store Leftover Pasta

The jury’s out on the “proper” way to store leftover pasta.

Some food bloggers will tell you to lightly oil the pasta noodles, then refrigerate them separately from the sauce. While that’s a valid technique, no doubt about it, I’m not necessarily the biggest fan of it.

Coating pasta noodles in olive oil will keep them from sticking to one another when stored. However, it will also make them greasy and slippery—and the sauce won’t be able to cling to them on the following day.

Though, it must be said, this is an excellent way to store cooked, unsauced shapes if you plan to mix them with greens, veggies, and canned tuna on the following day, turning them into pasta salad.

What should you be doing instead, I heard you ask? Good question.

To store leftover pasta, toss it with the sauce, allow it to cool down, transfer it to a food storage container, and put it in the fridge. Save ⅓ a cup of salty and starchy cooking water in a glass jar and refrigerate alongside your pasta dish.

That white, cloudy pasta water is essential to reviving your dish the day after. Noodles have the tendency to soak up liquids and water, so your pasta will come out of your fridge sticky and stiff.

To fix that, drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil in your pan, set the heat on your stove to medium, then throw in the pasta, pouring that ⅓ a cup of pasta water right into your pan.

Reheat for 2-3 minutes—stirringly gently so as not to mangle the noodles—or until the pasta has come back to life and the cooking liquid has reduced down enough not to make your dish watery.

Can you skip the whole thing and eat cold pasta right out of the fridge?

Honestly, nothing is stopping you, and you don’t have a reason not to if that’s what your heart desires. To point out the obvious, as long as the pasta is cooked and has been stored properly, you can enjoy it cold.

How Long Can Pasta Be Left to Sit Out?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: television chefs and cookbook authors don’t talk enough about food safety. (Who wants to hear about washing their hands on TV or read about shelf life in a book?!).

Happily, I’m neither. So I get to do it instead of them—and, in a moment or two, you’re going to find out why.

Pasta, a perishable food, shouldn’t be left to sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. Otherwise, bacteria known to cause food-borne illness can grow to dangerous levels inside it, making it unsafe to eat.

This is especially true with pasta dishes that feature red meat, poultry, or seafood. In the hot days of summer, when the room temperature is slightly higher, that recommended time is reduced to only 1 hour.

The reason behind that is simple, yet crucial for every home cook to know.

Bacteria, you see, don’t just survive at room temperature: they thrive at it, multiplying and doubling in count every 20 minutes.

Enough so that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) calls the range from 40°F to 140°F the “danger zone,” and recommends that you keep your food colder (refrigerated or frozen) or hotter (heated) than that.

In case you ever wondered, that’s also the reason why catering companies and buffet restaurants place cooked food in warming trays and preheated steam tables, keeping it slightly warmer than 140°F to hamper bacterial growth.

So don’t try your luck and leave your pasta dish to sit out overnight. As soon as it’s cooled down, transfer it to a food storage container and put it in the fridge, where it will keep for a few days. (Cooked food has a short shelf life, so the sooner you eat it, the better.)

For Best Results, Cook Your Pasta Al Dente

Overcooking pasta to mush, something that pretty much all of us are guilty of doing, isn’t the best way to prepare it.

In Italy, pasta is slightly undercooked, for 1-2 minutes less than the recommended time in the instructions on the back of the package. This way of preparing pasta is known as “al dente,” which translates literally—and rather descriptively—as “to the tooth.”

Al dente pasta is cooked through, without any white spots on the inside. However, it’s been taken out of the hot, boiling water while still having a relative firmness and slight chewiness to it on the exterior.

Slightly undercooked pasta not only holds on to its shape better than pasta that’s been overcooked, but it’s also easier for your body to digest. Your stomach breaks it down slowly, so it acts as a gradual source of energy rather than spiking your sugar levels all at once.

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