Learn if it’s safe for you to keep cooked pasta in your refrigerator—and when you should throw it out.
Wondering if you can keep cooked pasta in the fridge? Absolutely, you can. But it won’t last in there forever, and, to keep yourself and your family safe, you should follow certain precautions.
Most cooked pasta will keep in the fridge for 3 to 5 days, as long as you store it in an airtight container with a cover. If you store it with sauce on top or place a frozen bag of pasta in the fridge to thaw, there are other tips to keep in mind.
Let’s take a look at how to safely store your cooked pasta and some guidelines you can use to keep that pasta fresh and safe to eat for as long as possible.
Is it Safe to Store Cooked Pasta in the Fridge?
Yes, it is safe to store cooked pasta separately—or with sauce—in your fridge. But you need to make sure that the temperature in your fridge is 40˚F or lower.
That’s a given on brand-new fridges, and yet a surprisingly common issue on older makes and models. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and get a fridge thermometer from the supermarket or home improvement store.
You also shouldn’t let the pasta sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours before you transfer it to the fridge. If it’s been sitting out on the stovetop or counter for longer than that, throw it out.
“Leaving food out too long at room temperature,” the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says on its website, “can cause bacteria to grow to dangerous levels that can cause illness.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million Americans, roughly one in five in the country, contract a food-borne illness each year. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.
But if you haven’t forgotten about your cooked pasta, you can safely transfer it to a container with an airtight lid. Toss in some melted butter or olive oil to help keep the pasta from sticking. And be sure to eat it up within 3 to 5 days.
If it’s past that, throw that pasta out. (Your stomach will thank you later.)
Will Cooked Pasta Keep Longer in the Fridge with Sauce?
The short answer is, “no.” While it’s perfectly fine to put your leftover sauce on top of cooked pasta, or stirred in with the noodles, you’ll need to eat it within a few days. Not any longer than that.
The storage method is the same. Don’t leave it out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, and place the cooked pasta and sauce in an airtight container.
Are There Different Time Frames for Pasta Varieties?
- Cooked wheat pasta lasts for 4 to 5 days in the fridge, but fresh homemade wheat pasta will stay good in there for 2 to 3 days.
- If you bring home fresh pasta from the store, it’ll only last 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. Most stuffed pasta will stay fresh in the fridge for 3 to 5 days.
- If you buy pasta made from chickpeas, beans, or veggies, you’re looking at the same time frame. And gluten-free pasta will last up to 5 days when you store it in the fridge.
What About Thawed-Out Pasta?
You’ve got 3 to 4 days to keep pasta in the refrigerator if you’re thawing it out. Keep it in the airtight freezer bag while it’s thawing. But once you cook thawed-out pasta, you need to eat all of it as soon as possible.
So, there’s no more putting it back in the fridge after you cook it. Be sure to only make what you can reasonably eat in one meal. Or wait until you have enough guests over for lunch or dinner to help you.
How Can I Tell if My Pasta’s Gone Bad?
It’ll look slimy and smell bad. Trust us. Once you take off the top of that container and see gooey pasta or smell a rancid scent, you won’t want to eat it.
You might also notice the color of the noodle is off. And if you notice mold or signs of mold developing, you definitely don’t want to put that pasta in your mouth.
What Happens If I Eat Bad Pasta?
Sometimes it’s past the cutoff date, and you think you can get away with eating expired pasta. After all, it doesn’t look or smell that bad. But the truth is, you’re risking your health.
Even if it’s only a day or two past that 3 to 5-day cutoff, you’re at risk of getting food poisoning. And that is no fun. You could end up spending several days in bed, unable to eat.
Since food poisoning can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, you’re also at risk of becoming dehydrated. While some cases of food poisoning are mild, others are quite severe.
You could end up in the hospital, sustain complications, or even pass away. It really isn’t worth the risk.
How Can I Eat Stored Pasta Safely?
Some people love to eat their pasta cold, and it’s perfectly safe to do this if the pasta’s not past its expiration date. Simply pull it out of the container, sprinkle on some seasonings and oils, and go to town.
Now, if you want to reheat your pasta, that’s also safe. You can put it in the microwave or in a skillet on the stovetop. However, you’ll want to eat it within 2 hours of reheating and ensure it’s reached a minimum temperature of 75˚F.
What If I Want to Freeze My Pasta Instead?
Hey, no one’s stopping you. Plus, it can last up to 3 months as long as you put cooked pasta in an airtight bag with a bit of olive oil or butter.
There’s not a single one of us who hasn’t made too much pasta by mistake. Either your eyes got bigger than your stomach, or you didn’t realize how much that half a cup of dried pasta would turn into.
Singles or people who live by themselves can run into this problem often. Food doesn’t exactly come in right-sized portions for them and it’s more difficult to get through everything in time. Freezing is a great solution to this issue.
Just remember to thaw it out safely and practice good reheating practices. As long as you follow those, you’ll be okay.
While it’s safe to keep cooked pasta in your fridge, it doesn’t last indefinitely. In fact, you need to eat it up fairly quickly to be safe. Under the best-case scenario, you can’t let it sit in the refrigerator for more than 5 days.
Trying to extend cooked pasta’s life beyond that just won’t work. And if you try to eat expired pasta, you’ll regret it later.