Pasta is undoubtedly among the world’s favorite food types. This food is traditionally made from wheat, and there are several varieties available. Uncooked pasta is usually dry and can last for six months to almost two years. This, however, is entirely dependent on proper storage of the dry pasta in a clean, dry, and sunlight-free area. The solar radiation from sunlight, although safe, may initiate an unwanted decay process while the pasta is still in the container or packaging.
On the other spectrum is freshly cooked pasta that has higher water content. This difference in the amount of water makes fresh pasta have a shorter life. The water attracts and encourages the growth of bacteria and fungi since they thrive well in damp conditions. Considering pasta is also a food source, the bacteria and fungi will survive in these conditions better. Even though during the cooking process, the high temperature might have probably killed most of the bacteria. Later leaving the cooked pasta in the open will cool it to room temperature, perfect for bacterial growth.
Pasta mixed with sauce tends to go bad even faster. The sauce has all kinds of food components like herbs, vegetables, meat, and mineral seasonings. Each has varying lengths of spoilage time. The shelf life of the sauced pasta will now depend on which ingredient will spoil the fastest. Is it the carrot that will spoil first, or is it the chicken to outlast the pasta?
What Are the Signs Your Cooked Pasta Has Gone Bad?
- Smell: Spoilt or expired fresh pasta emits an awful rancid smell. This is due to the waste products being produced by the growing bacteria.
- Color: Fresh pasta has an even golden yellow to white color. Spoilt pasta might have white and green specs with an uneven discoloration on the pasta surface. This may be a sign of a fungi colony growing on the pasta.
- Texture: Cooked pasta that has gone bad appears gooey and slimy. This feature is characteristic of fungal growth.
These three signs are a warning that the pasta is probably spoilt and should be discarded.4
What Are the Risks of Eating Expired Cooked Pasta?
Eating expired cooked pasta may make you feel sick. The symptoms experienced are somewhat similar to those of food poisoning. What causes one to experience the symptoms is the body’s reaction to the harmful organisms growing on the cooked pasta. Examples of the frequent symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, and an upset stomach.
The most likely foodborne pathogen found on the expired cooked pasta is Bacillus cereus. The bacteria induce similar to that of food poisoning. If not properly treated, the bacteria can complicate to a severe form leading to death. Pasta with other ingredients like eggs, meat, or dairy products has a different set of bacteria. The common ones include Clostridium, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter. Therefore, to reduce the risk of contracting a foodborne illness, you are advised to follow the general pasta shelf-life expectation. Always examine the pasta before you decide to eat.
How to Properly Store Cooked Pasta?
Often, people inadvertently cook pasta that they can’t finish in one sitting. Therefore, you may desire to store the cooked pasta for a later date. We already know what improper storage does to cooked pasta. Luckily, there are great storage methods for saving cooked pasta for reheating and incorporation into combo dishes later. Therefore, it is advisable to store cooked pasta in cold storage and freezer. The cold temperature will not be optimum for the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Storing Cooked Plain Pasta in Cold Storage
One crucial factor for this method to work is packaging the leftover pasta as soon as it is made. The cooked pasta should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours since the process of spoilage will begin. Place the fresh pasta in a tightly lid closed container, or you could use a zip-top bag.
Then add in oil and make sure to mix up the contents before placing them in the fridge. Mixing allows all the cooked pasta to be evenly coated by the oil and prevents the pasta from sticking to each other and the container walls. Further, the oil used is entirely dependent on your preference. You could use olive oil if this type of oil will later compliment your dish. Otherwise, use regular vegetable oil or canola as you can’t go wrong with these choices.
Make sure you allow the pasta to cool down before closing the container. The bag or container should be air-tight to prevent air and additional moisture from inside the storage units. Remember, moisture provides the perfect conditions for the growth of fungi and bacteria. In case you go with the bag option, squeeze out as much air as possible from the bag before sealing.
Cooked pasta stored using the fridge should last for three to five days. Beyond this time frame, the pasta will lose flavor and potential risk of mold growth.
Storing Cooked Plain Pasta in The Freezer
The freezer method allows you to store your cooked pasta for a longer time. However, a freezer bag is recommended as the storage unit of choice since they are efficient due to the thin material, unlike storage containers that have thick walls prolonging freeze times. Like the fridge method, stir the pasta in some oil to reduce stickiness and squeeze out air from the bag before sealing.
Cooked frozen pasta can last optimally for three months. However, if you desire to experience the cooked pasta’s freshness, eat the pasta within two months. Before reheating, thaw the contents first, with the process taking about two hours. This step prevents the pasta’s burning during the preheating process on a pan in an open flame.
How to Safely Reheat Stored Pasta?
Properly stored pasta dishes can be reheated using a microwave and stove top. However, the method of choice depends on the type and quantity of pasta dish to be reheated.
Boil some saltwater using the stovetop. The amount of water used should be sufficient to cover the whole amount of pasta you are reheating. However, you don’t need as much as before when you originally cooked the pasta. Once the water comes to a full boil, add the leftover cooked pasta. Let the pasta boil for about 30 to 60 seconds, then check if the pasta is sufficiently heated. Don’t allow the pasta to overcook as the pasta will become soggy. Lastly, drain the excess water from the heated pasta and add sauce or any other dish of your choice.
Place the leftover cooked pasta on a microwave-safe dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap, but remember to leave one corner slightly open. This tip allows steam to escape while preheating the pasta. Microwave the pasta at medium to avoid overcooking for one or two minutes. Once the cooking time is up, confirm whether the pasta was heated evenly. If not, return the pasta to the microwave for another 15 seconds. When properly heated, remove the dish from the microwave and carefully remove the plastic wrapping to allow steam to escape. You can now enjoy any sauce or dish of your choice.
The guide above has hopefully provided an insight into how long-cooked pasta should last and the storage methods to employ.