In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How long is uncooked pasta good for?” and will discuss signs of bad pasta.
How long is uncooked pasta good for?
Fresh pasta may be used up to 4-5 days beyond its “best by” date, whereas dried pasta has a shelf life of 1-2 years. It all comes down to the best-by date, the technique of preparation, and how the pasta was kept.
‘Pasta’ is defined as the product obtained by extrusion or lamination and successive drying (to 12.5% maximum water content) of a dough made of durum wheat semolina and water. Pasta with moisture content more than 24% is defined as ‘fresh pasta’ and requires storage temperatures lower than 4°C (38°C). For its high water content fresh pasta is a product easily perishable; spoilage is due to the metabolic activity of microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, molds) that can easily grow in a product with these characteristics. The microbial quality in fresh pasta at the end of the production process is strictly related to the characteristics of raw materials, such as durum semolina or alternative flours and water and to the methods used to make pasta. Moreover, the cell load is also influenced by the methods used to sanitize the plant and to prevent new outer contaminations and lower microbial loads of homemade pasta can be attributed to the better management of the facilities (1).
Semolina flour and water are used to make dried pasta. Eggs are often found in fresh pasta, whether it is produced at home or bought from the refrigerated area. Because of its inexpensive cost and wide range of uses, it is one of the most widely consumed foods in the world. All kinds of pasta are available, but the most popular are macaroni and rigatoni.
Is Pasta Unusable after a Certain Point in Time?
Water and semolina flour are the primary components of pasta, with additional coloring, preservatives, and flavoring compounds used in certain varieties. Using semolina flour and water, the dough is formed, dried, and packed. The dough may be formed in a variety of ways. It is durum wheat flour that is used to make semolina flour for pasta. Low carbohydrate levels and high protein content make semolina flour an excellent choice for those with digestive issues.
Pasta production is subject to stringent quality regulations by most manufacturers. The semolina flour, the water, and all the other components are examined for quality. Additionally, the production, drying, and packing processes are monitored to assure the highest quality standards. Machines for mixing are cleaned and sterilized to the highest standards. When you buy dried pasta from your local supermarket, you can be certain that the product is high quality and has a long shelf life.
However, during storage, fresh pasta undergoes some complicated physicochemical and biochemical changes, in addition to the microbial proliferation. The sensory quality, moisture, and wet gluten content of fresh noodles decrease while the acidity and total plate count increase. The microbial growth and a decrease in the pH are the most obvious common characterizations during the deterioration of fresh pasta. Generally, the microbial count in newly produced fresh noodles is about 103–104 CFU/g, which mainly depends on the raw materials and production processes. This rapidly increases during storage due to the high water content and abundant nutrients. Studies show that the microbial count in noodle samples reached 106 CFU/g after 24 h and then 108 CFU/g after 72 h (2).
How to store dry pasta?
It all depends on when the pasta was made and how it was preserved. Dried pasta may be stored for up to three years in a cool, dry place. As a general rule, dried pasta will stay longer than the expiration date on its box if stored in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. The expiration date of your spaghetti may be found on the box (4).
The best place to keep dried pasta is in a well-ventilated, dark, and chilly location. Dry pasta is best kept in its packaging so don’t open the package until you need to cook it. A pantry, closet, or pantry in your kitchen is a good place to start. Keep the pasta out of the reach of oxygen, water, dampness, or heat.
The shelf life of pasta decreases as soon as the box is opened. You may save money by purchasing a lesser amount of pasta at a time if you only cook spaghetti once a week. If you need to keep pasta longer than three weeks in an open bag, place it in an airtight container and lock it securely. If you open a package of pasta, it will begin to lose its quality in approximately three weeks, so you should utilize it before then.
Keeping pasta in a cool, dry place can help it last longer, but if you don’t store it properly, it may go bad before its expiration date.
How to store fresh pasta?
To prolong the shelf life of fresh pasta different methods can be proposed. Actually, fresh pasta is allowed the use of chemical preservatives and bacteriostatic compounds to avoid microorganisms proliferation. Packaging material with high barrier film and the use of modified atmosphere packaging also contribute to the extended shelf life of fresh pasta (1).
The shelf life of fresh pasta is less than that of dried pasta, therefore it’s vital to keep this in mind. Fresh pasta, on the other hand, has one additional ingredient, eggs, compared to dry pasta, which is preservative- and semolina-based. Fresh pasta has a limited shelf life due to the eggs and the fact that it is not dry but fresh. Eggs are traditionally incorporated into pasta with a wide range of egg content from 17% to 30% to mainly achieve better nutritional value, organoleptic properties, but may also aid structure formation (3).
Because fresh pasta must be eaten within a short period, it is best to purchase it just when you want to prepare it. However, if properly maintained, fresh pasta may remain for up to four to five days beyond the expiration date on the box shown on the label. To get the finest flavor and taste, use freshly made pasta right away. It’s not always feasible to achieve this goal.
Remember that fresh pasta is different from dried spaghetti when it comes to keeping it in the fridge. The refrigerator or freezer is the best place to keep freshly prepared pasta. The pasta should be stored in a freezer-safe container or bag. One to two weeks in the refrigerator is all that spaghetti can endure before it goes bad.
Consider freezing fresh pasta to extend its shelf life. Fresh pasta may be stored in the freezer for up to a month or more. The flavor, on the other hand, will be somewhat different from what you’re used to. A study evaluated the effect of freezing and thawing of fresh pasta stored at -18°C (0°F). The results revealed that cooking properties of frozen raw pasta showed increases in the optimal cooking time, cooking loss and percentage of broken noodles. The hardness and chewiness of the frozen raw pasta after cooking decreased, suggesting the attenuation of the cooked noodle texture. The deterioration of cooking and texture properties was in association with the weaker tensile strength, higher water mobility and less compact microstructure of frozen raw pasta (3).
After opening a package of preserved fresh pasta, use it within five days, but keep it refrigerated at all times.
Signs of pasta spoilage
The smell is the best way to tell whether fresh pasta has gone bad. There will be an unusual fragrance to expired fresh pasta. In a fresh pasta shelf life evaluation study, the growth of visible molds occured after the loss of sensory acceptance due to the presence of off-odors. Results suggested that the sensorial quality, in particular the odor of the packaged product, played a significant role in determining the product acceptability (1).
Aside from the expiration date on the packaging, it’s difficult to tell whether dry pasta has gone bad. Check the pasta bag for pests, discoloration, or mold when using dry pasta. But keep in mind that the look of pasta that has been out for a while doesn’t alter significantly. Because expired pasta has a stale flavor and will not be as good as the pasta you are used to, it is best to avoid cooking it at all costs.
Other FAQs about Pasta that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we answered the query, “How long is uncooked pasta good for?” and discussed signs of bad pasta.
- Costa, Cristina, et al. Shelf life extension of durum semolina‐based fresh pasta. Int j food sci technol, 2010, 45, 1545-1551.
- Li, Man, et al. Delineating the physico-chemical, structural, and water characteristic changes during the deterioration of fresh noodles: Understanding the deterioration mechanisms of fresh noodles. Food Chem, 2017, 216, 374-381.
- Liu, Hui, Xiao-Na Guo, and Ke-Xue Zhu. Effects of freeze-thaw cycles on the quality of frozen raw noodles. Food Chem, 2022, 387, 132940.
- Handbook of Noodles Processing. Micro Food Processing Enterprises. National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management.