Have you ever thought of the shelf life of pasta? How long does pasta last? How does spoiled pasta look like?
For any pasta enthusiast, you may be guilty of stocking up glass jars full of penne, several packets of spaghetti or bags full of spaetzles, oblivious of the above.
If you are bombarded with such questions, look no further. Read on to learn more about pasta.
You may have your own personal history with pasta, but do you know where it all originated from?
It turns out that pasta consumption has been in operation for centuries. This delicacy is synonymous with Italy and it is purported to have originated there.
However, ancient data dating back to the 13th century, indicates that even Asian cuisine had some form of pasta, noodles made from sago palm.
Italy’s history with pasta mainly stemmed from extensive trading in the Mediterranean region during the Middle Age.
The widespread use of pasta in other regions like the USA happened much later due to Italian immigrants.
As such, there may not be any conclusive evidence about the origin of pasta.
Nevertheless, you will agree with me that pasta is a staple in most households.
It is highly convenient and pairs well with most ingredients, hence can be transformed into creative relishes.
Shelf Life of Dried Pasta
You are so used to the convenience of dried pasta, but have you ever asked yourself how it is made and how long it can last?
The typical store bought pasta, be it spaghetti, penne, macaroni, linguine or lasagna sheets, is simply made using semolina flour and water.
The doughy paste is passed through molds and turned into multiple shapes. Moisture is extracted from the dough by drying at low temperatures for a few days.
Packaged dried pasta comes with a best by date. As such, its shelf life beyond the best by date majorly depends on storage conditions.
Store away from moisture and heat.
Unopened packets have a shelf life of up to 3 years beyond the best by date.
Shelf Life of Fresh Pasta
Unlike the dried type, fresh pasta is made with additional ingredients such as eggs and/or oil. All-purpose wheat flour is used.
You can also find different variations in terms of ingredients or type of flour used. Numerous cultures across the world swear by this version.
Nevertheless, you can still find stocked up packets in the refrigerated section of your local store.
Fresh pasta is kneaded like bread dough and passed through machines or rollers into noodles or sheets.
You can also use the dough as per the desired recipe, such as dumplings or ravioli.
The addition of eggs shortens its shelf life, hence short-term usage is ideal.
However, if you have to store for long-term use, utilize the freezer. Do not store fresh pasta in the pantry.
Fresh pasta lasts up to 5 days in the refrigerator. For long-term usage, freeze at a temperature of 0° and below.
Well frozen dough will last up to 8 months.
Shelf Life of Cooked Pasta
Cooked pasta dishes will only last as long as the fastest spoiling ingredient used. For instance, ravioli cooked in a milk-based sauce will have a fairly short shelf life.
Refrigerate and consume such leftovers within a few days, not more than five days. On the other hand, plain cooked version has a longer shelf life, when well frozen.
To prevent clumping or sticking together, toss in cooking oil.
Store in airtight, heavy duty containers or bags.
Well frozen cooked pasta keeps well for 8 months.
How to Prolong the Shelf Life
How to Store Fresh Pasta Dough
If you do not intend to use freshly made dough immediately, exercise caution in how you store it.
- Divide the dough into smaller portions that can be used in one sitting.
- Use Ziploc bags or heavy duty plastic wrap to store the dough.
- Fill each bag to the full and squeeze out excess air. This prevents airlocks which can cause humidity inside the bags, hence cause the dough to deteriorate.
- Fresh dough is best stored in the freezer. Simple tips on freezing:
- Toss the dough in flour to prevent it from sticking together.
- In case you have cut the dough into noodles or other shapes, line them onto a baking sheet and place in the freezer until rock solid. With the noodles, get creative and make noodle ‘nests’ before freezing them.
- Once frozen, take them out and store in smaller bags that you’ll use in each serving. Return them to the freezer.
How to Dry Fresh Pasta
Besides freezing, you can opt to dry fresh dough.
Drying is paramount as it helps the dough to ‘mature’ and absorb moisture from the eggs hence enhances flavor.
Whereas you don’t have to dry the dough for long, a few minutes will still go a long way.
If you intend to use the fresh dough the same day you made it, dry it for approximately 30 minutes before using.
For long-term use, put it out to dry overnight or 24 hours, before storage.
Dry pasta is one of those food items that you can store indefinitely.
It all starts with picking the most suitable storage items as well as ensuring that optimal storage conditions are met and sustained.
Dry spaghetti has no oil content hence its quality is hardly affected by long-term storage.
Optimal conditions are a cool, dry area.
Suitable storage items include glass jars, Ziploc bags and heavy duty containers which have oxygen, insects and air barriers such as tightly fitting or sealable lids.
How to Identify Spoilage
- White spots – The presence of white spots is an indication of overstayed pasta. It has likely lost its quality thus should be discarded.
- Mold – Mold growth is a sure sign of spoilage. Do away with mouldy grains. Mold is toxic and a leading cause of food poisoning as well as allergy trigger.
- Off odor – Use your sense of smell to identify spaghetti or noodles which give off any smell. Whether it is unopened, cooked, raw or fresh pasta, any odd smell is a cause for concern. Replace the pasta immediately.
Knowing the shelf life of noodles helps. The next time you will reach out for some stored penne, put your knowledge to good use.