How Long Can You Keep Cooked Pasta?

How Long Can You Keep Cooked PastaGnocchi pasta in rustic style. Italian cuisine. Vegetarian vegetable pasta. Cooking lunch. Gourmet dish. Top view

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Pasta, pasta, pasta – It’s one of the best ingredients to have in your kitchen, in my opinion. You can make so many delicious dishes with it, including vegan and vegetarian treats, lunch and dinner delights, and even breakfast-brunch wonders. But, once you’ve cooked enough pasta to feed a small army (which we all do sometimes), what do you do with it? How long can you keep cooked pasta?

How Long Can You Keep Cooked Pasta in the Fridge?

The official word, according to Healthline, is that cooked pasta will last for between 3 and 5 days when stored in the fridge.

This is quite on the contrary to how long dry, un-cooked pasta lasts for, which is a good lesson on only cooking the right amount. (I always accidentally cook enough pizza to feed a small army.)

Penne photo created by timolina –

How Long Can You Keep Cooked Pasta at Room Temperature?

If you’ve left your cooked pasta at room temperature, on the counter, you should know that it will keep for a considerably shorter period of time than if you were to keep it in the fridge.

Don’t worry, though. You’re definitely not the only one who has put the pasta leftovers on the counter to cool down, and then forgotten about them. I’ve done that myself… many, many, many times. (Honestly, at this point, I can’t count how many!)

It is not recommended to eat pasta if it has been cooked and left on the counter (or similar) for more than 2 hours.

If your pasta dish contains dairy, meat, or fish, you will want to eat it or refrigerate it within 1 hour.

How Long Should You Leave Pasta to Cool Before Putting it in the Fridge?

Ideally, you will want to leave your pasta cooling on the counter for no more than 2 to 3 hours before you put the leftovers in the fridge.

If your pasta contains dairy, meat, or fish, make sure it is refrigerated within 1 hour of being cooked, providing it is cool enough.

If you leave it any longer than that, you are running the risk of the food starting to spoil before you put it in the fridge. Sealing up pasta that is still hot (or even warm) in an airtight container will create an ideal little habitat for bacteria to start growing… and also mould.

As with any food, you shouldn’t leave your pasta to cool uncovered on the counter.

How to Store Cooked Pasta So It stays Fresh

Cooked pasta should be cooled before it is moved to the fridge, freezer, or anywhere else you plan to store it. You shouldn’t let the dish (or sauce-less/dry pasta) sit on the counter for longer than 2 hours, however.

After it has cooled, transfer it to an airtight container. For pasta, shallower dishes are better so you only have a couple of layers of pasta.

If you don’t have airtight containers, you can always use a freezer or food bag. Whatever you use, it should be airtight.

Carbonara photo created by jcomp –

How to Store Cooked Pasta to Stop Sticking

If you are storing cooked pasta that has not yet been added to sauce or the rest of your meal (‘dry’ pasta), a good way to stop it from sticking together is to add a little drizzle of oil and give it all a good shake.

When the individual pasta pieces are covered in oil, it is harder for them to stick.

You only need quite a small drizzle of oil to give the pasta a very light coating. Olive oil is best, if you have some in your cupboard. If not, small drizzles of other types of oil will work just fine.

You can also use butter in place of oil to stop pasta sticking in the fridge.

How to Store Cooked Pasta With Sauce

You can store cooked pasta with sauce in the same way as dry/sauce-less pasta. You simply wait for the dish/pasta to cool down before transferring to either a freezer/food bag or an appropriate container. Again, ideally, the bag or container should be airtight, or can be made airtight (such as tying/using a clip/etc).

You will sometimes find that the pasta absorbs the tastes of the sauce when the leftovers are kept in the fridge for a day or so. The dish might actually taste bolder and/or better.

Photo by Keriliwi on Unsplash

Reheating Cooked Pasta Instructions

You have a whole bunch of ways to heat up your chilled cooked pasta so that it is ready to eat again – using the microwave, your stove, the oven, and more.

Let’s take a look at each of them:

How to Reheat Leftover Pasta in the Microwave

You will need to transfer your cooked-but-chilled pasta to a microwave-safe dish, and preferably a shallow one. The pasta will heat properly and thoroughly when it is in a shallower container.

Ideally, the container will have a lid that you can seal shut. If not, you will want to use cling film to cover it.

If you find that microwaved pasta is too dry for you, add a little bit of water before you put it in the microwave. You don’t need to add much – just a splash. This will stop the pasta from drying out as it reheats.

You will want to turn use medium power to microwave leftover pasta.

You will also want to microwave the leftover pasta in one-minute increments.

Depending on the type and power of your microwave, you might even want to go up in 30-second increments.

When the microwave beeps, take out your pasta, give it a stir, add a splash more water (if necessary) and put it back in for another 1 minute/30 seconds (if necessary). Repeat the cycle as many times as is necessary to get the pasta to your desired temperature.

How to Reheat Leftover Pasta on the Hob

Transfer your leftover chilled pasta to a saucepan or skillet. Whatever you use, non-stick is best.

If the pasta looks a little dry, add a splash of water. If you have leftover sauce, you can add some of that. You can also add a little milk plus extra ingredients (herbs, spices, etc.) to help thin-down the sauce, if has thickened.

Reheat your leftover pasta on a medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

You can taste as you go, adding salt, pepper, or other seasonings. You can also test for when it is ready and hot enough to eat.

Regardless of how you choose to reheat your pasta, make sure you eat it within 2 hours. You can’t refrigerate it store it once you’ve chilled and then reheated it.

How to Reheat Leftover Pasta in the Oven

Your leftover pasta will need to be moved to an oven-safe container, and, again, shallower is best to ensure the pasta reheats evenly and properly. You will want to cover the pasta to make sure the top doesn’t burn while the bottom bits of pasta are still cold. Foil works pretty well for this job.

The oven will need to be preheated to gas mark 3 or 175°C. [345°F for my US friends.]

Bake your leftover pasta in the oven for between 15 and 20 minutes.

If you want to add any delicious extras, such as cheese, you should take the foil off around 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, then add whatever you want to add before placing back in the oven.

Photo by timolina –

How to Tell when Cooked Pasta Has Gone Off

Pasta can change in a number of ways when it starts to turn bad, depending on whether or not it has sauce, what kind of sauce, what kind of pasta, where it was stored, and other factors.

One of the first things that usually happens when pasta is starting to turn bad or unsafe/unpleasant to eat is that the feel of it changes. It gets more and more moist as time goes by, eventually turning into an unpleasant mess of what can only be described as slime.

The colour of pasta changes as it starts to go bad, too. If it once started out a light creamy, almost pale yellow shade, it will lose any colour, turning either a dirty white shade, or a light grey one.

If your pasta is in sauce, the sauce will most definitely change as it turns bad.

For bolognese sauces, excess oil can form on the top of bottom of the dish, making the pasta even more slimier than expected. In conditions like this, mould and bacteria can quickly grow.

Dairy-based sauces can curdle or split, and they can also start to smell and taste incredibly sour and unpleasant.

You should also be wary with sauces containing meat. Give them the sniff test and check out whether or not they have changed in appearance before you decide to reheat and cook.


Is is Safe to Eat Leftover Pasta?

Yes, provided it hasn’t been left to cool for more than 2 or 3 hours. You also shouldn’t eat leftover pasta that has been on the counter uncovered because of contamination with flies, etc. It is also safe to eat leftover cooked pizza that has been in the fridge for 2 to 3 days.

How Do You Know When Pasta Has Gone Bad?

Whether the pasta looks as though it has gone bad or not, it should be disposed of after 1 or 2 hours on the countertop, after 3 to 5 days in the fridge, and after 3 months in the freezer. You should also consider the pasta to be ‘bad’ if the smell, appearance, taste, or texture changes.

Can You Freeze Cooked Pasta?

I’ve answered this question in detail – with freezing and reheating instructions – right here: Can You Freeze Cooked Pasta? (But yes, you totally can.)

By Buzzy Kitchen

Lovers of food, owners of opinions, pleased to share!