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Can You Eat Cold Pasta?

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It is safe to eat cold pasta as long it has been stored properly in a refrigerator, and it’s less than five days old. If cold pasta has been left at room temperature or it was cooked more than five days ago, it should not be eaten because it could be harboring bacteria.

If you don’t want to reheat pasta that you have cooked on a previous day, it is perfectly safe to eat it cold as long as it has been stored properly. You can eat it with other cold ingredients, making a pasta salad.

a pot of boiling water with ribbon pasta

How Should I Store Cooked Pasta?

As soon as you have cooked the pasta, you should rinse any that you wish to store in cold water. This will help to bring the temperature down quickly so that the pasta can be refrigerated as soon as possible.

You should not put hot or warm pasta in the fridge or the heat may cause other food inside the fridge to spoil more quickly. The pasta may not cool quickly enough to be safe, especially if you are storing it in large quantities.

Once your pasta has cooled, strain off any excess water and give it a few minutes to dry.

Next, transfer the pasta to a plastic container with a locking lid so that you can seal it. This reduces the risk of bacteria being transferred from other foods and will stop the pasta from going dry and hard.

Put the container in the fridge.

Some people recommend storing cooked pasta with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent the pieces from sticking to each other and turning into a lump. However, it does make it a little more greasy when you are ready to eat it.

What Happens If I Leave Cold Pasta at Room Temperature?

If you have accidentally left a pan of cold pasta at room temperature for more than two hours, it needs to be thrown away. It is not safe to eat it cold, because it could be harboring bacteria that will have bred in the warm pasta while it was sitting out.

If the room is hot, cut that time in half – even an hour could be too long. That may surprise you, but bacteria thrive at room temperature.

According to the USDA, the “Danger Zone” for food is between 40 and 140°F. Bacteria can double in number in just twenty minutes when food is stored within this temperature range. (source)

Many people eat pasta that has been stored at room temperature with no problem, but that does not mean you should do so – especially if you are planning to eat the pasta cold.

Remember, heating food can help to kill off bacteria, so if you aren’t going to heat the food, you need to store it even more carefully to ensure that it doesn’t make you sick.

leftover foods in the fridge

How Long Can I Keep Cold Pasta in the Fridge For?

You can keep cold pasta in the fridge for up to five days for most kinds of pasta. However, it is worth checking whether there are any storage recommendations on the packet because some kinds of pasta may have a shorter shelf life.

For example:

  • Fresh pasta (from the store) can be kept for one to three days
  • Dried wheat pasta (after cooking) can be kept for three to five days
  • Stuffed pasta can be kept for three to five days
  • Lasagna and sauce-covered pastas can be kept for five days
  • Bean-based pastas (e.g. pea pasta) can be kept for three to five days
  • Fresh homemade pasta can be kept for four to five days

Remember that any sauce that comes with the pasta should be considered too. Don’t store sauces for longer than the lifespan of the shortest-lived ingredient. For example, if you have seafood in the sauce that should be used within two days, the whole dish will need to be used up within two days.

If you have left pasta out for an extended period, but less than two hours, remember to reduce how long you keep it in the fridge because it will go bad more quickly.

leftover pasta in plastic container

Is Cold Pasta Good for You?

According to the BBC, scientists from the University of Surrey have discovered that cold pasta might actually be better for you than freshly cooked pasta. When you cool pasta down, you change the pasta’s structure. (source)

This creates something that is called “resistant starch.” It causes your body to treat the starch more like it treats fiber. This stops the rush of blood sugar that is usually associated with eating carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta and could be better for you.

As long as you are observing the proper storage techniques, therefore, cold pasta is a better meal. This is quite surprising to most people, as we generally eat hot pasta that has just been cooked.

Of course, cold pasta is still a starchy food and should be eaten in moderation regardless of whether it is eaten hot or cold. Make sure that you pair it with healthy toppings, such as fresh vegetables, rather than very salty or meaty sauces.

cooked pasta in a strainer

How Do You Tell if Cold Pasta Has Gone Bad?

You may not always be able to tell for sure, so if in doubt, do not eat cold pasta. However, you can inspect it for certain telltale signs.

Flecks of mold may appear on the surface. This is usually white or pale blue, so look closely. You might also notice a slimy texture, which is a sure sign that the pasta has gone bad and is being attacked by bacteria.

An odd smell is also a warning not to consume the pasta. If it smells sandy or sour, throw it away.

Conclusion

It is safe to eat cold pasta that has been stored correctly in a fridge.

Pasta that has been left at room temperature for more than two hours should be discarded, as it is likely to be harboring bacteria.

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