Whether dry or fresh, pasta simply doesn't last forever, and storing it properly is the key to keeping it tasty and safe. Pasta that's been dried before you bring it home from the store is made with different ingredients from fresh pasta, and notably doesn't contain egg. While this can make store-bought dry pasta last for years, it means that fresh pasta -- which contains egg -- spoils considerably faster.
Why It Goes Bad
Unlike dry pasta, which is made from a flour-and-water paste, fresh pasta is made from flour and eggs. While this dough is partially dried before it's sold in stores, it still contains more moisture than dry pasta -- this is what gives fresh pasta its springy, malleable texture. Dry pasta lasts so long because in its dehydrated state, there isn't enough moisture on the food for bacteria to grow. Fresh pasta, on the other hand, has enough moisture for bacteria such as salmonella to survive, which is why you should never eat fresh pasta noodles raw.
The Refrigeration Solution
Because of their egg content and moisture, refrigerate fresh pasta noodles -- the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends leaving it unrefrigerated for no more than four hours. Keeping fresh, raw noodles refrigerated at a temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit makes it inhospitable to bacteria -- while bacteria can still grow and lead to spoilage just as it would with eggs or milk, it does so slowly. When refrigerated, raw, fresh pasta noodles can last for about a month.
Freezing Your Dough
Like other doughs, raw pasta can be frozen to extend its life. Storing it at a temperature below 32 F makes it impossible for bacteria to survive, but because freezing temperatures gradually compromise the integrity of the noodles, your pasta still won't last indefinitely. Even if your pasta is stored in an airtight container, over time, the freezer draws its moisture out to the surface -- this means that instead of having flexible, soft noodles, you'll be left with hard, rubbery ones.
The Dry Stuff
Store-bought dry pasta noodles can last for years in their raw state -- according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they can spend two to five years on the shelf without spoiling. Though you can make your own dry pasta at home by hanging your noodles until they turn brittle, they still contain egg -- you can store them outside of the refrigerator, but they'll still only last about a month.
- The Kitchn: Dry Pasta vs. Fresh Pasta -- What's the Difference?
- Fine Cooking: Dried Egg Pasta -- Hidden Danger or Perfectly Safe?
- Fox News: When Do Food Items Really Go Bad?
- Daily Mail: The Truth About Sell-By Dates
- The Kitchn: How to Make Fresh Pasta from Scratch
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Refrigerated Food and Power Outages -- When to Save and When to Throw Out
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: Shelf-Stable Food Safety
- Photo Credit Christopher Robbins/Digital Vision/Getty Images