Is Pasta Good Past The Expiration Date?

With the past year causing many of us to cook at home more often than ever —which means buying even more groceries than ever — there are presumably also more questions than ever about the shelf life of different foods. Pasta is one of those items we often file under "non-perishable," compared to things like produce and meat. How long does pasta actually last, though? Is that expiration date a hard and fast rule? Is it worth it to stock up when pasta's on sale if you're worried you won't use it all in time? 

The main consideration in answering this question is whether the pasta is dried or fresh. When you make your own pasta at home, or if you buy fresh pasta at a specialty shop, it's made with eggs, so it's only good for about four or five days. Dried pasta is what you're most often buying in a box at the grocery store. It's made with semolina flour and water, and not with eggs, so it can actually last one-to-two years past the date on its box, according to Eat By Date

As Pure Wow points out, the date on pasta boxes is usually a "best by" date, aka the manufacturer's estimate of how long the pasta will really taste fresh. Pasta won't accumulate any bacteria or present any health risks like some other foods past that date. After one or two years, pasta may start to grow mold or take on a discolored look or slimy texture, in which case it's easy to tell you should toss it.

How to maintain pasta's freshness past the 'best by' date

Knowing that it's totally safe to eat pasta past the "best by" date on its box, the only thing left to consider is how we can help the pasta maintain its freshness as long as possible. All that will happen to pasta within the one- or two-year window after that date is that it may start to lose flavor (after that, mold might begin to grow), but simple, proper storage can even prevent that from happening for a longer time. 

According to Pure Wow, pasta in a sealed box or container will last longer than anything in which air can seep. Transferring pasta from its box to an airtight container is an even more foolproof solution. Also, keep that container in a cool, dark place, like your cupboard. 

If you are dealing with fresh pasta, just keep it in airtight packaging in the refrigerator until you're ready to enjoy it, and you can also wrap it in aluminum foil or put it in a freezer-safe zip-lock bag and freeze it. It will last about two days in the fridge and two months in the freezer. Cooked pasta, aka your leftovers, can last in the fridge for up to five days, or in the freezer up to two months.