Throw Away Pasta Immediately If You Notice This

Of all the pantry staples, pasta just might top the list when it comes to convenience, availability, and price; good-quality pasta can be found a variety of specaility stores and virtually every supermarket, it's not very expensive compared to some other ingredients. There are also a ton of different pasta recipes: from creamy lemon pasta to spicy ramen to chicken noodle soup to peanutty soba, this endlessly versatile starch shows up in kitchens across the world, being whiped up into meals that are filling and delicious.

A lot of the time, when people cook up a pot of pasta, leftovers are nowhere to be found. But on the occasion you do find youself with some cold spaghetti, it can be repurposed into a frittata or stuffed between layers of bread. And when you've really got an excess of leftover pasta (or perhaps just trying to meal prep by making some in advance), you can seal it up tight and store it in the fridge — hopefully to be eaten within a day or two. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to tell if refrigerated pasta is still good to eat. And what about fresh pasta or uncooked dry pasta in the pantry, is there an easy way to tell if those varieties are past their prime?

Luckily for you carb lovers, there are a few signs of spoiled pasta that should have you reaching for the compost.

Watch for signs of mold on your cooked pasta leftovers

So you've put a ton of effort into cooking up a show stopping pasta dish (like pasta carbonara) only to find yourself with a bunch of leftovers. If rallying your dinner guests to find room for second or third helpings fails to work, you'll have to toss the extra pasta into the fridge — where, delicious as it may be, it's prone to being forgotten as it gets lost among the cartons of milk and jars of condiments. Maybe you come across your leftovers a few days later and get to wondering: when, exactly, did I make this, and is it still safe to eat?

When it comes to cooked pasta leftovers, they should be eaten within three to five days (via Does It Go Bad?). Anytime before that window, and you should be good; but after that, be on the alert for spoilage. Any signs that indicate mold, such as a bad smell, brown, black, or white specks, or fuzziness is an immediate no-go.

What about fresh pasta?

When cooking at home, most of people are probably used to working with dried pasta, but have you ever picked up a box of fresh pasta for dinner? If so, you'll be familiar with its tender texture that takes well to sauces like Alfredo and pesto (via The Kitchn). While dried pasta is made with ground semolina flour and water, its fresh counterpart contains flour and eggs. Once made and cut into shapes, fresh pasta is dried only briefly before being packaged and sold.

What's great about fresh pasta is that it's often locally made; but one possible downside is that you really need to cook it fairly soon after purchasing, as it will not last long past its manufacture date. According to Does It Go Bad?, fresh uncooked pasta has a similar storage life to cooked pasta dishes — up to three days. Be sure to check the best by date when purchasing, which will indicate how much longer it can hang out in the fridge. When fresh pasta starts to go bad, it will also show warning signs like fuzzy mold or a strange smell, signaling that it's time to toss it.

Does dried pasta ever spoil?

With the understanding that both cooked pasta leftovers and fresh uncooked pasta can grow moldy after just a few days, what about dried pasta? Many keep the food in the cupboard for months or even years, thinking it is a non-perishable.

Dried pasta is made with only water and flour, and then dried over the course of a few days (via The Kitchn). The good news is, the ingredient doesn't really spoil and can be safely stored for a few years. However, one important thing to note, according to Bustle, is that dried pasta will taste best when eaten before its experation date. After that, the taste will probably decline, at least slightly. Before cooking up an entire box of years-old dried pasta, you may want to boil a handful and see if it tastes okay before proceeding with your recipe. You can also look for "excessively cracked and brittle" pasta, which is an indicator that the product is probably no longer at its best.

If you spot any pantry bugs in the dried pasta box, Does It Go Bad? says you should definitely get rid of it (but you probably already guessed that).