Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Along with beans and rice, pasta is a staple that should be part of your survival pantry. It is inexpensive, versatile, and easy to prepare. When stored in a cool, dry location, most dry pastas have a very long shelf life.
The main enemies of dry pasta are moisture, heat, light, oxygen, and insects. But if you keep your supply of pasta in an environment that is free of these variables, it should last for many years. This article will explain what you need to know for long-term pasta storage.
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Different Types of Pasta Have Different Shelf Lives
Pasta with eggs, fat, or moisture content will not last as long as the dry varieties that contain minimal ingredients. Here is a run-down of the most popular types of pasta and their normal shelf lives when storing it in its original packaging on a cool, dry kitchen or pantry shelf.
- Semolina pasta. This variety can last for many years – even decades – without any extra storage prep.
- Egg pasta. Egg pasta can have a two-year shelf life without any special storage. However, since egg pasta has a tendency to absorb odor and contaminants from the air, it may change color and lose some of its nutrient content over time.
- Gluten-free pasta. Some gluten-free kinds of pasta will last about two years in the pantry. However, gluten-free varieties that are made with natural oils (such as flax pasta) tend to have a shorter shelf life.
- Vegetable pasta. Pasta with spinach, beet, or other vegetable flavors tend to last about two years without special storage. These kinds of pasta may lose color or nutrients over time but usually remain safe to eat.
- Whole-grain pasta. The natural oils in whole-grain pasta will cause it to gradually become rancid after about a year or two.
Steps for Storing Pasta
Here are the steps to follow for longer-term pasta storage.
- Store pasta in a cool, dry location. Store-bought pasta usually is packaged in cardboard boxes or cellophane bags. These packages are fine if you plan to eat your product within a year or so from purchase and are storing it in your kitchen cabinet. However, pasta that is exposed to moisture or heat will degrade over time and can be susceptible to mold.
- Repackage pasta into an airtight container. For long-term storage, your best bet is to store pasta in a vacuum-sealed airtight container. Oxygen absorbers can help maintain the proper arid environment.
- Use canning jars rather than bags. Many pasta varieties have sharp edges that can poke through plastic bags. Therefore, vacuum-sealed canning jars are a handy option for storing long types of pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine long-term. Glass jars also work well for storing other forms of pasta.
- Freeze pasta before canning. Have you ever found an insect inside an airtight container? How did it get there? The chances are good that the tiny insect larvae were in the food when you brought it home from the store.
A strategy to prevent this unappetizing occurrence is to freeze pasta and grains for a few days before storing them. Freezing kills any eggs or larvae that may have hitchhiked home with your food.
- Place a bay leaf inside the pasta container. Another way to keep insects away from your stored pasta (and grains) is to place a bay leaf inside the container. Bay leaves are known to repel many types of pantry insects.
- Use food-grade buckets to store large quantities of pasta. If you have a big family, you may find that keeping pasta in glass jars is inconvenient.
Here’s another idea. You can place individually-sealed Mylar bags inside a food-grade bucket, then take out packages one or more at a time as you need them. A bucket closed with a gamma seal lid provides another layer of protection from light, oxygen, and pests.
- Rotate your pasta supply. Label the packaging date of your stored pasta and place new jars, bags, or containers in the back of your shelf. Then rotate your stock on a first-in, first-out basis.
How To Tell if Pasta Has Gone Bad
The “use by” and “sell by” dates on pasta packages are very conservative. As we have seen, pasta can often last for many years. But, how can you tell that your stored pasta is still okay to eat?
Discolorations and a loss of some nutrients are not unusual in pasta that has been stored long-term, but it usually is still safe to consume. However, let your senses be your guide. If the product has an unusual texture or an “off” smell, it’s best not to take any chances. Other warning signs that the pasta may be long past its prime are white marks on the surface or crumbling at the edges.
Supplies for Long-Term Pasta Storage
Here is a list of supplies to consider for stockpiling pasta:
- Vacuum Sealer. A vacuum sealer works by removing air from a plastic bag before sealing the bag with heat. The tight seal helps prevent bacteria, moisture loss, and freezer burn.
- Mylar Bags. Mylar bags are excellent for all kinds food storage, including pasta. They reflect light and are flexible, durable, non-porous, and puncture-resistant. You can use them alone or place them inside food-grade buckets.
- Oxygen Absorbers. Since oxygen can contribute to the degradation of pasta over time, oxygen absorbers are an excellent option for long-term storage. You can place these items inside your jars, bags, or buckets.
- Canning Jars. Pasta stores well in lidded glass Mason jars. You can find jars to suit many pasta varieties here.
- Food-Grade Buckets. Placing sealed bags of pasta inside a food-grade bucket gives an added level of protection against the elements that can deteriorate the food over time. Some restaurants and stores give away food-grade buckets for free. All you have to do is ask.
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