Pasta is a staple in most preppers’ pantry supplies. Long-term pasta storage might seem easy to most, and while it is listed as one of the best foods for long-term storage, there are still some factors to consider. Let me back up for a moment…
I got a call from my girlfriend asking me what the shelf life of dried pasta is. When I asked why she wanted to know, she said she was trying to fix dinner and about the only thing they had in the pantry was a single box of, believe it or not, HBO pasta with “Sopranos” shapes.
She said she had never seen it before. The box was unopened and COVERED with dust, the use by date was seven years prior (if I remember correctly)! Aside from the fact that I needed to take her to the grocery store and fill the cabinets, I also got to realizing that many people have no concept of what is an OK amount of time for long-term pasta storage.
Thus, here we are. I am going to cover not only how to store pasta for a long time but also how to determine when pasta has gone bad. Pasta is a great addition to your food storage. It will break up the monotony of freeze-dried foods and everyone loves a warm bowl of spaghetti.
Long-Term Pasta Storage Instructions
First off let’s discuss storage. The ideal conditions for long-term pasta storage include:
- A dry location with little or no exposure to humidity.
- A dark location, such as in a pantry or cabinet.
- A cool location. Room temperature is OK. Avoid a pantry that is near your water-heater or indoor A/C unit (air-handler).
- Pest-free containers (i.e. insects, rodents, etc.) away from your foodstuffs as much as possible. While it is true you can never be 100% free of pests, take simple precautions to avoid pests. Don’t leave exposed foods out. Inspect for presence of pests (i.e. scat, damage to containers/walls/doors, trails, etc.). If you find signs of them, use traps before you resort to chemical warfare!
From this list we can extrapolate 4 main enemies of long-term pasta storage: light, heat, moisture, and pests. Let’s take these on one by one.
#1 – Avoid Light Exposure
Light, a co-conspirator with heat and moisture that can lead to bacteria buildup and ideal conditions for pests to thrive, is also a threat on its own. When your pasta is exposed to a source of light for extended periods — as little as a couple of days — the pasta’s natural riboflavin can become degraded. Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is essential in the body’s breaking down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to produce energy. It’s also instrumental in the efficient use of oxygen in the breathing cycle. The best way to preserve the riboflavin in your pasta is to store it away from light. Don’t worry — it won’t get lonely.
#2 – Avoid Humidity
Pasta likes to be dry until cooked. The effects of moisture on uncooked pasta can destroy its value as a reliable food source from your pantry. Unintended moisture can encourage the growth of bacteria and mold, as well as degrading the flavor and nutritional content of your noodles. Now, we trust that you wouldn’t store your pasta in a puddle of water at the back of a shelf that’s being leaked on, but moisture comes from more sources than liquid water. It can come in the form of moist air — that is, simply an atmosphere with a high humidity content.
That’s one reason why you should store your pasta in an airtight container. If no air can reach the inside of the bag, box, or bucket, then the air can’t carry undue moisture onto the surfaces of your pasta. So whether you buy an airtight plastic storage bin, or bag your pasta oxygen-free with a vacuum sealer and desiccants, the dryer you can keep it, the better. Pasta can have a shelf life of many years, when stored properly. Just think, a couple years into a SHTF situation, you’ll be dining on fettuccini alfredo while your neighbors down the road are clutching at dandelion greens in a desperate bid at nutrition.
#3 – Avoid Heat
If you’ve ever worked in foodservice for a reasonable amount of time, chances are you had to go to a seminar and get your ServSafe certification, which includes learning about the “Temperature Danger Zone,” or TDZ. Simply put, it represents an awareness that between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit, food stored at this temperature is ripe for the picking when it comes to bacterial growth and contamination. But between 70 and 125 degrees, it’s an open invitation.
Yes, usually the TDZ refers to hot food that’s now being stored for future service, but it also covers uncooked food. If you store your pasta in too warm of an environment, not only can bacteria build up, but pests like weevils can find a delicious source to nibble on: your dry pasta.
#4 – Avoid Food Pests
That brings us to insects and other creatures that want to feed on the very same pasta that you’re hoping will have a shelf life of decades. Mice and rats can chew through conventional packaging and they have no conscience when it comes to stealing someone else’s food. Insects are even worse, and worms, well, there’s nothing so unappetizing as that. The shrewd prepper, therefore — and we know you are one — will utilize methods of pasta storage that will thwart the best efforts of pests helping themselves to your food.
Make it airtight, yes, but also tooth-proof. Go the extra mile and place the bags within a food-grade 5-gallon bucket, with the lid firmly sealed. This will eliminate the possibility of pest infestation, and it will extend your pasta’s storage life exponentially. In the battle of man versus beast, make sure it’s you who wins.
Ways to Store Pasta for Long-Term Storage
Want to take your long-term pasta storage to a whole new level!? You can eliminate any chance of air getting to your pasta buy using one of two methods: vacuum sealing and Mylar bags.
Vacuum Sealing Your Pasta
You can use something like the GERYON Vacuum Sealer to remove air and extend pasta shelf life in a gigantic way. This is an exceptionally easy method.
Most vacuum sealers will come with clear plastic bags for sealing everything up. These needs to be stored away from light, however. It is unlike Mylar bags, which both seals out air and light.
Mylar Bags and Food Grade Buckets
Preppers know this approach to long-term food storage. It’s simple and effective. This low-cost strategy requires a few items:
You put the pasta in your Mylar bag and leave enough room to seal the end closed. Toss some O2 absorbers in (how many O2 absorbers to use), push the air out as best as you can, and heat seal it with your clothes iron (on maximum setting). After 24 hours, the O2 absorbers will suck up whatever air was left, leaving your pasta ready for serious storage.
How to Tell if Pasta has Gone Bad
The big things to look for when you think pasta or rice are no longer good are discoloration, unusual texture, and an “off” smell. The latter of which is the least likely to occur, because it’s a dry product. The best way to determine if pasta or rice is still good is the color/texture.
Like many dried foodstuffs that are low in protein and fat, the shelf life of pasta increases dramatically when stored properly. While there is usually a “use by” date on the package, pasta and rice will keep in ideal conditions almost indefinitely. We are talking the possibility of YEARS beyond what the manufacturer recommends!
If the pasta usually has a pale yellow color, but your older stuff has white marks forming on the surface, chances are it’s time to get rid of the stuff you have and replace it. This would serve as an example of unsuccessful long-term pasta storage. If the pasta usually has a very hard texture and is in tight little strands (spaghetti) that look like sticks, but yours seems to be crumbling at the edges, it’s time to re-supply!
Rotating Your Stock of Pasta
The single best thing you can do to ensure your dried complex carbohydrates are fresh and tasty, is to rotate them periodically. Honestly, this is probably the biggest challenge for me. I always seem to have my ADD kick-in when I am about to write the product/date on my storage chart… sorry, there was something shiny on the other side of the room that caught my attention!
But if you’re conscientious and keep on top of how long you’ve been storing which foodstuffs, you’ll have a supply of pasta going ahead years and years. You’ve considered temperature, humidity, and exposure to light, and you’ve conquered all the little beasties that want to “share” your food supply, and you’ve come out on top. Bon Appetit!