Pasta is a favorite food for many families, and it is known for its resistance to spoiling even if it has been forgotten in a cabinet or pantry for years. Along with other staples like dry beans and rice, pasta is likely to be near the top of your list when you think about what foods are suitable for prepping.
How do you store pasta long-term? Pasta can be stored for many years as long as it’s kept dry in an airtight container and stored in a temperate-controlled environment, free of moisture, heat, light, oxygen, and insects.
When thinking about storing dry pasta as part of your long term prepping stash, it may not be obvious how best to do it. In this article, we’ll look at how long you can store pasta, the best types of pasta for long term storage, and ideal storage methods. By following these suggestions, you should be able to make pasta one of the cornerstones of your food storage plans to best prepare for emergencies.
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To understand the best ways to store pasta, we need to understand what sorts of things can cause it to spoil. The top enemies of your pasta’s longevity are moisture, heat, light, oxygen, and insects.
The recommended storage for dry pasta is in a cool, dry place; most people keep it in their pantry or kitchen cabinet. Even if you leave your pasta in an open bag or box, it’s not in much danger if you’ll be using it relatively soon.
Since pasta has very little moisture content, it’s not very susceptible to spoiling compared to other foods. However, pasta will start to absorb moisture from the environment unless it’s stored in an airtight container. Over time, if pasta is exposed to moisture, its flavor will degrade, and it can develop mold.
You’ll want to preserve your pasta in conditions that maintain its dryness as much as possible. The best way to store pasta long term is vacuum-sealed in an airtight container with an oxygen absorber. A vacuum sealing food preservation machine is our top choice for creating the best environment for long-term storage. Once your pasta is packaged, keep the containers in a dark, temperature-controlled location.
If you’re serious about prepping, you’ll likely want to be able to preserve your food long term using a vacuum sealer. FoodSaver is a well-known brand due to its extensive television advertising, but there are several competitors such as Geryon and Mueller that get rave reviews from customers. You can find quality vacuum sealers for less than fifty dollars.
The science behind vacuum sealing food is simple. The vacuum sealer device removes as much air as possible from the container via suction, leaving behind an environment that preserves food much better than other methods. Less air is better for maintaining food since the air carries microorganisms that will feed on available nutrients. The presence of oxygen also speeds the deterioration of fats and vitamins in the food.
There are lots of uses for a vacuum sealer when you’re prepping, but using it for dry foods like rice, flour, or pasta may be a bit counter-intuitive since these items are known to last for a long while even without special preservation measures. However, if you really want to store your pasta long term (more than one or two years), using a vacuum sealer is highly recommended.
Most food vacuum sealer machines come with mylar or plastic bags and flexible plastic that shrink tight around the food when the vacuum seal is applied. However, this isn’t the method we recommend for pasta since pasta can have sharp edges. You might not notice it at the time, but those sharp points could break through the plastic when it’s being stored, and expose your pasta to undesirable elements like oxygen, pests, and moisture.
Instead, you can pack and vacuum seal your pasta in canning jars. You’ll notice that the shape of traditional canning jars is not long enough to accommodate long Italian pasta types like spaghetti or linguine, so using canning jars works best with macaroni elbows, penne, or other short kinds of pasta.
Be aware that most basic food vacuum sealers do not come with the jar sealer attachment, so you’ll need to buy it separately. All the vacuum sealer models we looked at for this article could use accessories and materials interchangeably with other brands, so you can likely find an accessory that works even if you bought a model from a company that doesn’t sell a jar sealer attachment.
Jar sealer attachments come in two sizes to fit regular- or wide-mouth standard glass canning jars. Be sure to use the size that fits your jar and that the attachments fit over the jar and lid, covering it entirely.
You’ll need canning jars and lids to vacuum-seal your pasta in glass jars. We also recommend adding an oxygen absorber to each jar. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully to make sure you get a proper seal. You’ll know that your jar is sealed if the lid is concave and doesn’t make a popping sound when you press on it. After the jar is sealed, you may choose to add a band around the lid to help keep it in place.
The disadvantages of glass jars are that they are heavy and not portable. They could be damaged in an earthquake or similar catastrophe. They are not the most space-efficient way to store lots of pasta, for those that are prepping for a large group of people. Later in this article, we’ll review an alternative method of storing more substantial amounts of pasta.
You may not be ready to invest in a vacuum sealer for your food just yet; in that case, there are alternate methods of vacuum sealing without using a specialized device. These methods depend on the action of the oxygen absorber to remove excess air instead of the vacuum sealer.
You can use this method with canning jars or mylar bags. If you choose mylar bags, note they can accidentally be punctured by sharp edges of your dry pasta. Orzo or orecchiette have inherently round shapes that could minimize the danger of this happening. It’s best to avoid pointy kinds of pasta like penne, which is cut on an angle, in mylar.
- To use this method with mylar bags, fill each bag with your pasta and one oxygen absorber, leaving enough excess at the open end of the bag to iron it closed.
- Press with a hot iron across the opening of the bag, leaving a small gap at the end.
- Push on the bag to expel as much air as possible, then seal it closed by ironing over the gap. Make sure the container has sealed all the way across.
- The oxygen absorber will start to work, and by the next day, you should see the mylar bag has sealed around your pasta.
If you’re using glass jars, the same method applies. Fill your jar and add an oxygen absorber, then put the lid and band on. As the air is absorbed inside the jar, the lid will seal on.
Note that we recommended earlier using both a food vacuum sealer and oxygen absorbers, and that will give you the best results. However, using oxygen absorbers without a food sealer is still a viable back-up option.
Oxygen absorbers are made to be food-safe and are not the same item as the desiccant packets you find in new shoes and bags. Be sure you follow the instructions on the oxygen absorbers and verify that you’re using enough for the volume of your container. If it’s insufficient for the container, you will not get a good seal, and your food could spoil.
Oxygen absorbers will start to work as soon as you open them, so make sure you are set up to do your food storage immediately. If you do not use all of your oxygen absorbers right away, you can store them inside a sealed canning jar. Once they’ve consumed all the oxygen in the jar, they will stop working and be sealed in and ready for the next time you need them.
Another frequently mentioned method for sealing pasta for long-term storage without a vacuum sealer is a method called dry canning. However, according to several reputable sources, including the companies that make canning jars, the dry canning method is dangerous and not recommended.
The main danger of using this method is that canning jars are not made for dry heat environments and could crack or explode during the dry canning process. Additionally, as we mentioned earlier in this article, heat is one of the enemies of your food’s longevity. Exposing your pasta for an hour or longer for dry canning works directly against your purposes of long-term preservation.
Dry canning also allows far more oxygen to remain inside the jar than there would be using a vacuum sealing method. The cooling action will create enough of a vacuum to seal the canning lid, but whatever oxygen is inside the jar can still cause your food to deteriorate.
If you have any other options, dry canning should be avoided since the other preservation methods we listed in this article are safer, faster, and more energy-efficient.
Insects can get into even the cleanest home, and they love to eat the same types of carbohydrate-rich food that people often store in their pantries. The most common insects that you might encounter in your kitchen are weevils.
Weevils are a type of beetle that can be found on cereal, pet food, dried grains, and similar food items. Aside from weevils, cockroaches and moths also eat starchy foods and can be attracted to dry pasta if it’s available.
While pantry insects generally are not harmful to humans, most people find it distasteful to discover a bug in their food. The best way to keep insects out of your stored food is by keeping it in airtight containers.
If you’re wondering how the insects got into your home in the first place, the answer is that they probably hitched a ride in on your groceries. You may not be able to see them, but eggs or larvae can already be inside the food you bring home.
To be safe, put your recently-purchased pasta, grains, and similar foods in the freezer for a couple of days before putting them away. This will kill any insects or eggs that you inadvertently brought in.
When you’re prepping your pasta or other dry foods for long-term storage, we also recommend adding a bay laurel leaf to each container. Bay leaves are shown to repel many types of insects, including those most frequently found in pantries.
Although our preferred method of storing pasta long term is in sealed glass jars, that may not be the best option for people who need to store large amounts of pasta or who find storing glass jars inconvenient. In those cases, it’s time to look into food grade buckets.
Food grade buckets have several advantages. They have a large capacity – you can fit twenty to thirty pounds of pasta into a five-gallon bucket. They’re relatively inexpensive and can sometimes be found for free from foodservice providers. They are more portable than glass jars, although buckets can also get heavy when they’re full. Lastly, a bucket can be reused in all sorts of ways in a survival situation.
When you’re sourcing your bucket, be sure it’s a food-grade bucket. All food-grade buckets are white, but not all white buckets are made for food. If you’re getting your buckets from a restaurant or bakery, make sure they have never been used for anything except food. Some businesses will reuse buckets for cleaning supplies or other storage, which is obviously undesirable for our purposes.
Consider what size makes the most sense for your needs. Those considerations include how many people you need to prep for, portability, length of anticipated storage time, storage location, and what food you’ll be preserving.
Once you have one or more buckets and your pasta for storing, you’ll want to use the mylar bag method described earlier. Place your sealed mylar bags inside the bucket, so you can take out one pack at a time as you need to use them. Using the bucket makes it easy to find your pasta when you need it, plus it provides an extra layer of airtight protection from air, light, and pests.
You might consider investing in some gamma seal lids for your buckets as well. These bucket lids are airtight, watertight, and keep out pests just like your standard bucket lid, but they’re much easier to open and close. They will make rotating your pasta supply much easier, as well as making the buckets more accessible to children or older people who might have trouble with regular lids.
While up to now we’ve been focused on how to store pasta by yourself, it’s also worth mentioning that you can purchase buckets of pasta already professionally packaged for long-term storage. Many of these have an even longer shelf-life, like this Macaroni and Cheese Storage Bucket from Chef’s Banquet that has 120 servings and can be kept for up to twenty years.
As with any stored food, you will want to make sure you’re keeping track of when you packaged your dry pasta and keep rotating your stock regularly. Write the packaging date on each container with a permanent marker. We’d also recommend keeping a calendar so that you’ll get a reminder when it’s time to rotate stock. You may not be looking at your food cache often enough to notice when it’s time to use and replace your stores.
While you’re rotating your supplies, you can use this chance to check for evidence of pests or other problems. You’ll be glad you found the problem early before you needed your emergency rations.
Luckily most of us cook with pasta frequently in our regular lives, so it shouldn’t be too hard to use up the older pasta before it starts to lose flavor. Make sure to use the oldest pasta first, and when replacing, put new containers in the back, so they are last to be used.
It’s hard to predict precisely how long pasta can be stored, but in ideal conditions, it should be fine for twenty to thirty years. However, the quality of the pasta can start to degrade over time, which is why we still recommend a regular rotation schedule.
The sell-by date on pasta is a guide for retailers and shoppers, but it doesn’t necessarily contain much useful information about how long you can safely consume the food. Usually, when we purchase dried pasta, it has a sell-by or best-by date one to two years in the future. Beyond that, in a typical kitchen situation, another two years past the sell-by date is generally considered safe, especially if the pasta is stored in a sealed container.
So, from the time you purchase pasta, it’s safe to assume four years before you would need to start worrying about it even without any of the storage tips we’re going to discuss later in this article. Assuming you follow dry storage best practices, you should be able to store it for five times that, or even longer.
For many people, the word pasta only brings to mind Italian noodles like spaghetti or macaroni. However, the beauty of pasta is that there’s a world of varieties available. Most cultures have some kind of pasta, from ramen to rice noodles to buckwheat noodles and many more. This is excellent news for preppers since one of the real dangers of having to eat from a cache of the same food over time is how boring it could be.
Since we already know about the elements that can damage stored pasta, we can easily figure out which varieties will be the best for long-term storage. Pasta with eggs, fat, or moisture will not last as long. Most dry pasta types have minimal ingredients, for example, semolina flour and water for a typical Italian pasta, or rice flour and water for pho noodles.
Assuming we’re prepping for a catastrophe where regular food supplies are disrupted, it’s a good idea to consider cooking time. While most pasta is considered “fast” to prepare under normal circumstances, the difference in cooking time can be doubled depending on the variety you have.
Thin types like vermicelli cook the fastest – in as little as five minutes – while types that are twisted or pinched like rotini and bowtie pasta can take up to twelve minutes to cook all the way through. If you’re looking to conserve resources, you’d want the five-minute pasta.
It’s also useful to think about what you would cook with your pasta, and plan around several complete meal types. Plain pasta might be fine if you’re desperate, but it’s not going to satisfy for very long or be nutritionally complete. Aside from typical sauced pasta dishes with meat or vegetables, you can also use noodles in casseroles, soups, and salads. Be sure that you have the right ingredients on hand to suit the types of pasta you’re putting in your long-term storage plans.
Double-check your ingredient list, cooking time, and best-by date when you’re purchasing pasta if you’re planning to store it for a long time. If your pasta has a best-by date one or two years in the future, it will probably be suitable for storing. If the date is sooner, you may not want to chance it spoiling. The best type of pasta for prepping will have low moisture content, cook quickly, and suit the other ingredients you have on hand.
As long as you keep it in the right conditions, there are very few dangers to storing pasta long term. The most likely negative outcome of storing your pasta for too long is a loss of flavor quality. In an emergency, you probably won’t be too concerned if your noodles taste less-than-fresh. Of course, if you see any evidence of pests, mold, or other signs of spoilage on your pasta, throw away that container.
Besides this one downside, there are plenty of benefits for stocking up on pasta. One of the best things about pasta for your survival food cache is that it has a great cost to calorie ratio.
In a catastrophe where you depend on your prepping supplies, you want to make sure that you’re getting the most calories possible. A lot of calorie-dense foods that preppers store are also expensive, like nuts and energy bars, but pasta has a great balance of value with available energy.
You can look up calorie-per-dollar lists online that will give you a better sense of which foods pack the most nutritional content for the least money. Of course, you’ll also want to account for the sauces, vegetables, meat, or cheese that you’re planning to serve with your pasta when judging the overall cost per calorie.
Make sure you also calculate out the price per serving when you’re deciding which pasta to purchase. You might be tempted just to buy the biggest package, assuming that you’ll get the best price, but that’s not always the case. You can sometimes get a better price using coupons or sales on pasta that is in standard one-pound packaging.
Although most dry pasta is fairly standard in taste across the board, be careful if you’re considering investing in a large quantity of an unfamiliar brand. We’d recommend doing a taste test before you make a big purchase since you don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of pasta that you and your family dislike.
Also, be sure to keep your storage area and capacity in mind. Even if you find a great deal, you’ll need to have the space to keep it and proper containers. Once you’ve accounted for those factors, you’ll be ready to start looking for great deals for your cache.
Pasta is an excellent option for preppers to add to their food caches because of its versatility, long shelf-life, and low price. It’s among the top foods for long-term storage due to its low moisture and fat content. We’ve introduced several storage methods here that should allow you to keep any amount of pasta in reserve for as long as you need it.
Be sure to store your pasta away from the leading causes of food deterioration: heat, light, moisture, oxygen, and pests. If you can account for all of these, your pasta (and other foods you add to your cache) should be safe in the long-term.