Pasta is a favorite food for many families and 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 considering 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.
What’s the Best Way to Store Dry Pasta Long Term?
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 little moisture content, it’s less susceptible to spoiling than other foods. However, the pasta will absorb moisture from the environment unless 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 the dark, temperature-controlled location.
Using a Vacuum Sealer
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 several competitors, such as Geryon and Mueller, get rave customer reviews. You can find quality vacuum sealers for less than fifty dollars.
Why Use a Vacuum Sealer?
The science behind vacuum sealing food is simple. The vacuum sealer 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 up the deterioration of fats and vitamins in the food.
There are many uses for a vacuum sealer when 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, a vacuum sealer is highly recommended if you want to store your pasta long-term (more than one or two years).
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 them 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 it. After the jar is sealed, you may 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 prepping for a large group of people. Later in this article, we’ll review an alternative method of storing more substantial amounts of pasta.
Top Selling Vacuum Sealers
Alternatives to Vacuum-Sealing Pasta
You may not be ready to invest in a vacuum sealer for your food just yet; in that case, there are alternate vacuum sealing methods without a specialized device. These methods depend on the action of the oxygen absorber to remove excess air instead of the vacuum sealer.
Mylar Bag and Bucket Method
You can use this method with canning jars or mylar bags. If you choose mylar bags, note the sharp edges of your dry pasta can accidentally puncture them. Orzo or orecchiette have inherently round shapes that could minimize the danger of this happening. It’s best to avoid pointy pasta like penne, 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 a hot iron across the bag’s opening, 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 been sealed all the way across.
- The oxygen absorber will start to work, and by the next day, you should see the mylar bag has been 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. The lid will seal on as the air is absorbed inside the jar.
We recommended using a food vacuum sealer and oxygen absorbers earlier, which will give you the best results. However, using oxygen absorbers without a food sealer is still a viable backup 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.
Dry Canning Method
Another frequently mentioned method for sealing pasta for long-term storage without a vacuum sealer is 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 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 other options, dry canning should be avoided since the other preservation methods we listed in this article are safer, faster, and more energy-efficient.
Keeping Bugs Out of Pasta
Insects can get into even the cleanest home, and they love to eat the same 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 in 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 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.
We recommend adding a bay laurel leaf to each container when prepping your pasta or other dry foods for long-term storage. Bay leaves are shown to repel many types of insects, including those most frequently found in pantries.
Storing Larger Amounts of Pasta Long Term
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 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 food service providers. They are more portable than glass jars, although buckets can also get heavy when full. Lastly, a bucket can be reused in various ways in a survival situation.
When sourcing your bucket, be sure it’s a food-grade one. 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 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 also consider investing in some gamma seal lids for your buckets. These bucket lids are airtight and 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 more straightforward and make 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.
Don’t Forget to Rotate Your Pasta
As with any stored food, you will want to keep 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 you’ll get a reminder when it’s time to rotate stock. You may not look at your food cache often enough to notice when it’s time to use and replace your stores.
While 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 the older pasta before it loses 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.
How Long Can Dry Pasta Be Stored?
It’s hard to predict how long pasta can be stored, but it should be fine for twenty to thirty years in ideal conditions. However, the quality of the pasta can start to degrade over time, which is why we still recommend a regular rotation schedule.
Does the Sell-by Date Matter?
The sell-by date on pasta is a guide for retailers and shoppers, but it doesn’t necessarily contain much helpful 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 of 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, when 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’ll 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.
The Best Type of Pasta for Long Term Storage
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 pasta, from ramen to rice noodles to buckwheat noodles and many more. This is excellent news for preppers since one of the dangers of eating 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 quickly 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 twisted or pinched like rotini and bowtie pasta can take up to twelve minutes to cook through. If you want to conserve resources, you’d want the five-minute pasta.
It’s also helpful 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 purchasing pasta if you’re planning to store it for a long time. If your pasta has a best-by date of one or two years later, 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.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Storing Pasta
As long as you keep it in the right conditions, there are very few long-term dangers to storing pasta. 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 to stocking up on pasta. One of the best things about pasta for your survival food cache is its great cost-to-calorie ratio.
In a catastrophe where you depend on your prepping supplies, you want to ensure 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, when judging the overall cost per calorie, you’ll also want to account for the sauces, vegetables, meat, or cheese you’re planning to serve with your pasta.
Make sure you also calculate the price per serving when deciding which pasta to purchase. You might be tempted to buy the biggest package, assuming 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 in standard one-pound packaging.
Although the driest pasta is standard in taste, be careful if you’re considering investing in a large quantity of an unfamiliar brand. We recommend doing a taste test before you make a big purchase since you don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of pasta 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 space and proper containers to keep it. Once you’ve accounted for those factors, you’ll be ready to look 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 allow you to keep any pasta in reserve for as long as needed.
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.