Kathleen Thomas, communications manager for the Food Marketing Institute, which created the Food Keeper storage guide for consumers, says that dried pasta can be kept for about two years if it’s stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Thomas says that it’s most important to keep it away from moisture, as any dried good exposed to water becomes a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
At the Ronzoni Macaroni Company, an internal tasting panel meets about once a week for an “organoleptic” study. The panel examines pasta for color, taste, smell, and feel, says Daniel Carlin, Ronzoni’s director of quality assurance. Carlin explains that, when testing for storage times, the panel will taste a freshly dried pasta against ones that were stored months to years prior to determine when the pasta starts to lose freshness. Generally, old pasta has a gummy flavor when cooked, and may show signs of discoloration. Dried egg pasta also starts to smell because the small amount of fat in it is going rancid.
Carlin says that most Ronzoni pastas are given a use-by date of two years after manufacture, though he doesn’t hesitate to eat three-year-old dried pasta. “Because dried pasta has little to no fat or moisture content, it resists spoiling easily, and has a shelf life that is pretty remarkable.”