It happens to the best of us. Forgetting perfectly good food on the kitchen counter overnight and then wondering if it is safe to eat the next day. If you’re wondering about pasta sauce, we have all the answers.
So, is it safe to eat pasta sauce left out overnight? No, it is not safe to eat pasta sauce left out overnight since it becomes susceptible to bacterial contamination and can make you sick upon consumption.
Read on to find out what happens if pasta sauce is left out overnight, how to tell if it has gone bad, the best way to store leftover pasta sauce, and much more.
What Happens if Pasta Sauce Is Left Out Overnight?
Pasta sauce is made with different ingredients depending on the type of sauce. Some of the most popular types of pasta sauces are the traditional tomato-based marinara sauce, the rich and creamy alfredo sauce, and the meat-based Bolognese sauce.
All of the ingredients used to make these pasta sauces are perishable and must be stored properly for safe consumption. Perishable foods like pasta sauce mustn’t be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours as it can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and microorganisms.
Pasta sauce needs to be kept at a certain temperature for it to maintain its safety over time. Bacteria thrive at a certain temperature and the “danger zone” for food lies between 40°F and 140°F.
If food is left out at this temperature range for an extended period, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and cause foodborne illnesses.
As a general rule of thumb, perishable foods including pasta sauce should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If you live in a particularly warm environment, the safe window becomes even shorter and is not longer than 1 hour.
Should You Discard Pasta Sauce Left Out Overnight?
According to the safety guidelines by the USDA, it is not safe to leave any perishable food on the kitchen counter for more than 2 hours. Keeping that in mind, pasta sauce definitely cannot be left out overnight as it is much longer than the recommended period.
Pasta sauce left out overnight must be discarded as it becomes unsafe to eat. Reheating it to a boiling point might kill some bacteria but it won’t eliminate all the toxins and byproducts produced by it.
Consuming it may give you food poisoning with symptoms including diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, cramps, fatigue, fever, and chills. The severity of the symptoms and their duration may vary, with common types of food poisoning lasting around 12 to 48 hours.
When it comes to food safety, it is always recommended to err on the side of caution and discard any potentially contaminated food rather than risk eating it and falling sick as a result.
How Long Can Pasta Sauce Sit Out?
As we discussed above, there are various types of pasta sauces, each with a different set of ingredients. The shelf life of pasta sauce is dependent on the ingredients used, with meat and cheese-based sauces getting spoiled much faster than tomato-based ones.
A tomato-based pasta sauce can remain good for consumption for 2 hours at room temperature whereas meat and cheese-based sauces should be refrigerated as soon as possible. If the weather is particularly warm, the pasta sauce can start to spoil within an hour.
How Long Can Storebought Pasta Sauce Sit Out?
Storebought pasta sauce is more stable than homemade pasta sauce due to the presence of preservatives in it that inhibit the growth of bacteria. You may be able to leave it at room temperature for more than 2 hours, but to be safe, we suggest you not take the risk.
An unopened jar of storebought pasta sauce is shelf-stable and can be left at the kitchen counter without the risk of spoiling.
The jars that they come in don’t let any air in, which means that nothing, including bacteria, can contaminate the sauce. This goes for all kinds of sauces including traditional red pasta sauce, meat sauce, as well as alfredo sauce.
However, if the jar has been opened, the pasta sauce needs to be stored properly as it becomes susceptible to bacterial contamination since it comes in contact with air and other particles.
Here are a few popular types and brands of pasta sauces, all of which have a shelf life of around 3 years from their production date if left unopened. Once opened, they must be refrigerated and used within 10 to 12 days:
- Rao’s Homestyle Marinara Sauce
- Marinara Sauce by Yo Mama’s Foods
- Prego Homestyle Alfredo Pasta Sauce
- Rao’s Homestyle Bolognese Sauce
How to Tell if Pasta Sauce Has Gone Bad?
If you’ve forgotten your pasta sauce on the kitchen counter and want to check if it has gone bad, there are a few simple ways to do so.
First of all, if you’ve left it out for more than 2 hours, it should be enough reason for you to throw it out as it has probably become a breeding ground for bacteria by then.
There are also a few obvious signs such as the way the pasta sauce looks and smells that indicate whether or not it has gone bad. If your pasta sauce is tomato-based, it will start to get darker and thicker, both of which are bad signs and indicators that it has spoilt.
You can check dairy-based pasta sauces such as alfredo in the same way you would check other types of pasta sauces. Changes in color and texture are never good signs.
The way the pasta sauce smells can also tell a lot about its quality. You can give the pasta sauce a good whiff, and if it smells sour or rancid, it has most likely gone bad.
Mold growth is another obvious sign that the pasta sauce has gone bad. If you see that your pasta sauce has a layer of mold growing on it, throw it away immediately.
It means that the microbes have contaminated the sauce and it is no longer safe to eat. Make sure to check the inner sides of the container as well.
How to Store Storebought Pasta Sauce?
Storebought pasta sauce, as long as it is unopened, is a shelf-stable food that doesn’t require refrigeration. It is usually in a jar or can where the bacteria can’t get to it.
Just make sure you store it in a cool, dry place away from direct heat or moisture. If stored in the right conditions, your unopened jar of pasta sauce should be good for a couple of years.
Once you’ve opened your storebought pasta sauce, it needs to be stored in the refrigerator where it can last up to 2 weeks depending on the type of pasta sauce and the storage conditions. You can keep it in the jar or can that it came in or transfer it to a clean airtight container before storing it.
When left at room temperature, it can last longer than homemade pasta sauce due to the presence of preservatives, but it is still susceptible to contamination which is why it is best to minimize the time you leave it out on the kitchen counter.
How to Store Homemade Pasta Sauce?
Homemade pasta sauce has a much shorter life than storebought pasta sauce and needs to be handled and stored with extreme caution to prevent it from going bad.
When your homemade pasta sauce is ready, allow it to cool down a bit at room temperature and then keep it in the refrigerator so that it can maintain its temperature. When left out, make sure it doesn’t exceed the 2-hour mark or you may risk spoiling it.
When storing both homemade or opened storebought pasta sauce in the fridge, make sure it is kept at a temperature of 40°F or lower.
While most home refrigerators are usually at or under this temperature, different spots within the refrigerator can be at different temperatures. The door is usually the warmest part of the fridge whereas the back of the shelves is the coldest.
Transfer the pasta sauce into an airtight container and keep it in the coldest part of the fridge where it should maintain its quality for up to 3 to 5 days. If you want to store your pasta sauce for longer, say 6 months, freezing it is also a good option.
Now that you know whether or not you can leave pasta sauce out overnight and if it’s safe to eat, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have.
Is It Safe to Eat Cooked Pasta Left Out Overnight?
No, it is not safe to eat cooked pasta left out overnight as bacteria can grow rapidly at room temperature and cause food poisoning upon consumption.
Can You Store Hot Pasta Sauce in the Fridge?
Although you can store hot pasta sauce in the fridge, it is best to let it cool for a while before putting it in the refrigerator as the high temperature of the pasta sauce might bring up the temperature of the other foods stored nearby in the fridge.