If you have made your homemade pasta carefully crafted in your pasta maker and topped with your favorite recipe for spaghetti sauce, you’ll want to know how long your food can keep in the fridge.
Commercial spaghetti sauce also needs to be correctly stored, and we’ll look at that too.
Most commercial sauces
Most store-bought spaghetti sauce lasts for 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator once you’ve opened the jar.
The length of time your sauce lasts does depend on how you store it. If you seal the container carefully, some brands can last up to 10 days provided they contain preservatives. You’ll also want to avoid storing opened metal cans in the fridge: decant the sauce into a covered glass or plastic container first.
When you store an opened tin can in the refrigerator, the food is then open to the air. The tin from the can is able to transfer more quickly to the food inside, which gives the food a tinny taste. You won’t get food poisoning from using cans, but you will get a funny and unpleasant taste.
Most spaghetti sauces, however, don’t contain chemical preservatives. The most common natural substances added to sauces to help them stay fresh are salt and sugar. Any leftover sauce in an opened jar should be eaten within 5 days.
Commercial sauces with preservatives can last up to 10 days, so check the label. The most common chemical preservative to extend the shelf life of spaghetti sauce is sodium benzoate.
There are some concerns about using sodium benzoate when combined with citric acid, as the mixture of the two forms benzene. Benzene is a carcinogen (can cause cancer). Furthermore, when sodium benzoate combines with artificial colors, it has been cited as a possible cause of hyperactivity in children.
If no meat is in the sauce, a store-bought tomato-based sauce can last for 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator.
Commercial sauces with added meat, such as meat sauce, red clam sauce, or chili sauce, are best eaten within 3 or 4 days.
Cheese or cream-based sauces
Store-bought sauces with a creamy or cheesy base can stay fresh for longer in the fridge since they have ingredients like cream that tolerate the cold better than tomato. For these sauces, you’ll want to use any leftovers stored in the fridge within 7 days.
Examples of cream or cheese-based sauces are alfredo sauce, white clam sauce, creamy pesto sauce, and creamy cheese sauce.
Homemade spaghetti sauce
If you make your spaghetti sauce, you have more control over the contents, and you can use fresh ingredients. However, you are unlikely to use preservatives, so your homemade sauce will need to be eaten within 3 days once you’ve put it in the fridge.
Ingredients such as salt, sugar, and garlic will help your sauce stay fresh for longer.
How to know your sauce has spoiled
You can tell that your spaghetti sauce is spoiled if you notice an unpleasant odor, flavor, or appearance. You might also see bits of mold growing on the surface. If any of these signs appear, discard the sauce.
When to refrigerate your spaghetti sauce
You’ll want to refrigerate any leftover sauce as soon as it has cooled. Spaghetti sauce that is kept at room temperature – or temperatures above 40 degrees F – will spoil pretty quickly.
Any sauce that has been left out in these temperatures for more than 4 hours should be discarded.
Be sure to let your sauce cool before refrigerating, but don’t leave it out for more than 2 hours. The “danger zone” where bacteria can grow on food is from 40 to 140 degrees F. You can cool your sauce quickly by pouring it into a flat pan with a large surface area before putting it into containers for the fridge. You could also put your food into several smaller containers.
You don’t have to wait till your food is completely cold before refrigerating it – as long as it’s not piping hot, it will be fine.
If it’s hot outside – say 90 degrees F – refrigerate your food within 1 hour.
When you want to use your sauce again, be sure to heat it till it steams. Heating it thoroughly will kill off any bacteria and will ensure it is safe to eat: particularly important if your sauce contains cheese, cream, or meat.
How to reheat your pasta sauce
Once you are ready to eat your leftover pasta sauce, you can do this by:
- Putting the sauce on its own in a saucepan and heating gently over medium-low heat
- Placing the sauce with the pasta in a saucepan and adding a bit of milk or water, then heating gently over medium-low heat
- Pouring the sauce over cooked pasta, covering it with foil, and heating it in the oven
- Covering the sauce (or the sauce over cooked pasta) with plastic wrap and heating it in the microwave