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How to Buy, Store and Cook Pasta

Created January 10, 2017
With Betty’s expert tips on purchasing, storing and cooking this pantry staple, you’ll have everything you need to make a perfect plate of pasta every time.

Whether mixed in a comforting casserole or simply topped with a hearty sauce and some freshly grated parmesan, there are countless ways to use dried, fresh, frozen and homemade pasta to create a restaurant-quality meal. We’re taking you from the grocery store to your stove to help you make the perfect plate of pasta every time.

Pointers for Purchasing Pasta:

  • Dried pasta: Avoid broken pasta or pasta that looks cracked. It may fall apart during cooking. Check the expiration dates on packages.
  • Fresh pasta: Avoid packages with moisture droplets or liquid; the pasta may be moldy or mushy. The pasta should be smooth and evenly colored without broken or crumbly pieces. Check the “sell by” dates.
  • Frozen pasta: Avoid packages that are frozen as a solid block and those with ice crystals or freezer burn (i.e. dry, white spots.)
Storing Pasta:
  • Dried pasta: Label, date and store tightly covered in a cool, dry location up to 1 year.
  • Fresh pasta: Refrigerate; use by package expiration date. Store opened, uncooked pasta in tightly covered container up to 3 days.
  • Frozen pasta: Freeze unopened fresh pasta in its original package up to 9 months. Leftover uncooked pasta can be frozen in airtight container up to 3 months and homemade fresh pasta up to 1 month.
  • Cooked pasta: To prevent from sticking during storage, toss cooked pasta with 1 to 2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil (per pound) after draining. Refrigerate tightly and cover up to 5 days or freeze up to 2 months.
Cooking Pasta to Perfection:
  • Use 1 quart (4 cups) water for every 4 ounces of pasta. Once the water has boiled vigorously, add pasta gradually and stir frequently during cooking to prevent it from sticking together.
  • To add flavor, use ½ teaspoon salt for every 8 ounces of pasta. Stir in just as the water starts to boil and make sure it dissolves before adding pasta.
  • Follow package directions for cook times. For baked recipes, slightly undercook pasta because it will continue to cook during baking.
  • Cooked pasta should be al dente, or tender but firm to the bite, without any raw flavor. Overcooked pasta is mushy, waterlogged and bland.
  • Unless specified, do not rinse pasta after draining or sauce won’t cling. Pasta is usually only rinsed for cold salads. 
Pasta Yields:


  • Plan on ½ to ¾ cup cooked pasta per side dish or appetizer serving and 1 to 1 ½ cups per main-dish serving.
  • To easily measure 4 ounces of dried spaghetti, make a circle with your thumb and index finger (about the size of a quarter) and fill it with pasta.
Now that you have all the tips to make your best pasta yet, here are eight great ways to put your expertise to use!