We're sharing the tell-tale signs that yours is past its peak.

Tomato sauce is an ingredient that we always seem to have on hand. Whether you want to cook a quick weeknight pasta dinner or enhance the flavor of beef chili or stew, tomato-based sauces will save the day. But it's important to know how long pasta sauce lasts in the refrigerator. According to Barilla, unopened jars of pasta sauce should be stored at room temperature in a cupboard or pantry. Once open, however, they should be used quickly to avoid spoilage bacteria. "How long a jar of pasta sauce will last in the refrigerator may depend on the ingredients used in the sauce, but you should refrigerate any sauce that won't be cooked right away to maintain quality after opening," says Nicole Birmingham, senior vice president of research and development at Rao's Homemade.

Ahead, food safety experts weigh in on how long pasta sauce lasts in the refrigerator and offer storage tips for both the refrigerator and freezer.

All-Purpose Tomato Sauce
Credit: Chris Simpson

How Long Does Pasta Sauce Last in the Refrigerator?

Most jarred pasta sauces have a shelf life of about one year. However, once they're opened, they should be used quickly. "After opening a high-acid canned food, like a tomato sauce, it can be stored safely in the refrigerator for five to seven days before being used," says Shelley Feist, executive director of partnership for Food Safety Education. Aside from mold, there are no other visible signs that tomato sauce is past its peak. "You can't see, smell, or taste the bacteria that can cause a foodborne illness," says Feist. She recommends always reheating sauce to 145 degrees before using it to kill any bacteria that is a result of mild spoilage.

One way to retain the life of marinara sauce is by removing it from its original packaging. "While it is safe to store the food in the can, it will retain better flavor if transferred to a glass or plastic storage container," says Fiest.

Storing Homemade Pasta Sauce

Because homemade tomato sauce isn't made with shelf-stable preservatives, it has a shorter life in the refrigerator. Generally, homemade tomato sauce will last for three to five days; however, as long as it doesn't contain cream or cheese, you can easily freeze it in airtight quart containers. "You can freeze any unused sauce in an airtight container, using within six months for the best quality experience," says Birmingham.

Homemade alfredo sauce, on the other hand, does not freeze and reheat well due to the dairy content. "Although it's not harmful to consume, the cream tends to shatter when you reheat alfredo sauce, which ruins the texture," says Christopher Arturo, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education. Store-bought alfredo sauce contains cornstarch, which helps the cheese to bind properly and prevents separation when reheated.


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