Food handling question: Is it safe to eat 12-day-old spaghetti sauce?

I made a killer marinara sauce Sunday, January 22, killer perhaps being the operative word.

I immediately put it in my fridge and then somehow forgot about it. I’m having friends over tonight. I just opened the bowl and sniffed. Smells and looks fine. Problem is, I don’t have microscopic vision. I hate to waste a huge batch of fabulous sauce, but would also prefer not to poison my guests.

I then Googled. One website says food should not be kept in a fridge for longer than 1-2 days, which strikes me as ridiculously textbook. That said, 12 days seems loooooong–even though the refrigerator is 38 degrees and the lid was never opened. Another quick Google showed that the botulism virus is readily killed through exposure to about 20 minutes of medium heat. I can handle that.

As I type this, an echoing in my head is intoning: You’re mad. Throw it out.

But I hate to waste great food. Please advise.

Personally, I would dump it. However, I’ve eaten food that has no apparent mold on it after 10 days or so. Heating very thoroughly will kill most critters, but why take a chance on poisoning others?

I am not a microbiologist. However, IIRC, the greatest danger is if you put the sauce into the container hot, and the container is large enough that the middle of it stayed hot for some hours. In the anaerobic environment of the middle of your sauce, some nasties could grow, botulism being the worst.
In my experience, a non-meat marinara sauce is good in a well-sealed container for weeks. If there are no fuzzies, if you brought it to a boil when you first cooked it and you heat it throughly again, I’d eat it with you.

C. botulinum is an anaerobic bacterium. It thrives best in an airless, low acid environment. If your marinara sauce has a tomato base, then the chances of C. botulinum growing are remote.

But that does not rule out the possibility that some other garden variety cooties might be growing in your sauce. If it was me, I would eat so long as it didn’t contain any seafood. But I would not serve anything to guests that was more than a day old - not for fear of poisoning them - I’d simply feel wrong serving guests any food that wasn’t freshly prepared.

I’d toss it too. Heating will kill any critters that are inhabiting the food, but it will most likely not deal with any toxins those critters have produced before you boiled them to death. Botulism toxin is one that I’ve specifically heard mention as a concern there, but I don’t have a cite, sorry.

Dump it. I never keep tomato sauce more than a week. It isn’t worth the chance to make someone sick.

The toxin (botulinum) is heat sensitive and boiling of contaminated objects for 10 mins. can be used.

12 days is pushing things. Was the stuff thoroughly boiled when you made it? Did you toss any peppers or fresh tomato bits in at the last minute? Your last act before storing wasn’t to stir the sauce using the spoon you’d just tasted it with, was it? How clean was the storage boil? With really good aseptic technique you should be OK, but I don’t trust myself much past a week on sauces like that.

This is more IMHO than GQ, but I have had great results freezing tomato sauce. So I make a big batch, let it cool, then freeze it in several portions. That way you don’t have to deal with the microbial dilemma in the first place. Just move one portion of the sauce from the freezer to the fridge in the morning on the day you plan to eat it.

Thanks for the help, folks.

I threw it out. The health of friends isn’t worth saving a few bucks. My stupid. :rolleyes:

My wife does likewise – cooks up a massive amount of spaghetti sauce and simmers it well, then covers it and lets it sit to cool to room temperature (a couple of hours at most), then immediately freezes it in one- or two-portion quantities to use over the next few weeks (we eat a lot of red-sauce pasta).

I’ve eaten home-made tomato sauce that’s at least nearing (and maybe passed) the 3-week mark without getting sick, but I do not recommend emulating this or any other of my sometimes sketchy eating habits. I do question the 1-2 day rule. I’m sure I’ve seen foods that say to finish with 7 days (or maybe more) of opening. I believe this was a box of chicken broth. Was the rule only for food that you have cooked yourself?

I used to be a food microbiologist. A long time ago.

Clostridium boutlinum is a anaerobic spore forming bacteria, not a virus. There are, from memory, about 8 types of * Cl botulinum*, and the characteristics of the toxins they produce vary. The spore will survive the sort of heating available domestically. However, it will not germinate (sprout and grow) in an acid environment, and most, if not all, of the toxins are heat labile.

However, botulism is not, repeat not, the only problem with food stored too long in the wrong conditions.

Domestically speaking:

If you make a wacking great batch, best you can do is freeze portions within a couple of days after it is made.

Second best is keep the lid on at the end phase of cooking, and move the container into the fridge as soon as it it cool enough to lift. My guess for an acid food under those conditions would be about 5 days, 3 if opened.

The fridge, if manufactured within the last 10 years or so, should hande the load.

Yes, one may have eaten a batch that was older, and have had no ill effect. There will be different bacteria and spore loads in each batch (particularly from the spices, which in my time used to vary from fine to “oh-my-god, look what I just identified!!!”).

Looking/smelling off is a guide, but looking/smelling OK is NOT. Many food poisoning bugs will produce no organoleptic effect. This means that the food will look, smell and taste OK, but you, within 20 minutes to about 36 hours, will not.

And as a final cheery note, not all toxins are heat labile - some will take all a kitchen has to throw at them and be just fine. You, again, will not. (And in the tradition of the cobblers children, I say this from bitter personal experience!!).

12 days?

Heave it. Before your guests do on you.

Before I pitched it, I tasted a bit. Chalk it up to excess oregano, but the sauce had an uncharacteristically sharp taste. Kinda metallic–and I stored it in a bowl.

I said it was marinara sauce. Actually it was a meat sauce. What is the proper phrase for that?

Bolognese, but I’m not sure I spelt that right.

Wow…everyone seems to have unanimously short standards for refrigerating food. I dunno about home-cooked sauce, but I’ve had opened jars of Prego sit in the fridge for more like 12 weeks. Haven’t gotten sick yet. If I had to toss everything after a few days, I’d never have anything to eat.

Yeah, I know…this means not many Dopers will be coming to my houe for dinner any time soon.

I usually buy the big, huge jars of Prego or other national, brand name sauces, and they sit opened for more than 8 weeks before we finish them off completely. On the other hand, they had been properly canned to keep out nasties from the get-go. Even home made stuff we generally keep for up to two or three weeks before tossing it out.

In the OP, this sauce was kept in the fridge, right? Yeah, yeah, things still grow, but at a completely reduced rate. Three days?!?! If you can’t share a little food poisoning between friends, then what good are they?

Jars of spaghetti sauce and salsa seem to grow mold very easily. Since I tend to use them infrequently, I handle this by “re-canning” the sauce after each use by cooking it very thoroughly in the microwave, cleaning and replacing the lid, then shaking vigorously while it’s still boiling hot (with pot holders). With this method I’ve kept sauce for months with no mold problems. While I’m sure I’m not literally sterilizing and there is a minute risk involved, I’m not worried about it.

The sauce tends to explode in the microwave, so I cover with a plate. After a few cycles of doing this, if the sauce starts getting dried out, I’ll add a bit of water or red wine to restore its consistency before cooking. Another tidbit: as the sauce cools, the airspace inside contracts and the safety button re-sets itself.

Bolognese is a sausage sauce. There doesn’t seem to be a specific Italianate designation for the standard meat sauce (in America generally made with ground beef). Parmigiano is a red sauce with sharp cheeses (Parmesan, Romano, Asiago, etc.) cooked into the sauce. Pizziola is a sauce containing large chunks of onion, mild pepper, mushrooms, whole-clove garlic, etc. (think Ragu Chunky sauces for the equivalent). Marinara is not strictly meatless, though it usually is, but consists of a sauce with no “foreign objects” in it except perhaps chunks of tomato or slivered garlic – it’s a rich tomato, garlic, and spices red sauce. Primavera (which is usually an alfredo-based white sauce, but can be a marinara-like red sauce too) includes vegetables cooked into the sauce: carrots, celery, green beans, and such.

Um, you sure about this? Every bolognese I’ve had, whether in America or Europe (including in Italy), has been made with ground beef. Even the Italian cookbooks I have agree on this.

You’re both kinda right:
Spaghetti Bolognese - Bolognese sauce usually features at least two different kinds of meat, the meat is usually minced, not ground, and milk or cream in some measure is added at some point.