Can You Compost Pasta?

By Veronica Fletcher | 
Last updated on April 3, 2021

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Pasta is a staple food in lots of households. It’s quick and easy to cook, making it a great option when you’re tight on time. And it’s tasty!

But can you compost pasta? You can add both cooked and uncooked pasta to your compost bin. However, some people prefer not to compost pasta because it can attract unwanted pests. To avoid this, bury any pasta deep in the middle of your pile and cover it with carbon-rich materials.

Can you compost leftover, cooked pasta?

Yes, you can compost cooked pasta, but with caution. 

Plain cooked pasta is fine to compost, but when you’re dealing with leftover pasta covered in cheese and sauce, you need to be a bit more careful. The risk is that pasta is prone to attracting rodents, and the sauces increase this risk.

Can you compost uncooked pasta?

Uncooked pasta is the best type of pasta to compost. It’s less attractive to animals than cooked pasta and will break down quickly once exposed to a bit of moisture.

Reasons to compost pasta

The most important reason to compost pasta is to save it from ending up in landfill. But it can also help you balance moisture levels in your bin. 

Pasta is a nitrogen-rich material. Most nitrogen-rich materials are very wet, and adding too many of them can lead to too much moisture in your bin. Pasta, on the other hand, is quite dry. It will add nitrogen to your bin, while also helping to offset the wetness of other green materials.

Reasons not to compost pasta

The main concern with adding pasta is the potential for it to cause a pest problem. As pasta breaks down, it smells very inviting to birds, rodents, and other small animals. These animals can be incredibly persistent and will do everything they can to break into your compost bin if they can smell food. 

But, if you make sure not to add too much and follow the advice we give you below, then you can easily compost pasta without having to worry about pests.

How to compost pasta

Here are some tips to help you avoid running into any issues while composting pasta.

Put the pasta in the middle of a well-established pile

The hottest part of any compost pile is the middle, and an established pile should be reaching temperatures of around 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit. The hotter temperatures will speed up the decomposition of the pasta.

The more established the pile is, the bigger it will be, so the more of a physical barrier there is for rodents to reach the middle. Also, fewer smells will be able to escape, so your pile will be less attractive to pests.

If you only have a small pile, then it gets harder to mask the smell of the pasta.

Use a covered bin or a tumbler

Another way to discourage rodents is to use an enclosed or raised bin. This adds an extra layer of protection and also insulates your compost. 
If you use a raised bin, it’s much harder for pests to reach.

Our favorite rodent-proof option is the FCMP IM4000 Tumbling Composter.

The compost tumbler is dual-chambered, which means you can have two lots of compost on the go at any one time. And you won’t have to wait long for your compost to finish as the bin claims in ideal conditions the compost will be ready in as little as two weeks. There are aeration holes that allow oxygen to circulate, and fins on the inside to stop any potential clumping.

Add small pieces

As with any material, it’s advisable to chop pasta up into smaller pieces before you add it to your compost bin. Also, make sure to break up any big clumps of stuck-together pasta as these can quickly become anaerobic and start to stink.

Make sure pasta isn’t the dominant material in your bin

Everything in moderation is good advice when it comes to composting pasta. Pasta shouldn’t be the main component of any bin. Healthy compost should need a variety of elements.

If you have a lot of pasta to add, add it along with some other kitchen waste such as vegetable scraps, and a lot of brown materials like shredded leaves or paper. This will help make sure the pasta’s not exposed and if therefore, less likely to attract pests.

Can you compost pasta sauce?

You can compost anything you can eat, so yes, pasta sauces can be composted. But depending on what type of sauce it is there’s sometimes reason to be cautious. 

Pasta sauces can cover a wide variety of different ingredients, with the most popular being tomato. Tomatoes are slightly acidic, so composting lots of them can be bad for your compost. But lots, we’re talking bucket loads of sauce. Unless you have a tomato sauce business, you’re unlikely to have too much, so go ahead and chuck it in your pile!

Another popular option for pasta sauce is a creamy sauce. Some people avoid composting dairy products because they can attract pests, but if it’s just a small amount of leftover pasta, there shouldn’t be a problem. If you have a whole jar, then I would advise being cautious and making sure it’s well mixed into the middle of your pile.

Oily sauces like pesto can also be added in small amounts. Oils have a complex chemical structure and take a long time to break down in compost, so adding a lot of oil is a bad idea. Oils will also displace water in your compost and reduce airflow. This slows down the entire process. Very small amounts on some leftover pasta will be okay, but I wouldn’t advise adding oily sauces too often. Especially if you have a small pile.

If you’re disposing of a whole jar of any sauce then the best thing to do is dilute it with some water before to reduce how much it smells. Add some brown materials such as shredded paper in at the same time to help soak up the excess moisture.

Can you add pasta to a worm bin?

Yes, you can add pasta to a worm bin, but in moderation. Starchy things like pasta aren’t a worms favorite food, and won’t get broken down as quickly as something like vegetables. If you add too much pasta, you risk it going moldy and fermenting before the worms have had a chance to eat it. 

Moldy food in a worm bin can cause smells and attract unwanted visitors. Too much rotting food can also have a negative impact on the health of your worm bin and make it too acidic.

If you start to see a lot of small white worms in your bin, this is a sign that you’ve added too much pasta (or other starchy food).

pot worms in a worm bin
Pot worms in compost indicate an acidic environment

These worms are called pot worms and are different from the red wigglers most people use in their bins. Don’t mistake them for baby worms. While the pot worms won’t do any harm to your bin, they thrive in exactly the type of environment composting worms hate, an anaerobic, acidic environment.

To fix the problem of an acidic bin due to overfeeding, you can do the following things:

  • Remove any excess rotting food
  • Don’t add any more food until all the current food is gone
  • Once you start adding food again, add it at a slower pace, especially things like pasta
  • Add ground eggshells to the bin to help increase the pH

One thing to note is that sauces made from oils, dairy products, or sauces that contain a lot of salt or spice shouldn’t be put in your worm bin. Composting worms have trouble digesting these sorts of foods and will avoid eating them. If your pasta is covered in a sauce, then the best thing to do is to rinse it off before feeding it to your worms.

About Veronica Fletcher

Veronica has a passion for all things eco-friendly. After growing up on a farm in Ireland, she went on to study Chemistry and Environmental Sciences. Veronica has also volunteered in many sustainability roles, including conservation efforts in Bangladesh and teaching Environmental Sciences to schoolchildren in Kenya.