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Reading the recipe for Spaghetti for One (http://su.pr/21YSoh) I noticed the requirement for salted pasta water. Not Italian myself, I have imitated notable Italian women in my life and the best-cooking Nonna warned me to never salt pasta until after it was cooked. In lieu of knowing scientifically how the salt affects the boiling pasta, I'm curious, where do you fall?

asked by ichibanbrianne almost 6 years ago
11 answers 851 views
7d2e9fbe d94b 4831 9a41 e7e53d9676f8  img 0061
added almost 6 years ago

I'm on team salt the water before cooking pasta.

22b9ddc9 fc61 48a3 949e dee341974288  liz and dad
added almost 6 years ago

Salt the water HEAVILY before putting the pasta in. The water you cook your pasta in should taste like the ocean.

549d9fb3 53ef 4170 b68e 8bae2e055be7  dsc 0048b
added almost 6 years ago

I salt the water, not the pasta.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added almost 6 years ago

According to Harold Magee, my go to reference for scientific answers to such questions: "In fact, normal amounts of salt do not raise the cooking temperature significantly. And while salt does toughen wheat gluten and slow the softening of starch granules, these effects don’t make a noticeable difference. It really does come down to taste. Pasta cooked in unsalted water tastes bland, and that internal blandness can be noticeable even when the pasta is salted afterward or dressed in a sauce." http://www.chow.com/food...

07ee6775 4f67 4ff5 aa78 ae7249feebc7  image003
added almost 6 years ago

Salt the water generously. I recently did a test to see which boiled quicker - salted water vs. unsalted water and there was very little difference - maybe a degree or two. But there is a huge difference in taste!

648c171e 3aee 4541 966b 82267972df8f  bri
added almost 6 years ago

Interesting. Thanks, all. I'm going to experiment with salting at different stages. For the record, I haven't salted pasta in any stage for what seems like ages, however depending on the type of sauce/dressing, I can see where it be essential to a pasta finished without a sauce. I laugh a bit about how unsalted pasta tastes "bland," isn't pasta by it's very constitution naturally high on the blandness scale? Also wonder why wouldn't salt be added in the dough process if salt were necessary to bring out the semolina flavor of traditional pasta? I have been paying more attention to my salting of foods after spending Christmas with my younger sister and hyper(in)tensive father. In particular, how much salt is needed to bring the flavor out and how much is out of habit and our taste for salt?

549d9fb3 53ef 4170 b68e 8bae2e055be7  dsc 0048b
added almost 6 years ago

ichibanbrianne - I hear what you're saying about our taste for salt being somewhat of a habit. I would definitely be interested to know how much sodium the salted water actually adds to a pasta dish. I feel that any meal you cook at home is lower in salt than virtually anything you can eat our or carry in, but if one must truly watch the salt intake it is astonishing how quickly and easily you can get up to the recommended daily intake. Please share your findings!

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added almost 6 years ago

I salt the water generously after it comes to a boil, right before I add the pasta. I read somewhere recently, that if you put salt in the water before it comes to a boil, the salt pock-marks your pot. I do not know if this is true.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added almost 6 years ago

The salt in the water will be absorbed by the pasta and help to season the final dish. If you don't salt the water, the end result will be bland, and you'll never be able to compensate for it. Salty like the ocean is the way to go. Before it boils or after is a personal choice, IMO, but salt before cooking is a must.

Df22d5a8 cffd 43dd ac3d 64db8c8aa056  pamelalee
added almost 6 years ago

But what about recipes that say to save some of the cooking water to add to the finished pasta if it's a bit dry? Won't the water make it too salty?

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added almost 6 years ago

@Pamelalee, no. You just adjust the final seasoning to accomodate the level of salt you're adding in the pasta water. Taste, taste, taste. It's the only way to know if it's seasoned to your palate. In that case, you may not need any added salt at the end.