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Is there a reason dried pasta is sold unsalted?


Shalmanese
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Wouldn't it be easier to salt pasta as it's being made rather than salt the water it's cooked in? I know traditional dried pasta is sold unsalted but it seems so much easier to get a consistent product if it's manufactured at the correct seasoning level.

PS: I am a guy.

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Maybe because salt would encourage the dried pasta to absorb moisture, but perhaps also because of the texture? I remember being told that only amateurs added salt to their pasta dough...that salted dough was easier to handle but the texture was too puffy. Of course, softer texture may be why salt IS added to udon noodle dough.

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Maybe not everyone agrees on the correct seasoning level, and I don't think everyone would change they way they boiled pasta, if pre-salted pasta were suddenly to appear on the market. Pasta dough is also fairly stiff with just enough liquid to gather it together usually, so it probably would take an extra step, like dissolving the salt in the liquid, to get it to distribute uniformly through the dough.

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I reckon the non-salting of dried pasta was happening prior to the acknowledgement of low sodium diets.

I attended a pasta masterclass with Valentina Harris many moons ago where she mentioned that adding salt to the pasta dough causes an unsightly bloom (presumably due to the absorption of moisture, as Helen says) after a short while, that doesn't disappear on cooking. Not being one for unsightly blooms, I've never tested her assertion.

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I remember reading something that Marcella Hazan said about salting fresh pasta to the effect that there's really no point since if you season the pasta water properly it will season the pasta just fine plus the sauce/condiment will be plenty seasoned so it doesn't make a difference whether the pasta's got salt in it at the beginning or not (because it will in th end). I don't think seasoning the pasta itself would really improve things from a seasoning standpoint and besides, I think its easier for the cook to control (if they want it to be perfectly seasoned, or as Chris suggests, they want it bland). From the industrial pasta maker's point of view its probably cheaper for them if their product doesn't have salt so they don't have to pay for it.

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Think about how you would incorporate salt into the dough? You would probably end up with tiny very salty pockets. If it get's applied through the boiling water you end up with a very evenly seasoned product.

It is a similar effect as blanching a vegetable in salted water versus putting the salt on top I guess.

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I think the problem would be salt leaching into the water during cooking. This wouyld be fine if the manufacture could get everyone to use the same volume of water, but that's probably not going to happen. So people boiling a pound of pasta in a gallon of water would likely find the pasta undersalted; people boiling it in a quart of water would likely find it inedible.

This is just a guess ... there may be no problem at all and it's just done as it is out of tradition.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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My pasta roller came with very explicit, but unexplained, instructions that one must never incorporate salt into the pasta dough. I suspect it's probably not ideal for the equipment, but it may also be a matter of folklore.

Commercial pasta often uses water instead of eggs, so it may actually be easier to dissolve salt completely in commercial pasta preparation; the one time I ignored the advice to avoid salt (didn't read the instructions first) the salt grains didn't entirely dissolve in the eggs. I'm not sure that having salt in the pasta would actually improve the flavor over salting the water; I suspect that more water would be absorbed into the pasta.

Udon is not made from semolina flour, so the question of salt is probably not as relevant to the texture as the type of flour.

Jason Truesdell

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My pasta roller came with very explicit, but unexplained, instructions that one must never incorporate salt into the pasta dough. I suspect it's probably not ideal for the equipment, but it may also be a matter of folklore.

Salt corrodes stainless steel, so that might be the main reason.

Chris Amirault

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Salt corrodes stainless steel, so that might be the main reason.

It would be a good enough reason for me ... I just got a pasta roller and it's not designed to be taken apart for thorough cleaning, and it can't be soaked in anything. Best to keep salt away from it.

Notes from the underbelly

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  • 1 year later...

I had heard that salt grains in the pasta itself attracted too much water in localized areas, making the pasta more likely to fall apart. Not sure if it's true or not.

Salt in the cooking water adds a more even flavor, and would seem to give a more consistent resulting product.

Salt strengthens the bond between gliadin and glutenin, the amino acids that make up wheat gluten, optimizing the gluten content of a product.

Manufacturers may also not include it simply to keep costs low in terms of both ingredients and labor. -Why add anything extra that they don't have to?

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I think the problem would be salt leaching into the water during cooking. This wouyld be fine if the manufacture could get everyone to use the same volume of water, but that's probably not going to happen. So people boiling a pound of pasta in a gallon of water would likely find the pasta undersalted; people boiling it in a quart of water would likely find it inedible.

This is just a guess ... there may be no problem at all and it's just done as it is out of tradition.

I'm putting my money on this. Salt in a solution tends to want to equalize. We are instructed to use plenty of water to cook the pasta. If we were to salt the pasta and cook in plain water, salt would be drawn out into the water. So when we salt the water, the opposite is happening - which is what we want.

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