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Porthos

Salted Pasta Water: How Much Salt.

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Thanks for posting the article which was enlightening.

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There is way too many variables to come to a conclusion on how salty the water should be. Thickness of dried pasta will affect cooking time, which will affect salt absorption. Fresh pasta will take less time and already contain moisture that will affect salt absorption.

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I guess, it is ingrained in me...I just grab some coarse sea salt and pick the right amount for the water I have...I do adjust when the pasta is still very al dente, a couple minutes before I need to drain it. If I don't salt in advance, to me the salt doesn't absorb enough. And the condiment need just to have the right amount of salt for me.

 

I just remember a Canadian friend of mine, when cooking for my kids, gave me one of those salt grinder...I was so puzzled, I need a couple handful of salt for a medium big pot, a grinder doesn't do...

 

Also, if it ever happens to me that I under salt, I adjust at the end, but only if I'm sauteing with a sauce, so the salt can melt, I will never add it to a plate, as I see many people doing.

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17 hours ago, Anna N said:

By the way, I find it amusing that I never saw koshering salt (aka kosher salt) for sale anywhere in Israel...

 

I believe it's only in America that it's called "kosher" salt.

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2 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

I believe it's only in America that it's called "kosher" salt.

Well I don't know about that. We say it in Canada too but it was @shain who said it wasn't called that in Israel not me.

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3 minutes ago, Anna N said:

Well I don't know about that. We say it in Canada too but it was @shain who said it wasn't called that in Israel not me.

 

Has someone moved Canada from America?

 

Yes. Sorry, I quoted from your reply rather than Shain's original.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

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2 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Has someone moved Canada from America?

I dunno but I'm Canadian not American. I live in North America I'll give you that. 

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I don't measure my salt for pasta water, and it always seems to come out fine, but I always add table salt. A more expensive salt seems a great waste in this application to me. I probably pour about 1/4 cup into a gallon of boiling water and give it a good stir before adding the pasta so the salt won't pit my stainless over time.

 

52 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

Has someone moved Canada from America?

 

Even your revered Oxford Dictionary's definition concedes that America is "used as" name for the United States. The wording makes it seem a grudging acknowledgement, but they do make it. The Oxford definition of American even lists as the first meaning: "Relating to or characteristic of the United States or its inhabitants: ‘the election of a new American president’ "

 

When people refer to Americans or especially "the Ugly American" they never mean Canadians or Ecuadorians. They are talking about people from here in the U.S. I believe, even English people use it that way. Mexicans and South Americans want to immigrate here to chase the "American dream". In fact, from what I read, the term was actually started by the English by referring to my home country as their "British American Colonies" including in legal documents. America and Americans for short.

 

It's an expression, like many others that evolves over time, and the origins can sometimes become obscured. I know some resent it. You seem to, and in the research I just pulled up, there was quite the rant from a South American. Sorry, but widespread usage has become ingrained, and a minority of people unhappy with it are not going to change it. We and everyone else are aware we are not the entirety of the North and South American continents, and when most people want to refer to those they say, "the Americas". If you need someone to blame for this common usage, please blame the British. And maybe we can lay this particular quibble to rest? :)

 

 

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On 03/02/2017 at 3:46 PM, Thanks for the Crepes said:

I don't measure my salt for pasta water, and it always seems to come out fine, but I always add table salt. A more expensive salt seems a great waste in this application to me. I probably pour about 1/4 cup into a gallon of boiling water and give it a good stir before adding the pasta so the salt won't pit my stainless over time.

 

 

Even your revered Oxford Dictionary's definition concedes that America is "used as" name for the United States. The wording makes it seem a grudging acknowledgement, but they do make it. The Oxford definition of American even lists as the first meaning: "Relating to or characteristic of the United States or its inhabitants: ‘the election of a new American president’ "

 

When people refer to Americans or especially "the Ugly American" they never mean Canadians or Ecuadorians. They are talking about people from here in the U.S. I believe, even English people use it that way. Mexicans and South Americans want to immigrate here to chase the "American dream". In fact, from what I read, the term was actually started by the English by referring to my home country as their "British American Colonies" including in legal documents. America and Americans for short.

 

It's an expression, like many others that evolves over time, and the origins can sometimes become obscured. I know some resent it. You seem to, and in the research I just pulled up, there was quite the rant from a South American. Sorry, but widespread usage has become ingrained, and a minority of people unhappy with it are not going to change it. We and everyone else are aware we are not the entirety of the North and South American continents, and when most people want to refer to those they say, "the Americas". If you need someone to blame for this common usage, please blame the British. And maybe we can lay this particular quibble to rest? :)

 

 

Calm down! It was just a tease.

But that said, the OED does not say that American means USA.

 

Quote

American, a. and n.

(əˈmɛrɪkən)

A.A adj.

1. a.A.1.a Belonging to the continent of America. Also, of or pertaining to its inhabitants.

 

 

 


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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This is what we wrote about salting the pasta water in "Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way":

 

The freewheeling, eyeballing casual Italian approach to measurement can be deceptive. When it comes to boiling the pasta, everyone in Italy knows the metric formula: for every 100 grams (3½ ounces) of pasta, 1 liter (1 quart) of rapidly boiling water is needed, and 10 grams (2 teaspoons) of coarse salt are added along with the pasta. Thus a pound (450 grams, but call it half a kilo) takes 5 liters of water and 50 grams (about 3 tablespoons) of kosher salt (or half as much fine table salt). That nobody ever actually measures to get the exact quantities is beside the point. ... 

Kosher salt is generally considered the closest equivalent outside Italy to ordinary Italian coarse salt, called sale grosso. (There are no religious implications.) If you use ordinary table salt (sale fino), use about half the amount of kosher salt. You can (and should) taste the water to check. It should be pleasantly salty. Some people say it should taste like seawater, but not all seas are equally salty. Just make sure you can taste salt. And speaking of the sea, it doesn’t have to be sea salt. Nothing in Italian tradition dictates any particular kind of salt, either in the water or in the sauce, but some salt is essential. You may adjust the suggested quantities to personal taste or diet, but pasta boiled with no salt at all will never taste right. Most pasta doughs do not contain salt, and if they do, it is only a pinch. The pasta will absorb its salt from the water as it boils, and this is essential to the final flavor of the dish. I repeat: you will never get the right flavor adding salt late or too stingily. 

 

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I agree with the Serious Eats article linked by jmolinari. There aren't any circumstances where pasta water as salty as the sea will give good results. That's a truism repeated by Italians (or maybe just Italian-Americans) but I've never seen any of them actually follow it (or measure, for that matter). 

 

I don't measure either ... I just go for pleasantly salty. But it's always way, way, less than 3.5%.

 

The other big truism—about how much water you need—has been debunked many times. There's no advantage to the huge ratio of water to pasta. I've seen 5 to 6 liters per pound advocated. Marcella Hazan herself wrote to never use less than 3 quarts for any quantity of pasta (reason not given), to use 5 quarts per pound, and never more than 2 pounds per pot (something about sticking and safety).

 

But  cooks from Harold McGee to Kenji Lopez have found through experimentation that you not only don't need nearly that much water, but that in many cases it doesn't even have to be boiling. (Cook's Illustrated has come to  similar conclusions, but I hesitate to cite them as a source). McGee even got Hazan and Lidia Bastianich to grudgingly agree.

 

I haven't experimented with starting in cold water (or water below the boil, or with tiny quantities of water) but sometimes make up to a kilo of pasta in a 5 quart pot with around 3-3/4 quarts water. It works great. There is truly no difference in this case between making the same pasta in a full 12-qt stockpot. No need to waste the time and energy. 

 

I love Italian food, but have learned to treat Italian food wisdom with great skepticism. 

 

 

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I'm not sure about the standard salt measurements when cooking pasta, I always just put a tablespoon-ful for a medium-sized pot of boiling water when I'm cooking pasta. :)

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1 hour ago, Christy Martino said:

I'm not sure about the standard salt measurements when cooking pasta, I always just put a tablespoon-ful for a medium-sized pot of boiling water when I'm cooking pasta. :)

 

What is a medium sized pot in your estimation? Capacity?

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When you taste your pasta before you sauce it, it should taste good. It shouldn't taste salty; it should taste seasoned to the point where its innate flavors are focussed and in balance. If it tastes flat, or like there's a hole in the middle of the flavor profile, you've undersalted the water. If it tastes salty, you've overdone it.

 

This is assuming good pasta. Bad pasta tastes flat no matter what you do it; there's no flavor to bring out.

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On 2/4/2017 at 8:27 PM, paulraphael said:

 

 

I don't measure either ... I just go for pleasantly salty. ...

 

I love Italian food, but have learned to treat Italian food wisdom with great skepticism. 

 

 

 

 

precisely, on both points

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On 2/2/2017 at 8:11 AM, chromedome said:

 

I find that unless a sauce is drastically over-seasoned, unsalted pasta just sucks the life out of it. On the other hand, the "make it really briny" approach feels over-seasoned to my palate. 

 

I always just eyeball mine, but I'll say it's about a tablespoon for 4 litres. 

 

If salt boiled pasta is better, why not just add more salt when the pasta is made?

 

dcarch

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3 hours ago, dcarch said:

 

If salt boiled pasta is better, why not just add more salt when the pasta is made?

 

dcarch

 

I found this question very interesting, and on a little research, I found we are far from the only people to have contemplated this issue.

 

I thought I had read in my hard copy of Marcella Hazan's "The Classic Italian Cook Book" that she said it was because the salt did not dissolve properly and caused unsightly white(r) specks in the dough. I couldn't find it by manually scanning the logical areas of my book where this might be mentioned, so I won't quote her on that.

 

There are many thoughts and much discussion here an eG on this thread and this one. There are also opinions all over the map elsewhere on the web. I liked this opinion from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from 4 years ago on Reddit the best.

 

I haven't made homemade pasta yet, but when I do cross it off my bucket list, and I will, I shall be pulling out Marcella's book with almost 8 pages of instructions including illustrations, and using that as my guide. I will use only eggs and flour.

 

Sorry for the multiple edits. I was trying to take you straight to Kenji's post, but I'm a miserable failure, so you are just going to have to scroll down a little ways in the Reddit link, if you want to read it. :)


Edited by Thanks for the Crepes (log)

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I call shenanigans.  I have added a pinch or two of salt to my pasta and have not noticed any unsightly little white spots.  That is what a mortar and pestle are for.

 

 

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8 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

I call shenanigans.  I have added a pinch or two of salt to my pasta and have not noticed any unsightly little white spots.  That is what a mortar and pestle are for.

 

 

 

I'm betting you're right. Probably the reason pasta never contains salt is tradition. That's often the answer with Italian food. And since you can count on everyone salting the water when they cook the pasta, there isn't much motivation to change.

 

A writer at Serious Eats experimented with salting fresh pasta dough:

 

My dough was almost perfect; the only thing I wanted to test was whether I'd get even better flavor by adding salt directly to the dough, instead of just my cooking water or sauce. The simple answer is yes. Do it! Salting pasta water is still well and good, but there's no compelling reason not to salt your dough—I tried fine-grain iodized salt and slightly coarser kosher salt. Both work; I prefer the flavor of kosher salt. Just don't use a coarse sea salt, which will keep your dough from developing a silky-smooth texture. Hypothetically, you could salt your pasta even more and skip salting your pasta water, but I choose to make a dough that still tastes good after cooking in salted water since it gives me a little more flexibility when it comes to the flavor of the final product—I can make and freeze batches of dough and then decide how salty I want my pasta to be on a case-by-case basis.

 

Not exactly a scientific account, but her results make sense.

 

edited to add:

 

I just checked my own fresh pasta recipe that I worked out over a half-dozen or so trials, and see that I include 1% salt by total recipe weight. Didn't even give it much thought; it's in there just on general principle. 1% isn't very much, and some might leach into the water. I still salt the cooking water.


Edited by paulraphael (log)
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Hm. If I made pasta and salted it, I could better control exactly how much sodium ends up in the finished product, which would work better for my mother...

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