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Most chefs recommend that you should add quite a bit of salt to boiling water which you cook pasta in (sometimes 1 teaspoon).

For those watching their sodium intake, how much of this salt will actually end up being absorbed by the pasta, and how much will be thrown out with the water?

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Some questions are off topic, and others are not. This is a healthy health question. –  BaffledCook Nov 8 '10 at 23:30
    
Just curious: you refer to one teaspoon as quite a bit of salt, but you didn't specify how much pasta you are cooking. I once read the guideline that for cooking pasta, you should use 1 liter of water with 10 g of salt per 100 g of pasta. I measured 10 g of salt as about one teaspoon and a half. So if I'm cooking 200 g of pasta, I use 2 l of water with 3 teaspoons of salt. –  Rinzwind Feb 13 '11 at 22:26
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4 Answers 4

I can't really give you medical advice if you're on a low-sodium diet, but pasta cooked in salted water definitely absorbs some of the salt along with the water. That's the purpose of salting the water: to season the pasta throughout. You can reduce or omit the salt if you think you need to, but your pasta will be less tasty.

If you really want to science it up, you can calculate the concentration of the salt in the amount of water you're using (weight of salt / weight of water), then multiply by the difference in the weight of the pasta before and after cooking (the amount of water absorbed). That should give you the approximate amount of salt absorbed by the pasta. 40% of that is the weight of the sodium in table salt (NaCl). I think you'll find that it's a lot less sodium than you would get from consuming processed food, and is not likely to be a health risk. However, if you need to measure the exact amount of sodium you're taking in, that's the way to do it.

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This impiles that when salted water is absorbed by pasta the concenration of salt in it doesn't change. This may be or not be true - maybe some molecular structure form inside pasta that absorb more salt per volume of pasta than the water originally contained per volume of water. –  sharptooth Nov 8 '10 at 15:11
    
@sharptooth Salt usually concentrates in things via ionic bonding. However, noodles are mostly made of uncharged carbohydrates, so salt won't form ionic bonds w it. Protein is far more likely to sequester sodium ions. –  Wayfaring Stranger Jul 7 '13 at 14:35
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I don't know the exact answer, but you can find it out reliably yourself. It will requires some time and patience.

You measure the weight of salt that you add to water and the volume of water. Then you cook pasta and measure the volume of water again. You pour some little but precisely known amount of after-pasta water into an open plastic container and let water evaporate. Since after-pasta water will go bad at room temperature you can wait until it cools down and put into the freezer - it will still evaporate, but much slower (maybe you'll need to wait a couple of months). Once all the water evaporates only salt is leaft in the container and you can weight it again.

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This assumes that the pasta doesn't give anything back to the water, which is does (starch), so it won't be an accurate measure. And for something like this in a science lab, you'd just evaporate the liquid by putting it in a low but vented oven, then compare the weight of what remains vs. the weight of the pot cleaned. –  Joe Nov 20 '10 at 3:58
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@Joe: Yes, you're right. This method is problematic. –  sharptooth Nov 22 '10 at 6:32
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Here is a report entitled "Change in sodium content of potato, pasta and rice with different cooking methods".

So the "scientific answer" is:

  • The sodium content in pasta cooked with different levels of salt increased approximately linearly with the amount of salt added to the cooking water. Pasta cooked in 4g salt/100g raw took up on average 28 mg Na/100g whereas when cooked in 40g/100g raw this increased approximately 10 fold to 230 mg Na/100g.

HTH!

PS: This may help you forget the Na intake temporally

alt text

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Lovely photo, I'm going to Na –  BaffledCook Nov 8 '10 at 23:28
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http://www.aaccnet.org/publications/cc/backissues/1987/Documents/64_106.pdf

This study from "Cereal Chem. 64(2):106-109" was helpful in answering the question.

One example: Using 71 gm Dry Spaghetti, 592cc water, 2.6 g salt (based on 5.5gm salt/tsp): 100mg cooked spaghetti contained 1.8 mg Na prior to cooking, 0.9 mg Na when cooked in unsalted tap water, 107mg Na cooked in salted water (see above), and 77mg Na when cooked in salt water and then rinsed.

According to the article, different shaped pastas varied the result.

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