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I have found that when adding salt just before adding pasta, that more is better.

But how much is too much?

What is a good ratio of salt to water when cooking pasta?

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  • Good for taste? Or for your health?
    – Pablo H
    Aug 16, 2023 at 15:11
  • Taste trumps health for me. Aug 16, 2023 at 15:32

3 Answers 3

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More is not necessarily better, but no salt leads to a bland final dish. Some folks are fond of saying "as salty as the sea." This sounds romantic, but probably has no basis. Pasta water, and the resulting pasta, can certainly be over salted. The internet shows results that are all over the place. Any where from 3/4 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons per liter of water. However, this also depends on the saltiness of the condiments you are using with your pasta. Unfortunately, there is no magic number.

I think the best you are going to find is "salt to taste".

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    "Salty as the sea" produces disgusting pasta according to serious eat's experiments. seriouseats.com/how-salty-should-pasta-water-be
    – JS Lavertu
    Aug 14, 2023 at 13:00
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    Also be aware that this is for italian pasta. Some Asian noodles are pre-salted. (It makes it more difficult to knead, but it’s more efficient in its salt usage)
    – Joe
    Aug 14, 2023 at 14:47
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    The sea is pretty salty...
    – user25939
    Aug 14, 2023 at 20:29
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    Upvoted even though depending on the sauce, a pasta dish can taste great with no salt in the pasta water at all. I stopped salting my pasta water decades ago and didn’t really notice a difference. Probably because I only eat pasta with tomato sauces that are well salted and grated cheese which adds salt. Aug 15, 2023 at 3:31
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    For having actually made pasta with sea water (very common on racing sailboats), I can tell you that the good ratio is 1:1 sea water / fresh water for pasta and only sea water for potatoes. Aug 15, 2023 at 10:22
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Use salt as you would in a soup

I just throw in some amount of salt that looks about right, then stir briefly, taste the water and add more salt if needed. If the water tastes as salty as I would like a soup to be, the saltiness of the pasta will also be perfect for my taste.

To give a rough numeric value as well, soups generally contain slightly below 1% of salt by weight. For comparison, sea water has about 3.5%, which would be WAY too salty for my taste.

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  • I think there's an argument to making your pasta saltier than a liquid you would sip or drink. I have at least once mistakenly put what I would consider to be too much salt in the water for pasta. Upon first taste, the pasta was a bit salty, but melded nicely with the sauce (which I err on the side of not salty enough) Aug 14, 2023 at 18:56
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    @JasonPSallinger Sure, the overall salt amount is the most important metric, slightly oversalted pasta and slightly undersalted sauce can still give a perfect dish. For simplicity, I make both the sauce and the pasta as salty as if I was gonna eat them separately, and combining them consistently hits the spot for me... if there's any drawback I sure haven't noticed it :)
    – MaxD
    Aug 14, 2023 at 19:17
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I'm pretty sure that Marcella Hazan recommends 2 tblsps. of salt per 4 gallons of water, I think in Marcella Says (sorry it's in a box :/). At some point years ago (through a process I don't exactly recall now) I determined that this meant I should use 14.2 g of salt per 2 L. of water for 1/2 lb. of pasta, which is more like what I usually make. I've done this for some indeterminate amount of years and it always gives excellent results. Other tips I learned from her are to stir the pasta for 30 s. after adding it to the water to prevent it from sticking, and to toss it immediately after draining in either butter or olive oil (depending on the sauce) at a ratio of 1 tblsp. / lb. of pasta. Priceless information if you ask me.

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  • Thank you. Good intel. I do tend towards these numbers, including tossing with oil. Aug 16, 2023 at 19:39
  • With a few important exceptions. Italian pasta dishes are finished over heat in the sauce, in the sauce's pan.. so I find the Hazan's general recommendation to dress pasta with butter or oil a bit puzzling. Aug 27, 2023 at 7:50
  • @RobinBetts I do both! I think her motivation is twofold: pasta can stick very rapidly once drained, but also she wants to ensure that fat (and not water) coats and even permeates the pasta thoroughly as soon as it's out of the water. This is so the sauce will adhere to the pasta more effectively, which I think is also the main benefit of finishing it in the sauce. You don't need to use much fat—she recommends a quarter of what went into the sauce. (Most of her recipes use 4 tblsps. of fat / lb. of pasta so that's where my 1 tblsp. came from. I don't usually measure, though, being honest.) Aug 28, 2023 at 2:26
  • Ahh.. Okydoky. Thanks! Not generally a thing for me, because I tend to lift the pasta, slightly undercooked, straight into the sauce pan, to finish cooking there. That also means I can spoon out a bit of pasta-water if the sauce needs it, and can use the simmering water pot as a very gentle heat-source if I need it, especially for a carbonara. (IMO 'not measuring' is the key to fluent cooking.. unless you're a pâtissier :D ) Aug 28, 2023 at 6:34

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