23

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?

5
  • Some questions are off topic, and others are not. This is a healthy health question. Commented Nov 8, 2010 at 23:30
  • 3
    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
    Commented Feb 13, 2011 at 22:26
  • 4
    You don't have to add salt. If you are limiting your sodium just don't add salt. I don't add salt and very little oil.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 17:26
  • A good question, given that some salt-averse members of my family would go berserk if I tried to follow those chefs "salt it like the ocean" recommendations. Commented Nov 23, 2021 at 9:09
  • If you need to watch your sodium intake this closely, I would actually recommend one of three things: (1) salt alternatives (I think they’re made with potassium?), (2) using Asian noodles which have salt already in them so it’s a known amount, (3) not salting the water, put remove the pasta when it’s only partially cooked and finish cooking in the sauce (this may not work for all types of sauces)
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 14:46

9 Answers 9

22

Change in sodium content of potato, pasta and rice with different cooking methods is a report which says:

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.

3
  • 1
    Lovely photo, I'm going to Na Commented Nov 8, 2010 at 23:28
  • Seems this report is not available under the URL your provided 9 years later :( Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 15:32
  • 1
    The study neglects an important factor: how much water is added? They focus on the amount of sodium and raw pasta, but the concentration of the saltwater is not considered in their study. The full PDF shows they used a constant volume of water, which means they also increased the salt concentration by the same factor. If they multiply water volume by 100 while also multiplying salt mass by 100, the result should not show 100x sodium content per 100g of raw pasta.
    – Victor
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 2:43
9

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.

3

Good discussion of the question. The question can be answered by referring to the paper published in Food Chemistry in 2019: "Cooking parameters affect the sodium content of prepared pasta" based on experiments cooking samples of one pound (454 g.) of dried spaghetti pasta, and other pasta samples in 6 quarts (1.5 gallons) of unsalted water, and salted water. The paper discusses a reference method for the experiment: adding 2 Tablespoons (36 g., conversion factor 1 Tbsp = 18 g.) of table salt (Morton® iodized) to 6 quarts (1.5 gallons) tap water, bringing the salted cooking water to a boil, and cooking the pasta for 9 minutes. There were tests at several different concentrations of salt in water.

The experiments tested for sodium in the cooked pasta using inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy-mass spectrometry.

The paper found the connection between the concentration of salt in the cooking water and sodium in the prepared pasta was linear, i.e. it graphed as a straight diagonal line in graphs in the paper. It said "The linear relationship between the concentration of salt in the cooking water and sodium in the prepared pasta ... can be used to obtain a more accurate estimate of the sodium content."

The team did not test at concentrations that leading online culinary sources recommend - 1 Tbsp. or 4 tsp. of salt per gallon of water. The results suggest that the 1 Tbsp. would add about 125 mg. and 4 tsp. about 167 mg. of sodium to 100 g. of cooked pasta. This doesn't sound terrible, but 100 grams of cooked spaghetti is a meagre serving

The 2006 report "Changes in Sodium Content in Potatoes, Pasta and Rice with Different Cooking Methods" written for the Scottish Food Standards Agency is not online at the URL in answer 20 in this thread or in the publications of Food Standards Scotland but is in the USDA National Agricultural Library at https://www.nal.usda.gov/research-tools/food-safety-research-projects/change-sodium-content-potato-pasta-and-rice-different.

2

i found this other paper: https://www.cerealsgrains.org/publications/cc/backissues/1987/Documents/64_106.pdf

they experimented with different types of pasta, and different type of water (salted/unsalted tap water, salted/unsalted distilled water) and the result is that approximatively for a bit more than 5 g/l of salt in water (which correspond to about 2000 mg sodium for each kg of water) you get a bit less than 200 mg sodium for each 100 g of cooked pasta.

So salt in pasta water isn't much of a concern for your sodium intake, but be careful of the sauce!

2
  • 2
    Er ... I think that's the same paper referenced above.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 18:53
  • @FuzzyChef oh right I didn't notice, because it's hosted in a different website
    – pqnet
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 20:19
1

Here is the best answer. Only about 3% of the sodium added to the water will absorb into the pasta, but 3% can be a lot, given that there are 2300 mg in a teaspoon of table salt!

If you follow the link below, you'll find the accurately measured amount of sodium absorbed into 6g of pasta at different measurements of salt added to the water. Always take into account serving size and number of servings!

http://www.cookinglight.com/eating-smart/nutrition-101/salt-in-foods/truth-about-salt_2

0

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.

3
  • 3
    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
    Commented Nov 20, 2010 at 3:58
  • 1
    @Joe: Yes, you're right. This method is problematic.
    – sharptooth
    Commented Nov 22, 2010 at 6:32
  • 2
    Why not just leave the post on the stove and boil the water off?
    – paparazzo
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 17:25
-1

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.

2
  • 5
    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
    Commented Nov 8, 2010 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. Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 14:35
-1

The concern is sodium, not salt. If you cook pasta according to package instructions, then the salted water will pass a high level of sodium into the pasta. 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2,350 mg of sodium. A teaspoon of salt weighs 6 grams. If you cooked a full pound of fettucini let's say using the water level instructed on the package and added 3 tablespoons of salt, you'd be soaking the pasta in 22,000 (approximately) mg of sodium. Nearly 70 to 80% of that would pass into the pasta and much of the water would evaporate. Some cooks/chefs then use the pasta water to cook the balance of a meal, securing even more sodium into the plate being served. If you're on a low sodium diet, don't cook the pasta with salt at all. It is not necessary. A half teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil will keep the water from boiling over the pot and not affect the pasta sodium-wise at all.

1
  • Why would you expect most of the salt to be absorbed by the pasta?
    – Sneftel
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 19:21
-1

You're all overthinking it..

So: you have a measured amount of water at 10g salt per litre (or 1%) (this is the right level of salt in pasta water which Italians use)..

So I have 2500ml of water with 300g pasta (hungry boy portion) 28g of salt - so (as 2500ml water weighs 2500g plus 300g pasta = 2800g total volume) then the whole contents of the pot is 1% salt

All I do then is weigh the remaining water after the pasta is drained, then whatever water the pasta has absorbed it has taken in exactly ''x''grams of salt - its a precise enough measurement (for cooking ''taste'' and probably monitoring sodium anyway) - obviously it isn't model perfect for the isolated chemical sodium chloride, especially if you're using rock salt which can actually be low in sodium, (even so you can still be fairly exact by working out the percentage of SALT by total volume of water and pasta) it is precise for ''saltiness'' and in fact pretty precise for common table salt which is just sodium chloride mixed with a miniscule amount of sodium ferrocyanide as an anti-caking agent - in other words it is a good ''real World'' method of working out how much salt you are consuming!

Simples - I had to work it out for cooking up maize for fishing bait - I have to have the bait preserved in the sun on long camping sessions but not powerfully salty enough to make it too tough and shrivel up (osmosis effect) - maize is of course rock hard so is also soaked in the water overnight prior to cooking, after cooking ends up relatively soft like pasta - but then I add enough extra salt to bring the whole container of drained maize up to the saltiness of sea water (about 3.5% salt), and its thus preserved enough with ''shelf life''

I didn't want to get complicated, and have to get on - but God only knows how much sodium chloride is in sea water, or the flash rock salt I use, if the pasta/maize is reacting with and breaking down the sodium chloride itself etc. -- that will be for a scientist to answer, I'm not bothered as life is too short, and its worked for me for years as a trained chef and experienced angler

1
  • 1
    You’re assuming that the salt and water absorb equally into the pasta, but I don’t know if that’s actually true. If it is, then we would assume that more heavily salted water would lead to a perfectly linear amount of salt absorption, but the research linked to in an earlier answer ( cooking.stackexchange.com/a/8949/67 ) said that it’s only approximately linear. You also should be weighing the finished pasta to figure out how much water it absorbed, as the water loss from the pot also includes what might have evaporated
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 14:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.