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Cooking pasta is a simple task, but one that’s accumulated its fair share of questionable tips—distractions, in many cases, that can make it more difficult to get the perfect pot of pasta. But there’s an essential step that every good cook knows when boiling their fettuccine, penne or bow-tie noodles: adding salt. Follow along as we teach you how to salt your pasta the right way.
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Choose Your Salt Carefully
Salt can pump up any pasta by enhancing its natural flavor. However, only a fraction of the salt you add to the water will be absorbed by the pasta, which makes choosing the right salt even more important. Go for fine-grain salts, which allow for easier distribution and absorption. Natural salts, such as Himalayan and sea salt, are also tasty choices. Of course, table salt is fine, too—and using this common, refined salt guarantees the grain will be fine.
Get Your Timing Right
So, when you should you add salt to your pasta water? Wait until it’s at a full rolling boil; this is also a good time to add the pasta, itself. There are several reasons to hold off on adding salt until this point:
- Waiting encourages you to keep an attentive eye on the water.
- Some say that adding salt to cold water slows the boiling process. Then again, some say the exact opposite! Either way, the difference is minimal, so why not wait?
- Perhaps most importantly, it’s best to limit contact between salt and the metal of your pot, especially when it comes to older or stainless steel pots, which may be in danger of pitting or corrosion.
Use the Right Amount
There’s an old adage that pasta water should “taste like the sea.” Well, this isn’t very helpful when the water is already boiling hot. So, how much salt should you actually be adding?
Aim to add around 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt for every pound of pasta—roughly the same amount for 3 to 4 quarts of water, depending on how salty you like your noodles. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little, but know that if you use too much salt, your pasta may turn into a congealed mess. Also keep in mind that the saltiness of the sauce will factor in when the time comes for a taste test.
Added too much salt? Don’t stress it. Our Field Editors offer their best tips for a too-salty dish.
There! Now you’re ready to make the perfect pot of pasta with even more flavor…just don’t forget to add a great sauce.