How To Properly Salt Your Pasta Water

Learn how to properly salt your pasta water with this simple formula. It will definitely kick the flavor of your pasta up a delicious notch!! | gimmesomeoven.com

Hey guys!  Thought I’d take the day off from sharing a recipe to instead share a Very Important Tip for all of you pasta lovers out there.  This topic happens to be a little culinary soap box of mine, and one that I realize we’ve never directly discussed here on the blog.

I’m talking about how to properly salt your pasta water!

For years, I’ve heard people make comments about how pasta dishes they order in Italian restaurants (or even in Italy!) always seems to be so much more flavorful than the stuff they make at home.  And my first question to them is always — “Do you generously salt your pasta water?!”  More often than not, turns out that they don’t.  They either skip the step entirely.  Or if they do add salt, it’s usually only a small pinch or two, because they’re not sure how much to add, and they worry about over-salting the pasta or ingesting all of that sodium.

Here’s the deal:

You’ve gotta salt your pasta water, and you’ve gotta salt it generously.

Those precious moments while the pasta is boiling in the water are really the only time during the cooking process that you have the chance to season the actual pasta itself.  (No one wants chunky salt on their pasta after it has been cooked!)  And in order for it to be seasoned well, you need to make sure that your pasta water has a high enough salt ratio to actually make a difference with the relatively small volume of pasta that’s being cooked in it.  Don’t worry, the pasta only technically soaks up a tiny fraction of a teaspoon per serving.  But having properly salted pasta water will make a big difference with the flavor.

So how much salt should you use?  When do you add it in?  How much water should you use?  How much pasta?

Here are my recommendations…

Learn how to properly salt your pasta water with this simple formula. It will definitely kick the flavor of your pasta up a delicious notch!! | gimmesomeoven.com

Well first, I should probably make the disclaimer that everyone will probably have a different opinion on this.  And I highly recommend doing your own experimenting to find your perfect ratio.  But to provide a starting point, I’ll share with you the basic formula that I’ve always used.  It’s easy to remember — 1:1:4.

1 pound of pasta : 1 tablespoon salt : 4 quarts (16 cups) water

To break that down…

1 pound of pasta: Any shape of uncooked, dry pasta will work here.  It can be traditional semolina pasta, whole wheat pasta, gluten-free pasta, you name it.  1 pound.

1 tablespoon salt: Actually, this one can very slightly depending on your type of salt.  If you’re using table salt or sea salt, I recommend 1 tablespoon.  But if you’re using Kosher salt (which I prefer), I recommend 1 “heaping” tablespoon (about 1.5 tablespoons).  Or, if you happen to like really salty pasta like me, experiment with adding another half to full tablespoon and see what tastes good.

4 quarts (16 cups) water: This is how much water you need to fill approximately half of a traditional large stock pot, and how much water I recommend using to cook 1 pound of pasta.  You can arguably use more or less, but this is my norm.

To cook the pasta, bring the water to a rolling bowl.  Stir in the salt.  Then cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions, then drain and serve.

So if you’re new to salting your pasta water, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Happy pasta making!

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How To Properly Salt Your Pasta Water

Learn how to properly salt your pasta water with this 1:1:4 formula. It will definitely kick the flavor of your pasta up a delicious notch!

Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts (16 cups) water
  • 1 tablespoon regular table salt (or 1.5 tablespoons Kosher salt)
  • 1 pound (uncooked) dry pasta

Directions:

  1. In a large stockpot, bring the water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat.  Stir in the salt.
  2. Add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat a bit if it starts to boil over, until the pasta is al dente.
  3. Drain off the excess water.
  4. Serve immediately, using your favorite pasta recipe.

*If you like a saltier pasta, feel free to up the salt quantity by 1/2 tablespoon per batch until you find the amount that tastes good to you.

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Learn how to properly salt your pasta water with this simple formula. It will definitely kick the flavor of your pasta up a delicious notch!! | gimmesomeoven.com

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25 comments on “How To Properly Salt Your Pasta Water”

  1. THANK you! I’ve been telling my friends and family to GENEROUSLY salt their pasta water for years. It makes all the difference! :)

  2. I never salt the water, but when it’s cooked al dente I rinse it with cold water to stop it from cooking (yes it gets rid of some of the starch but I prefer it that way) then bring it back to the pot with butter or margarine or olive oil (whatever I’m in the mood for) and add some seasoned salt, heat it until it’s warm and serve with favorite toppings, tomatoes, feta, basil … whatever I feel like eating. It’s so tasty.

  3. Great post! I alternate depending on what I use the pasta for or how I cook it. Sometimes I cook it in a multicooker, where I dump the water, pasta, and sauce all in the pot together. I don’t use salt because it absorbs the flavor of the sauce as it cooks. Sometimes I cook my pasta in beef broth instead of salted water. If I’m just doing pasta and a cream sauce or pasta not cooked in the multicooker, then I salt the water. I think I saw in a movie, I wish I could remember which one, that you add salt until your pasta water smells like the Mediterranean sea. I thought that sounded lovely.

    • Thanks for sharing with us — we love that quote about the Mediterranean sea as well! :)

  4. Much appreciated advice! I’ve been asking myself about this very thing a lot lately. Going to try it your way. 1:1:4 Got it.

  5. I’m one of the guilty ones who never salts the water.  I’ve been cooking for 54 years and this is the first time anyone has ever taught me about the hows and whys of salting pasta water.  I will share this with my husband for when he makes spaghetti, and make sure I cook pasta this way, too.  So thank you very much for this post.  I’m glad we’re never too old to learn.

  6. Ha! You were reading my mind. Having a dinner party on Friday and saw that the pasta recipe called for “generously salting” the water for the pasta. It didn’t say how much that was, however.

    Thanks!!!

  7. Can use Himalaya salt?

    • You can, but it really doesn’t make much of a difference, so we would recommend saving nicer salts like that one for seasoning food/ as a finishing salt. Plain old kosher salt is really all you need for pasta water.

  8. Thank you SO much for sharing this post! Coming from someone who never ever salts the water, I really appreciate the tip, it’s so small, but I know it makes a world of difference! I hope you share more of your cooking tips, I would love to see more!!

  9. I’m second generation Italian. My Grandpop Sal was right off the boat. I remember him telling me to always salt the water. Each time I make pasta, I hear his voice telling me this. “It should taste like the sea” he said. One tablespoon is not nearly enough. A handful of salt is always how I’ve done it. 

  10. We buy the organic Delallo pasta and the package says 1/4 cup of salt to a pound of pasta! I know you like that brand, so I was curious to see if you have ever used that much salt and followed their recommendation.

  11. I always salt my water at the beginning – it helps it come to a boil faster – but do you think it’s still seasoning the pasta the same way? I’ve never had any complaints, but have never consider adding it later. 

    • Hey Rachel! This is what we found, via Smithsonian Magazine: “There is an old wives tale that says salt will also make the pasta water boil faster. This is not completely the case. Adding salt to water elevates the boiling point and to increase the boiling point of 1 quart of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit you would need 3 tablespoons of salt. And, that is way too much salt for anyone’s taste buds.” We honestly think you’re fine either way, especially if that’s how you’ve been doing it and it’s been working for you! :)

    • I can tell you for sure that if you don’t salt your water, your pasta will taste like plain wet cardboard.

  12. WHY so much water

  13. Helpful!

  14. this is a very useful advice for a mom who never salt the pasta water while cooking for kids like me xD seems like the pasta will be more tasty with it.
    thanks for sharing, Hayley.

  15. Thanks.. salt is an important factor in paste.. thanks for the tips..

  16. LOVE this post!! Under seasoning pasta water, or any food for that matter is one of my culinary pet peeves!! So glad you’ve taken the time to write a post about it. Proper seasoning can make or break a meal!

  17. Wow, thank you very much, Ali, for sharing this guideline. This is very useful for me. Happy pasta making from now on.