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Do you add salt to boiled water for pasta?

Survey of CHs please: Do you add salt to the water when you cook pasta?
I was casually watching a cooking show last month (maybe Giada or R Ray, can't remember who it was ) and she made the off-the-cuff comment of saying she always salts her boiling water for pasta, as the pasta tastes better. Have I been missing the boat all these years? Is this a common thing for tasty pasta? Skipping the low-sodium-in-your-diet talk, how many of you do this? Does it really taste better? And do you still add olive oil? Basic question for many, but I really don't know. Maybe the Bitterman book might have the answer, but I don't have it....so can you all give me your feedback and comments?

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  1. Yes to salt, no to olive oil (except v. occasionally for ravioli that tend to stick), and there is possibly one of the most contentious threads on CH on that subject. ;-) I'll try and dig it up for you!

    Here it is:


    1. Salt, absolutely, lots of it. It's all about flavor, and it makes a big difference. Some will tell you it's to raise the boiling point so the pasta cooks hotter and faster and this somehow helps the texture. While it's technically true that this raises the boiling point EVER so slightly, it's something like a fraction of a degree -- totally insignificant.

      Oil in the water? Noooooooooo, never never never. All that does is keep your sauce, whatever it may be, away from your pasta. Ideally, you pull the pasta from the water when it's JUST underdone and finish it in the sauce. Either way, you want the pasta to absorb just a bit of the sauce. Makes all the difference in the world. And if your pasta is coated with oil, it doesn't happen. (Doesn't apply, obviously, if your sauce IS oil).

      12 Replies
      1. re: Dmnkly

        Dmnkly, your point is so good. I am saying DUHHH to myself; why didn't I see that before....if the pasta is coated with oil, of course it won't absorb the sauce so well. . Sometimes the obvious has to be said to me before I Get It.

        I am a better eater of Chowfood than a cooker of it, but this board is helping me be a better cook. Thanks for the help!

        "lots of salt"...for the cooking-impared, can you be more specific please?

        1. re: anthrochick

          Definitely yes to salt and no to oil, although I will point out that Alton Brown demonstrated quite nicely (in a very scientific way) that if you add oil to the water, it will simply stay in the water and not coat the pasta (he did a before/after measure).

          1. re: bnemes3343

            Actually, he did a really lousy job on that demonstration. He did a before and after measure, found that only half a teaspoon was missing, and then airily proclaimed that half a teaspoon wasn't enough to coat the pasta -- which anyone who has ever used spray oils knows is not true: a half a teaspoon of oil can go a looooooong way.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler


              He also had a show where he said not to oil the water because it will coat the pasta and keep the sauce from sticking.


              1. re: grapes4444

                Alton Brown has a great show on the Food Network called GOOD EATS. He gets into the nuts and bolts of making a dish. History of the food item, why it acts the way it does. He also does a few other shows..Iron chef in America and a road trip one.

            2. re: anthrochick

              3-4 tablespoons for a standard pot of boiling water. I just hold the salt container upside down and let it dump in for a few seconds. You want your pasta water to "taste like the sea." I forgot to salt my pasta water the other night, and it made a definite difference in the final flavor of the pasta.

              If you stir your pasta while it is cooking you will have no issues with sticking.

              And you aren't rinsing your pasta after cooking are you? That removes all the starchy goodness.

              1. re: Megiac

                no, I am not rinsing the pasta post-cooking. That part I got right, LOL!

              2. re: anthrochick

                The best rule of thumb for pasta water is "as salty as the sea". So after adding about 3 tbl.. of salt taste the water, if it is salty there is too much, if it isn't then you did it just right. As far as oil is concerned, some types of pasta stick, such as tortellini and ravioli, so use about a teaspoon of olive oil. As for other pasta's, as long as you give it a good stir after about 30 secs. in the water you should not have any sticking at all. Good luck and happy cooking!!

                1. re: leiana_thomas

                  Well, "as salty as the sea" is *a* rule of thumb. not sure if it's the best. firstly, and perhaps most obviously, an awful lot of people have no idea what salt water tastes like (from the sea, or ocean, or whatever you call it). secondly, salt water varies in salinity, depending on where you are. not a very good rule of thumb for those reasons.

                  but yeah, salt your water. why not?

                  better yet. try it both ways and decide for yourself.

                  1. re: leiana_thomas

                    personally I have tasted the sea and it is QUITE salty. Nevertheless, that's how I salt my pasta water and I like how it comes out.

              3. Yes to salt.
                No to oil.

                1. What they said:

                  salt - always always
                  oil - never ever

                  Have some water with salt boiling at the moment for our pasta tonight actually.

                  1. salt always and without question or exception
                    oil never

                    1. Oh yes - absolutely salt the water you are going to cook the macaroni in.
                      Never add oil!

                      1. It is really your only opportunity to season your pasta before you put sauce on it, so I am all for salting the water. I have heard of people using lemon juice instead of salt to cut down on sodium, but I can't speak for the results since I have never tried it. If you sauce your pasta heavily, you probably won't notice a difference, or much of one, regardless. As for oil, I have tried oil in the water for things like ravioli, and I really didn't like the results. I don't think it mattered much anyway.

                        1. Yes to salt and no to oil

                          1. I don't add salt.
                            I don't add oil.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: elkgrovestella

                              No i don't add salt any more,no oil either,If your blood pressure is high or you retain fluid you have to leave it out. It's fine without it

                            2. Oh yes, definitely Salt! I never put oil in the water, the other day was watching Alton Brown and he mentioned (when making ravioli) to add oil to the water for a different reason than sticking.... forgot why... (wasn't paying attention that well.....) haha, anybody seen that episode?

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: chefschickie

                                Shazam, oh my gosh, I have been making pasta wrong for 30 yrs!!! How did I get so wrong?? I am not a great cook, but I never thought that I was so wrong. Somehow I got the idea that one was to put olive oil in the water to keep the pasta from sticking together. And no one ever told me about the salt thing til I heard it on the cooking show. How did I miss this??? THANKS for clueing me in!

                                Now that I know to salt..how much? 1/4 t or so?

                                One of my colleagues is the Food Anthropologist character ( and in real life) on Good Eats...maybe she can find out about the oil in the water. I love his show, but he talks so fast that I can't remember all that he says!

                                1. re: anthrochick

                                  Yes? ;)

                                  The water should end up being as a salty as the ocean. Not sure if that helps. :)

                                  1. re: anthrochick

                                    "Somehow I got the idea that one was to put olive oil in the water to keep the pasta from sticking together. And no one ever told me about the salt thing til I heard it on the cooking show. How did I miss this???"

                                    Don't feel bad. Lots of people will say to oil it. 'Course, lots of people also put ketchup on their steak :-)

                                    "Now that I know to salt..how much? 1/4 t or so?"

                                    Oh, gosh, LOTS more. Depends on how much water you're using, of course, but I fill my stockpot halfway -- about two gallons -- and I add about 1/4 C. of sea salt. I'm estimating, but you want a nice, big handful.

                                    1. re: anthrochick

                                      Yes to salt, no to oil.

                                      I have a bag of coarse sea salt in my cupboard that I've taken to using for pasta. I reach in and grab a handful and chuck it in the pot. I didn't start using salt until a few years ago, and I think the improvement is really noticeable.

                                      1. re: anthrochick

                                        I use more like 2 t per quart (i'm estimating- usually i toss a medium handful into a very large pot of boiling water).

                                        1. re: anthrochick

                                          Lots more salt. It should be like seawater.

                                        2. re: chefschickie

                                          The main reason anyone would add oil to pasta water is the reduce the surface tension and reduce the chance of the water from foaming and boiling over. As the oil is lighter than the water - it really can't prevent the pasta from sticking if the pasta stays submerged. As ravioli eventually floats - it is possible any oil may prevent sticking - but the points on the sauce not sticking are also valid.

                                          1. re: BReynolds

                                            I think it was to prevent the foaming etc...... to prevent the fresh made tender raviolis from being ruined.......... could that be it?! haha, should have paid better attention, i knew it!

                                        3. Lidia Bastianich says that when boiling a pound of pasta; "put 6 quarts of water in an 8 quart pot and use two tablespoons of salt"...
                                          That's about right...

                                          Remember that 98% of it goes down the drain when you strain...

                                          No oil...
                                          The pasta won't stick, and the water won't usually foam over, when you use enough water...

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Mild Bill

                                            I think if the water foams over then it's probably boiling too hard...which isn't necessary imho I turn it up to med-high (6-7) which is plenty (on my stove anyway) for a good boil.

                                            Yes to salt(although I'm in the t's not necessary camp), definite NO to oil, especially if you want the pasta to cling to the sauce :)

                                          2. I add 2 tsp.(unmeasured) of salt per gallon of water for pasta. No oil, as it prevents the sauce from sticking.

                                            1. I always salt the water before cooking Italian pasta. I salt it liberally. I pour some salt into my hand and dump. The pasta will taste much better with the salt as it cooks, instead of just salting the sauce more. I never add oil. I think it is possible that adding oil might interfere with the union of the pasta and sauce. However, I have heard that in some situations, people add oil to water to help with a covered pot that might otherwise foam over. I don't cover my pasta pot as it cooks. It might apply to a covered pot of beans? Anyway, I don't use oil in my pasta water.

                                              Furthermore, I don't rinse the pasta after I cook it. I sauce it immediately. But a person could want to rinse oriental noodles after cooking them, depending on their intended use, especially in a context where you need them cool and to not stick.

                                              Use more than a quarter teaspoon salt, most definitely. You could easily use a tablespoon and a half for an entire pound of pasta. I'm assuming you are using enough water, well over 4 quarts. If you use less water, use less salt. Also, it can depend on the sauce you plan upon using.

                                              Oh, remember, the water will stop boiling when you add the salt, so wait until it starts boiling again before you add the pasta.

                                              10 Replies
                                              1. re: saltwater

                                                I am getting a real cooking lesson here!

                                                glad I asked about the amount of salt...i would have put in waayy too little.. I use my grandma's big stockpot, so I am sure the amounts you all are suggesting would be right.

                                                And sea salt is the consensus?

                                                Saltwater, you bring up another smallpoint I would have over looked til I was in the midst of cooking....I add the salt AFTER the un-salted water has boiled? You don't add the salt in the beginning? Is there a chemical or culinary reason for this? I just want to cover all the bases here.....

                                                1. re: anthrochick

                                                  I don't think there's any reason not to add the salt at the beginning. As no one has explicitly said it, the reason you add salt to pasta water is that pasta absorbs its cooking water -- if the water is salted, the salt is incorporated into the pasta with the water, which is a very different effect than adding salt externally after cooking.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    I've been told that adding salt to the cold water just as you start to heat can cause pitting on some cookware. I don't speak from experience.

                                                    As to the type of salt, that'll kick off a 300 post thread all its own :-)

                                                    While I'm not in the "there's no difference between different types of salt" camp, I AM inclined to believe that any subtle differences in flavor due to mineral content are going to be totally lost in a big pot of water. I don't believe for a second that anybody could tell the difference between pasta boiled in table salt, kosher salt and sea salt in a blind tasting. Short answer, unless you're taking iodized salt, it makes no difference. I only mention that I use sea salt because it's generally a coarser grind, so you get less salt per unit volume (thereby requiring you to adjust down if you're using table salt).

                                                    1. re: Dmnkly

                                                      Speaking from experience, yes, adding the salt and not stirring it can cause pitting--sadly, I have some pits in an All-Clad pot from this. I believe that it's from the salt sitting on the bottom and not dissolving, and I don't believe that it has anything to do with the temperature. What I normally do now is put about a cup of water and a lot of kosher salt (at least two tablespoons) in a measuring cup and stir to dissolve it, then pour it into the pot of water. That way if there's any dregs that don't dissolve I can keep from pouring those in the pot.

                                                  2. re: anthrochick

                                                    I have wondered about this one myself, anthrochick. Traditional cooking instructions for Italian food include the direction to salt the water after boiling, so that is my practice. But I have salted the water before, and of course, it still will boil. Salt does have an effect on how long it will take water to reach a boil. Salted water has a higher (oh! MAN, I just realized why you asked ME, SALTWATER, duh!!! But I am named that way because of my love for taffy), anyway, saltwater boils at a higher temperature than does regular water. This means for cooking that once the water is boiling, the food is going to be cooking at a slightly higher temperature. But, when it comes to getting to a boil, the same volume of saltwater will come to a boil faster than the same volume of fresh, simply because heat can be added faster to salt than it can be added to water, and with the same volume, there is less water, because part of the volume is made up by salt taking up space. At least, that is my guess now that I am thinking about it and trying to recall my distant education. So, why the traditional direction? Huh, I'm not sure about that. Maybe they like how the salt can fizz when it hits the water. Maybe it relates to how the salt dissolves in hot compared to cold water? This is worth thinking about, but I'm up too late. Let's see if tomorrow, someone has a good answer.

                                                    1. re: saltwater

                                                      "saltwater boils at a higher temperature than does regular water. This means for cooking that once the water is boiling, the food is going to be cooking at a slightly higher temperature."

                                                      FYI, saltwater, it's VERY slightly -- I believe a fraction of a degree. i.e., fun for physics geeks, but not significant in any way from a cooking standpoint :-)

                                                      1. re: Dmnkly

                                                        I agree, Dmnkly, that the difference is likely very small, probably too small to measure on a home thermometer. A more noticeable effect would be to simply cover the pot while bringing it to a boil, I'd guess. Then the pot would heat up faster. But geeky me is still pondering about those nucleation sites with dropping in the salt while it is near boiling. (Irrelevant for the purpose of cooking boards).

                                                        Oh, wait, not quite irrelevant, really. You've all heard about the rare case of superheated water and water gushing up out of a coffee cup if heated in a microwave and then you stir it, right? That is not a myth. It happened to my friend, but with a beaker and a thermometer, not a microwave and coffee cup.

                                                        1. re: Dmnkly

                                                          Actually, that's why I've become more consistent about using salt. We moved to a high altitude and I read that it helps speed the pasta along. Still takes longer than the package says, though. :(

                                                      2. re: anthrochick

                                                        I don't think sea salt is all that important - probably kind of pricey to just dissolve in a gallon of water and you are going to dump most of the water anyway.

                                                        Normal kosher salt is what I use. .

                                                        1. re: anthrochick

                                                          I always use Kosher salt, right in the beginning when I put up the water so I won't forget! about 2 palm fulls...... as been said before, the water needs to be as salty as the sea.

                                                      3. Depends on your taste I think. I personally do not salt anything

                                                        1. Absolutely. Salt-less pasta is quite flat-tasting. And you need that salty, starchy pasta cooking water to help expand and reduce the saucing of the pasta.

                                                          No oil, except perhaps for lasagne sheets.

                                                          1. Oil - No
                                                            Salt - Yes
                                                            Have you been missing the boat all these years?? - Most definitely


                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Davwud

                                                              Yes I have been missing the boat all these years, haven't I?!

                                                              I emailed my cousin, who lived next door to me growing up and had similar food training. She is a much better cook than I am -so I asked her what she did. Guess what..When she makes pasta ( which is not often) , she said she knew to put salt in to make it boil faster from her Italian friends but she didn't do that. She prefered to add olive oil to keep it from not sticking together, then she only uses olive oil and seasonings as a sauce. ( no other type of sauce). So maybe we learned this from our mothers, both of whom are wonderful but older "traditional midwestern" cooks...( midwesterners, please don't take offense at this!). I will have to ask my mother what she does re: this issue.
                                                              Anyhow, there are 2 of us who missed the boat....but since my cousin does not even like pasta, it only affects me! Thanks for clueing me in!!!

                                                              1. re: anthrochick

                                                                Don't worry, there's always another boat! Asian noodles are not normally cooked in salted water, for example (as far as I know…)

                                                                1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                  As white rice in Asia is also not normally cooked with salt either. Then again, ample sodium is usually provided in the condiments added to the starches.

                                                            2. well, I just asked my mother, and she adds oil to the water , so I guess that is where I learned it. Then she said that she really didn't like pasta, so she rarely makes it. But she adds salt to the boiling water for brown rice!

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: anthrochick

                                                                And whole grains should *not* be boiled with salt added until they are tender.

                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                  I did try to tell this to my mother tonight,,,but to no avail. Sometimes you can't teach your mom new tricks. I even told her about this website, and she just ignored my advice.

                                                              2. Never..
                                                                Only a squeeze of lemon

                                                                1. I do add salt- no oil. By adding salt as it cooks it absorbs and doesnt taste salty like it would if you just add it after. I have been told that the water should be satly enough to actualy taste salty if you took a sip.I am not sure if others agree, but I do tend to put a lot in.

                                                                  1. Thanks CHs...this has been very enlightning! I will be doing it the right and better-tasting way from now on!! Many thanks.

                                                                    1. Good, smart people on this site. I'm with ya, lots of salt, no oil! People need to learn this it makes a huge difference in taste. Mmmm, I'm getting hungry just thinking of nice salted pasta!
                                                                      I've also heard it should taste salty, like the ocean.

                                                                      27 Replies
                                                                      1. re: brh973

                                                                        Where do ya all think this oil-in-the-water thing got started?? I was at a party last night with several good cooks....they all put oil in the water...except for the English guy, who knew to put salt in to make it boil faster. No one knew about the salt for better taste. The hostess was a foodie too...with a chef brother. I quizzed them, then told them about the answers about this blog. How could so many people be on the "oil' thing? Did it used to be taught this way ? It seems that the only people that I have (unscientifically) met that use the salt method...are Italian-American or English. Puzzling.

                                                                        1. re: anthrochick

                                                                          "except for the English guy, who knew to put salt in to make it boil faster"

                                                                          Except, as noted upthread, not even that is true :-)

                                                                          (Unless he's both removing water to compensate for the salt he's adding, and adding a LOT of salt)

                                                                          There's an accurate but not overly-sciency explanation here:


                                                                          1. re: Dmnkly

                                                                            yea, I get what you are saying...and that is another funny thing....of the people who do put salt in..they say it is to make it boil faster (no mentioning of better taste). So they put the salt in, but not for taste! More puzzlement!

                                                                            1. re: anthrochick

                                                                              sorry if this wasn't clear from my post, but i definitely add the salt for flavor reasons. i typically wait until the water is boiling, and then toss in a moderate handful (is there such a thing?). it brings out much more flavor and complexity in the pasta, and also provides you with some thick, tasty and starchy water to add to whatever sauce you are preparing, should you wish to. i would venture a guess that the great majority of those who voted 'yes' to salt did so for flavor reasons, even though they didn't state it.

                                                                              1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                                yes, it should be like sea water for taste reasons....i generally use 2 tablespoons per pound, but i have grown used to the salty taste because i live in rome and romans add a lot of salt. i think that when there is more salt in a sauce (if you add pancetta for example) a bit less (1/2 tablespoon less) works. however, i also read somewhere that you should add more salt to an oil-based sauce (as opposed to a sugo) because the salt doesn't attach so well to the oil once the sauce is added to the pasta. i have noticed that extra salt makes a huge difference when i make an oil-based sauce with cherry tomatoes, garlic, and basil - because i like this dish w/o parmigiano. parmigiano (or pecorino) of course adds salt. i think all these things have to be taken into account when deciding upon the precise amount of salt.

                                                                                1. re: Pappardelle

                                                                                  definitely, Pappardelle. Romans definitely like their food on the salty side, and Italians in general readily accept that pasta water should be plenty salty in order to get the pasta "just right". of course, taking into account such factors as type of sauce and cheese are important for not ending up with a dish that is too salty, overall.

                                                                                  1. re: Pappardelle

                                                                                    ah, that is interesting cooking information! Thanks for the tip!
                                                                                    What do you do when you make a sauce with plum tomatoes?

                                                                                    1. re: anthrochick

                                                                                      i would say around 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons, but i add salt to the sauce when i cook down plums tomatoes into a sauce.

                                                                                      when i cook something w/ veggies and olive oil - say asparagus or broccoli - i am more sure to have water on the salty side because the salt doesn't seem to stick as well to the veggies in oil. maybe the key is to add a little pasta water or something to the veggies but i am not sure about that.

                                                                                      1. re: Pappardelle

                                                                                        Adding a tablespoon or two of pasta water is the key to aglio ed oglio. It adds a nice rich component to the dish, and eliminates the need for added salt to the oil. I don't typically saute vegetables for pasta, but I don't see why you couldn't add a little bit of pasta water to an oil-based sauce with vegetables, as well.

                                                                                  2. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                                    Sorry - to clarify, these are people that I verbally spoke with; of those who knew to add salt, they added it to "make it boil faster" not for taste. So the people I spoke with, who cooked frequently - only 1/3 knew to add salt , and this was for faster boiling not taste. I was just adding commments that there are people out here, in non CH-land that like me, were mis-informed. I think the CH on this post have set me straight...lots of salt - for taste!

                                                                                    1. re: anthrochick

                                                                                      You know, you could even do an experiment: put the same amount of water in three pots. Add a couple of tablespoons of salt to one, a couple of teaspoons of salt to another, and no salt to the third. Cook a cup of the same pasta in each pot (noting any differences in the way the water boils and how fast the pasta cooks), and then do a taste test.

                                                                              2. re: anthrochick

                                                                                I don't really get the many comments on this site about whether people "know" to add salt. It is a preference, it has nothing to do with right or wrong. I prefer the taste of pasta when no salt has been put in the water. This is quite common in America. In Europe the preference is to salt more. To each his own! That's why the directions on pasta boxes often say to add salt to the water to taste, if desired.

                                                                                1. re: hamkins

                                                                                  " ...no salt has been put in the water. This is quite common in America" That's a very generalized startement and highly debatable.

                                                                                  In my opinion, pasta that has been cooked in unsalted water is flat and flavorless. But, like you wrote, to each his own.

                                                                                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                                                    It's only debatable if you have real statistics. I know plenty of people who don't salt their pasta water, and they seem very happy with their pasta. I know plenty of people who salt the water, but not to the extent that it makes much of a difference. I salt a lot.

                                                                                    I don't think either group is wrong. But I do think I'm right.

                                                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                                                      There are no specific pasta water salting statistics available on the population in the US. I doubt that the poster who made the statement that not salting pasta water is "quite common in America" has any persuasive statistic-laden argument beyond what I have. Perhaps the question should have been a query on the 2010 census, given the acceptance of the accuracy of census statistics, to the end of having a proper debate...

                                                                                      What I do know is that Americans consume a high sodium diet, a verifiable statistic, although the majority of the sodium consumption in that diet comes from processed foods and meals consumed in restaurants. Does this sodium consumption when dining out translate to the choice of salting pasta water or not when cooking at home? Hard to know, and not really analogous anyway, except only in function.

                                                                                      So I salt my pasta water, and since I choose to season what I eat according to my preference, I'm right in doing so.

                                                                                      1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                                                        Those were fancy words.

                                                                                        The statistics I've gathered from people I know suggest that many people don't salt their water. I think it's quite common. Perhaps not among cooks, but among the other 99% of the nation.

                                                                                        1. re: tommy

                                                                                          Let's me ask you guys this. Does it matter if you add salt before (during the boiling process) or after?

                                                                                          Obviously there is no census done on this, but one can probably guage the landscape based on published home cook recipes.

                                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                            yes it matters. salt during, salts the interior of the pasta, giving it a less flat taste

                                                                                          2. re: tommy

                                                                                            So your saying that only1% of the nation cooks? Debatable...

                                                                                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                                                              I think you're smart enough to know that's not what I meant, but you seem to enjoy that type of banter.

                                                                                              But you are right, as always. Not salting water is wrong. And everyone I know salts the water to an appreciable extent. You win!

                                                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                                                Yes, I do know that's not what you meant.

                                                                                                Thanks for letting me win. I'm happy to take one for the salting team.

                                                                                            2. re: tommy

                                                                                              i do not know anyone who does NOT salt their pasta water, so i seriously doubt it is as rare as you claim

                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                Neither do I. I think not salting pasta water is like not putting salt in the bread dough. The result is pasta or bread that is flat and it is very noticeable. (I forgot to salt the pizza dough once and even the kids told me there was something wrong with the pizza).

                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                  You wouldn't like the bread in Tuscany.

                                                                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                                                                    "You wouldn't like the bread in Tuscany."

                                                                                                    One of the precious few culinary subjects about which the Tuscans are horribly, horribly wrong :-)

                                                                                                    1. re: Dmnkly

                                                                                                      It's just that, in Tuscan cuisine, the local bread functions like white rice does in east Asian cuisines (where the rice is not salted, either): a blanker canvas for counterpoint of other flavors. So far as I know, the Tuscans do not treat pasta that way, because pasta is the star (the condiment has the supporting role).

                                                                                                      1. re: Dmnkly

                                                                                                        Thank you for proving my point.

                                                                                    1. For my pot a cup of salt. Oil never.

                                                                                      1. Absolutely! I add a few healthy teaspoons of kosher salt it before the pot even hits the burner. Not only does it bring down the boiling point (a fact I learned long ago in Chemistry class), but it's the only way to flavor the pasta, and it makes a HUGE difference. I don't rinse and I don't add oil--all it does is prevent the sauce from adhering to the noodles. I'm willing to put up with a little stickiness to avoid all my sauce slipping to the bottom of the bowl.

                                                                                        I suppose that if you were preparing to dress the pasta with a simple olive oil, herb, cheese combo, then oil in the cooking water wouldn't hurt. However, it would seem like a waste since there would be more oil added later. Just my two pennies worth.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: jrzgyrl

                                                                                          Adding salt actually increases the boiling point. I've heard the rumor that it makes the water boil faster many times now, and the thought struck me in a chemistry class that the rumor was wrong, so I decided to investigate. Adding a soluble/nonvolatile substance (like salt) to any solution decreases the freezing point (think salting roads) and increases the boiling point.

                                                                                          1. re: harmony88

                                                                                            But the difference on the scale used by home cooks is negligible.

                                                                                        2. I was taught to cook pasta by my Italian friends' moms, here in the Deep South. The oil is to keep the pasta from sticking together and salt is for pasta that will not have sauce or other salty food added to it.

                                                                                          I rinse the pasta in a collander to cool it off...after it is safely removed from the pan. I have a history of having to scrape the pasta out of the pan if I don't put a tablespoon of olive oil into the four quarts of water.

                                                                                          There are some questions I have about adding sea salt to recipes. What should I take into consideration when adding sea salt instead of table salt?

                                                                                          1. Yes to salt, no to oil. I've heard a few of the great say that the water should almost taste like the ocean. The boiling process is really the only opportunity to season the pastsa itself, so salt it up, baby :)

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                                                                                            1. re: eastcoastgirl_westcoastlife

                                                                                              In think that the biggest shocker is that Emeril Lagasse always puts oil in his pasta water. Who am I to criticize such a great chef but he is dead wrong. Salt, always. Oil, NEVER. Also for you Food Channnel junkies, Mario Batali also says never to oil.

                                                                                              1. re: Alfred G

                                                                                                I use oil in my water. I use much less water when I cook my pasta than the mainstream and I never end up with a sticky blob of noodles. After straining they always have just enough starchiness for the sauce. I also temper my water with sauce. Every one loves it. Maybe Emril is on to something here. I say what ever works for you personally is the way to go.

                                                                                            2. I add garlic salt or garlic powder & sea salt. Yes to olive oil, one tablespoon. Also add in some dried basil leaves. And I let the pasta sit in the hot water for about 3 minutes after turning off the burner. Soaks up the all that nice flavor of the aromatic water.

                                                                                              Don't let the olive oil naysayers mess with your head. Just drain the hot pasta and let it sit in the collander it will dry up enough to let your sauce stick to the pasta just fine.

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                                                                                              1. re: crt

                                                                                                try puting it in your sauce and soaking up that flavor!! Note if you add oil to your sauce it will not be able to soakup the sauce due the oil coating. Best of luck

                                                                                              2. Add salt, but not oil
                                                                                                You may have heard that you can avoid sticky pasta by adding oil to the pasta water. This can prevent sticking, but at a great price. Pasta that's cooked in oily water will become oily itself and, as a result, the sauce slides off, doesn't get absorbed, and you have flavorless pasta.

                                                                                                Adding oil may keep the pasta water from bubbling up and boiling over the rim, but this can also be achieved by making sure you use a large pot and also by reducing the heat a little (but still maintaining a boil). This is a much better solution than greasing your pasta and sacrificing flavor.

                                                                                                Hot pasta absorbs more sauce
                                                                                                Behind every great pasta is a great sauce. And it's not just the flavor of the sauce that matters, but when and how the sauce and the pasta get combined.

                                                                                                Toss hot pasta with hot sauce quickly—without rinsing it—so the pasta absorbs more sauce and flavor. As it cools, the swollen starch in the pasta crystallizes and becomes insoluble, and the pasta won't absorb as much sauce. Just so there's no delay, I always prepare the sauce first in a large skillet, even if it's simply olive oil, garlic, and pepper flakes. The second the pasta is done (I like it just a breath beyond al dente), I scoop it out of the water with a big Chinese ladle-type strainer or spider. I let the pasta drain over the pot for a few seconds, and then I dump it into the hot sauce, stir well, and set a lid on the skillet. I let the pasta sit, covered, to absorb the sauce for a minute or two, and then I remove the lid, stir again, and serve instantly.

                                                                                                1. I, as many above, use salt, but never oil. Batali uses 3 tbls salt to 6 qts water. I thought he suggested that the oil could prevent the pasta from absorbing the water properly. Here are some of his techniques for cooking pasta:


                                                                                                  1. I always salt my pasta water because as every and I mean every chef on food network says "it's the only chance you will have to season your pasta.".

                                                                                                    That being said. If you are going to use a heavy sauce especially a tomato sauce, the sauce may have plenty of salt.

                                                                                                    Besides, I think if you are happy with it not being salted then that is all the food critic you need to satisfy.

                                                                                                    I use bottled pasta sauce even though it would only take 10 - 15 minutes to make some.

                                                                                                    As far as when I add the salt, I usually don't wait for it to boil but then I stir mine in and taste the water. I don't use a set amount of salt. I add salt until I can taste it.

                                                                                                    1. I put water on to boil, with the lid on the pot. When the water boils, I add a lot of salt. I use whatever kind I have on hand, usually kosher. No oil. I sauce my pasta immediately.

                                                                                                      If your pasta sticks if you don't add oil, you're doing something wrong. I've never had pasta stick.

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                                                                                                      1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                        I Did skip the middle bulk of the posts but I feel like I might be the only person who salts just in between. I def don't salt pasta water so it tastes like the sea, (only leave that for boiled veggies) but just about the same as one would for rice (western culture) or any other grain. I also use much much less water than most people because I use the pasta water to thicken whatever the pasta is going with. By this I mean the pasta is still very crunchy when combined and I then continue ladling and reducing, ladling and reducing until I get the desired texture and taste. This would be impossible with overly salty starchless water. The water has such a nice nutty flavor/mouthfeel and is so good, I save it for other uses or find myself sipping it before it goes in the fridge. I would never sip ocean water.
                                                                                                        So back to my question, does anyone kinda go in between on salt levels with their pasta water?? For me it just needs taste, its covered in sauce after all, and I usually aim for the sauce to be on point salt-wise.

                                                                                                      2. Yes to salt; never, ever, EVER to oil.