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Seasoning Pasta Water

Im new to this site and excited to be here. i am a young chef going to school and work in the Bill Roberts Corp. In Bloomfield Hills MI. I was always curious if there was any chemical reaction with the salt that is a must in cooking pasta either freshly made or store bought. hope to hear what you guys have to say

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  1. more or less is there an importance with the starches of pasta and salinity of the water,

    1. I'm not a chemist, but I have an Italian grandma---which some may say is even better when it comes to pasta!
      I don't know if there is any chemical reaction per se, but the salty water does flavor the pasta in a way that salting after cooking does not.

      Welcome to CH!

      3 Replies
      1. re: iluvcookies

        I go along with iluvcookies. Now for "seasoning " other than salt, I use clam broth to cook my linguini in whan making clam sauce, shrimp broth make from the shells (not heads) when making scampi, etc. Richer flavor.

        1. re: mudcat

          Sounds interesting. Do you drain the broth or reserve if for serving? And do you have enough to cook the pasta so it doesn't stick?
          When I make lingine with clam sauce, I cook the linguini until about 2/3 done and finish it in the sauce.

          1. re: iluvcookies

            I add non chlorinated water as needed to the broth. I do not cook the pasta in the sauce, I add the sauce to the drained pasta before seerving.

      2. Don't know about any "chemical reaction", but I no longer salt my pasta water as it's just one little step towards lowering our salt intake. And the pasta always comes out great, so go figure.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Bacardi1

          Same here. I've read elsewhere on this forum that the pasta water should be like sea water but i'm sensitive to salt and never put much more than a little pinch in. Now I just leave the salt out. My husband doesn't notice so we're good lol

          1. re: Bacardi1

            Amen. And it also comes out great without being in vast amounts of boiling water, which is just one little step towards conserving energy and natural resources: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/583856

            1. re: greygarious

              Thanks for pointing to that discussion. I was skeptical but am thrilled that it worked well for the two times I tried that method. Great savings!

              However, it will be another long time before I am convinced that I do not need salt in my pasta water!

          2. I thought it was more of a technical reason: Salty water has a slightly higher boiling point that non-salty water. So the water will be slightly hotter.

            I also will add Olive oil for spaghetti and fettuccine to try and stop it sticking together. - although I've also been told that avoiding fulling draining the pasta - leaving a slight amount of water in the bottom stops it getting sticky.

            22 Replies
            1. re: echoclerk

              NO! Don't add the oil to the water.It does nothing to help the pasta from sticking to itself. Oil and water do not mix so the oil just floats at the top of the pot. It only makes the pasta oily and prevents any sauce from adhering properly.
              Use plenty of water and stir well--it won't stick.

              1. re: iluvcookies

                Yeah I almost feel off the couch the other day. None other than the famous Gordon Ramsey poured olive oil on the pasta water. Goes to show that not everything GR does is the best way of doing things. Traditionally pasta was made fresh and adding salt to the water helped keep the pasta firm when cooking. Know with dried pasta the 'add salt' isn't necessary. There's also a quality issue. Cheap dried pasta won't be as firm as better quality pasta. The [picture of someone with limited resources having to buy cheap dried pasta and then having to add a bunch of salt so it wo'n't fall about compared to someone who never needs to worry about money so they buy more expensive pasta which means they don't need so much salt thereby living a healthier life style is disturbing to be. Examples like this are found everywhere when comparing poor and the wealthy. Today is a day of giving thanks for our blessings.

                1. re: Puffin3

                  even "expensive" dried pasta is less than $2 a box.

                  my b/f used to not salt his pasta water -- the stuff was flat and lifeless. awful.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    You need to get to the pasta selling stores more often LOL Try getting a box of say Del Verde for two bucks. There's a HUGE difference in dried pasta quality. The stuff they sell in 'bulk stores' is from a different culinary planet then high end pastas. Compare a plate of Del Verde along side a plate of 'bulk store' pasta.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      You're obviously not up on "expensive" pasta - lol!!

                      I pay as much as $6+ a bag for 12-16 ounces of terrific dried artisinal flavored pasta. And while Barilla is our daily "go to", the good stuff is worth every penny. ("Rossi" is our favorite artisinal brand http://www.rossipasta.com/category/Pa...)

                      1. re: Bacardi1

                        I shop in Italian markets in the NYC area and the best prices I can find are about $3 per 500 grm. or 1 pound bag of first-quality imported pasta. Night and day between these and most supermarket brands. For $2 I could find Barilla made in Italy, but that would not be in a normal supermarket, which would only carry Barilla made in the MidWest US.
                        The two are not alike.

                        Pasta cooked in non-salted water tastes flat to me. This goes for both freshly made pasta, and dried. I add about a quarter cup of kosher salt to my pot of boiling water. Do not measure, just pour it in. I forgot to add salt a few months ago; had to throw out the pasta and begin again. Now I keep the jar of kosher salt near the stove when I begin boiling the water.

                        I also save a cup or so of water from the pot on the infrequent occasions that I have leftover pasta--I use this for reheating the pasta. Much different than using regular tap water.

                        NEVER add oil to the boiling pasta water, as noted above, it will prevent the sauce from adhering.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        Really? I live in Canada and my small city has a sizeable Italian population. There are many types of dried pasta shapes available, both Canadian made and imported from Italy. Prices range from $.99 to upwards of $7 or 8 for some imported brands. I've bought both and while both produce perfectly decent pasta, some of the pricier brands are more toothsome. They're worth a comparison test for any cook that doesn't mind the occasional splurge.

                      3. re: Puffin3

                        >>None other than the famous Gordon Ramsey poured olive oil on the pasta water. <<

                        I saw Ina do it once, too, on an ep of Barefoot.

                        1. re: Jay F

                          I can just picture what my grandma would say to them... "What are do doing? Are you an idiot? Get out of my kitchen until you learn to cook. How do these people get on TV anyway, they aren't anything like that nice tall French lady".
                          And by "nice tall French lady", she means Julia, who I know is not actually French.

                      4. re: iluvcookies

                        D'accordo (I agree)! I think the myth of adding olive oil came about as a suggestion that it prevented the water from boiling over the top of the pot. I may have learned of this in my 20s, and I'm in my 70's now. We never waste olive oil by adding it to water.

                        Buona appetito! Buona festa di ringraziamento!

                        1. re: iluvcookies

                          Oil on the pasta water doesn't do anything to keep the pasta from sticking, ut it does retard the chance of the boil over. It keeps the bubbles from forming.

                          1. re: John E.

                            I've never had a problem with boil over... I just reduce the heat a little.

                            1. re: iluvcookies

                              Haven't you ever walked away from the stove with the burner still on high after adding and stirring the pasta? I don't do it often, but I have done it. (And I don't add oil to the water).

                                1. re: John E.

                                  I turn the burner down to medium after I have added and stirred the pasta to prevent it from boiling over. It is still plenty hot to keep a rolling boil but it wont boil over if I am not watching it.

                                  I use 1-2 tsps of salt per gallon of water, but the best pasta is cooked in lightly salted veggie stock. Chicken stock is great, if you're not serving vegetarians.

                                  1. re: Kelli2006

                                    I use a good handful of salt per gallon of water.

                            2. re: iluvcookies

                              You're exactly right. No oil.

                              And yes to salt.

                              1. re: iluvcookies

                                And make sure the water is at a nice full boil. No oil or butter, and use at least a gallon of water per pound of pasta. Those are my mantras and they work for me.

                              2. re: echoclerk

                                The boiling point of water is raised only very slightly by adding the amount of salt you would use for pasta. A couple degrees C at most, and often less than 1 degree. The difference in how pasta cooks is trivial, and dwarfed by other factors that aren't really considered very important either (your stove, the pot you use, the exact ratio of water to pasta, etc). This is easy to test yourself - boil water and check the temp with a good thermometer. Add salt, stir, let it come up to a rolling boil again (if it stopped boiling in the first place) and then recheck the temp. Very little difference.

                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                  I usually add salt -- a LOT of salt -- as soon as I put the pot of water on the burner. If I hold the open container of Diamond Kosher Salt directly over a pot of boiling water, a portion of what stays in the container clumps. I'm never in such a rush that the minute or two I would otherwise save is much of a matter.

                                  1. re: Jay F

                                    I'm not opposed to adding salt - I do it myself. I was just pointing out that you do it for flavor, not to raise the boiling point.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      Yes. I was basically agreeing with you. The boiling point isn't important to me--just the flavor.

                              3. You salt the water to season your pasta, the same as you would salt anything you are preparing. As the pasta cooks it pulls the salt from the water into itself. Generally any time you are cooking a dish in water it should be seasoned with salt. The one exception would be stock, because the salt levels could throw off the finished dish.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Zalbar

                                  Agreed, it is solely so the Pasta absorbs some Salt. There is no Chemical reaction and the amount that it changes the boiling point of the Water is insignificant.

                                  1. re: Zalbar

                                    The best reason I can think of for salting the water is the same one that applies to bean-soaking water: it actually reduces the amount of salt necessary to enhance the flavor. After I started adding salt to my bean-soaking water (thanks, Harold McGee!) I found that the cooked beans needed little or none added. Pasta is the same way. Even Mrs. O the Salt Queen rarely if ever adds any to her plate.

                                  2. I feel that salted water does improve the flavor of pasta and agree that it acts differently than salting afterward.

                                    I often toss a clove or two of garlic in the pasta water, depending on the end dish. Same thing applies to couscous and grains- when making rice, barley, millet, etc I'll sometimes add a sprig of thyme or tarragon or dill or rosemary or mint or toss a dried bay leaf into the water for a bit of subtle herbal flavor.

                                    I like mudcat's idea of using flavored broths for pasta to be used with seafood too; don't know why I never heard that one before.

                                    And there's a compromise for the oil issue: you can prevent boilovers and still have good sauce adhesion later on by rubbing the side of the pot with just a little oil.

                                    1. Growing up, salting water for spaghetti was a few shakes from salt shaker?? NOW know that that was NOT enough!! I easily put a heaping TBSP of salt into water... so it tastes salty... most of that salt will go down drain, but pasta will have a better flavor.

                                      We also put a little oil in water... to keep from sticking together and boiling over?? Alton Brown did a show on this topic... very scientific as he usually was. Difference in amount of oil that went into water and what was retrieved after cooling... not really measurable.

                                      Have recently developed a preference for any kinida pasta "rigatti"... seems to hold onto sauces better.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: kseiverd

                                        I was taught that the Water should be as Salty as the Ocean for blanching as well as boiling Pasta.

                                        1. re: kseiverd

                                          Same here, I put in what must be about a TBSP. As Zalbar says above, the dried pasta rehydrates in the water and sucks up the salt, which makes it tasty.

                                        2. NEVER put oil in the water. It won't boil over if you don't cover the pot, and adding oil will prevent the sauce from adhering to the pasta.

                                          But this is really, really old news...

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            Adding oil to the pasta water is not needed to keep the pasta from sticking to itself. If the pasta and pasta water is poured through a colander, it also has little effect on whether or not the sauce will stick to the pasta because the oil is on top of the water and goes right down the drain before the pasta is out of the pot. I think the idea of the sauce not sticking to the pasta because of oil is one of those ideas that many believe without any empirical evidence. Besides that, what kind of pasta? What kind of sauce?

                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                  not exactly, adding oil to the pot breaks up the surface tension, which is what causes the water to boil over. That's really the only use of it. I just take a chopstick and put it in the pot, does the same thing.

                                                  1. re: Zalbar

                                                    There are so many other ways to keep it from boiling over, which in my experience is not a usually a problem, that it is still a waste of oil.

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                I'm not entirely sure what your point is. We seem to agree on one fact, namely, that oil is not needed to keep the pasta from sticking, especially since -- as per your claim -- the oil is only on the surface of the water, rendering it completely useless. You don't touch on some people's idea that adding oil keeps the pot from boiling over, which doesn't happen if one doesn't cover the pot (who *does* that, anyway??).

                                                What kind of pasta, what kind of sauce seems to be pretty irrelevant to the discussion.

                                                1. re: linguafood

                                                  My point is that putting oil in the pasta water does not make it so the sauce will not stick to the pastabecause it is on top of the water and is poured out first. If the kettle has too much water and the. Urner is left on high it most certainly can boil over without a lid. There are other factors that come into play when discussing pasta and sauce sticking or not sticking, such as the consistency of the sauce and the surface of the pasta as well as the shape. Blanket statements rarely apply in all situations.

                                            1. Pasta cooking water should be salted to avoid a flat taste, but should not be like seawater, which is too salty. According to Michael Ruhlman in The Elements of Cooking, "pasta water should taste like properly seasoned soup." He suggests two to three tbsp. of kosher salt per gallon of water. This is consistent with body chemistry. "Normal saline" for medical use is three tbsp. per gallon.

                                              Excessive sodium intake mostly comes from processed foods such as canned soup, not from home cooking. I don't believe you need to eat unsalted pasta in order to limit your sodium intake.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                The thing is that I'm never eating pasta plain. It's always going to be tossed with some type of sauce, or even just a good olive oil or butter. So it's never going to taste "flat" due to my not salting the water. And since the pasta does absorb the water, it's also absorbing the salt in the water. I don't feel we need that.

                                                But as I frequently say here ad nauseum - it all boils down to personal preference. Want to salt your pasta water & feel it improves the flavor of the pasta? Go right ahead. But at the same time, it's not necessary if you don't want to do it.

                                              2. I don't know if it's a chemical reaction with salt, but when pasta cooks the starches swell and gelatinize taking up water. The theory behind salting the water is salt will be absorbed by the pasta, hence "flavoring" the pasta.

                                                I've cooked pasta in salty water and in plain water with no noticeable difference. However, I've never tried a side by side comparison to see if there is a difference.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: dave_c

                                                  I have never *not* salted my pasta water, but I did once have lunch at a place that obviously had not salted its pasta water. And it was oh, so obvious when I tasted my plate of their square-ish, house-made angel hair.

                                                2. I've never made fresh pasta so I'm not familiar with the recipe for pasta dough but why not just add salt to the pasta dough itself? Or does this lead to a chemical reaction such as hindering gluten development or something? I'm not home so I can't check my store-bought pasta but do those contain salt in their ingredients?

                                                  8 Replies
                                                  1. re: seamunky

                                                    I do put salt in my pasta dough.

                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                      do you still season the cooking water?

                                                      1. re: seamunky

                                                        I make my own pasta and add salt to the dough; not only that, but sometimes I add pulverized dried mushrooms or some other umami-ness to the dough. Even so I still season my water with salt. Just not a lot.

                                                        1. re: seamunky

                                                          In that case, I think not, or at least not much. (I haven't made my own pasta in so long, I honestly don't remember.)

                                                      2. re: seamunky

                                                        I looked at a bag of imported pasta in my cupboard; it is not made with salt.

                                                        1. re: erica

                                                          No salt on the ingredient list of my box of Barilla either.

                                                          1. re: iluvcookies

                                                            Well, then, erica and iluvcookies, please do not add salt to your homemade pasta. By no means should you ever do so. God knows there is only one way to do things.

                                                            1. re: Jay F

                                                              I was simply answering the question of wheher or not there was salt in store bought pasta. Putting salt in homemade fresh pasta dough is another thing entirely. And for the record, when I do make fresh pasta, I put in a small amount of salt.

                                                      3. One belief out there is that salt inhibits starch gelation, making pasta less sticky.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                          I got the idea from Giuliano Bugialli who said, IIRC, that it helps pasta to not crack after it dries. Maybe that's basically what you're talking about, FP?

                                                          1. re: Jay F

                                                            I'm going off of Harold McGee, who doesn't explain why (perhaps in another part of the book which I didn't check?) but says that salt in the water inhibits gelation of the starch on the surface of the pasta. So, it supposedly decreases how gummy/gluey cooked pasta becomes as it cools after cooking.

                                                        2. I never saw the point in adding oil to boil pasta. It's a waste of time and money and creates a messier clean-up.

                                                          Similarly, I am planning to break the habit of adding salt to the water as well for the sake of saving money. Why add a teaspoon of salt to the water when you can instead just add a fraction of that amount, e.g. a pinch, to your sauce to accommodate the extra bulk of the added pasta?

                                                          Celebrity chefs are out to sell products. You have to be careful about a lot of their new gimmicks. For example, I don't buy into the whole kosher salt fad. I use rock salt like many traditional ethnic groups. Food is no longer cheap, not even oil or salt, so you should try to cut out unnecessary waste.

                                                          For those who have the extra cash to burn, if you are going to salt your water, I have a good tip for you. I read that adding salt to the water too early will develop an odd flavor when it is overheated even in short time and those who are sensitive can detect it. To avoid this, add the salt to the water right before you add the pasta.

                                                          At least we are all on the same page now about never rinsing pasta after cooking. Also if you are really old school at heart like me, try making homemade pasta (read my previous posts).

                                                          19 Replies
                                                          1. re: amateurcook2

                                                            The reason pasta water is salted is so that the salt will be absorbed into the pasta to balance the taste. Ideally, there should be uniform saltiness throughout the dish, whether pasta or sauce. If you rely only on the sauce for the seasoning, the pasta will taste bland, particularly to those who prefer to use less sauce. There is also a question of consistency. How would you season a simple pasta with olive oil and basil? Seasoning it the same regardless of sauce is easiest.

                                                            Salt is pretty cheap. You can save more money by leaving out basil and all the other herbs you might use to make food tasty. For that matter, you can leave out the sauce!

                                                            I don't believe the part about "overheating" the salt. Salt is added later, when the water is hotter, so that it will dissolve faster. Salt sitting on the bottom can cause pitting of the surface.

                                                            1. re: amateurcook2

                                                              I don't tend to salt my pasta water until it is boiling. And the money spent on what I consider to be a basic staple is minimal.

                                                              1. re: amateurcook2

                                                                Kosher salt is a fad? Really. It's been around for years...
                                                                And I'm not sure how much money can really be saved by using a few teaspoons less of salt per week. A large box of kosher salt is about $2, and I go through maybe 2 boxes per YEAR. It's a lot cheaper to use the right amount of salt than not enjoy an entire dish because of improper easoning.

                                                                1. re: iluvcookies

                                                                  Pasta water is one of the times I do not use kosher salt and use regular iodized salt. It's about .33¢ for one of those round boxes at Aldi. (a round box?)

                                                                2. re: amateurcook2

                                                                  I've recently been experimenting with how to make homemade pasta and had a lot of beginner's luck. It contains a minimal amount of salt in the recipe for the pasta dough.

                                                                  I just tested out not salting the water for cooking my homemade pasta and surprisingly, I found that it is more desirable to not salt the water. The pasta tastes unadulterated, which is perfect after I went through all the trouble of making it fresh with herbs (e.g. curly parsley...yes, I know that flat parsley is the new fad, but like I said, I'm going back to old school curly parsley because it has a stronger flavor which is perfect for making homemade pasta) inside the pasta dough.

                                                                  This worked because the sauce that I used for pasta had plenty of salt from the freshly grated parmesan cheese. My sauce was made with fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic, green peppers (optional) and mushrooms (sauteed separately with garlic oil and 1/4 tsp of rock salt then combined with sauce right before serving). Now I think salt masks the flavors of the other ingredients that you want to shine through. Therefore, the less salt, the better.

                                                                  The money you save is better spent on fresh herbs like thyme and oregano, which I used in the sauce, and parsley, which was in the homemade pasta. I also added a tiny pinch of crushed red pepper (from whole dried chile crushed with mortar and pestle). Spending money and resources that is used to mine salt to make your food taste worse is counterproductive. Looking back, salt added the ick factor that you try to overcompensate with other ingredients in the sauce. Now I don't have that extra burden and only have flavor, flavor, flavor when I only use salt very minimally.

                                                                  According to expert vegetarian (I'm not vegetarian) chef Deborah Madison (got her cookbook at a yard sale), the salt can develop an odd taste when you boil it even for a short period of time. Looking back and having done this experiment with no salt, even though she did instruct to put salt in the water right before cooking pasta, I would have to agree that overheated salt can make your pasta taste unpleasant. Never again.

                                                                  1. re: amateurcook2

                                                                    1. What is "rock salt"? BITD, my father used to sprinkle something by that name on the driveway and sidewalks after we cleared the snow. But that came in much larger chunks than you'd use to salt water for pasta.

                                                                    2. You must be buying some expensive salt if, by not buying it, you can pay for a plastic pack of thyme and oregano ($3 x 2 = $6) plus another $2 for parsley.

                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                      In America, I think that another name for rock salt is coarse salt. In places like Mexico, it is the most common form used and unlike in the U.S., it was relatively cheap. You could get a 5-pound bag unrefined coarse salt for about $1. Now I only use fine granular sea salt (non-iodized; you only need iodized if you have low iodine in your diet, which is not very common) for baking and homemade pasta.

                                                                      The rock salt is more expensive ($2 - 3), but like I said, I use it sparingly now. Surprisingly, fresh thyme, oregano and sage come in very small packets for only $1 each. They last me for at least 1 month. Same goes for fresh parsley is only $1 for a large bunch. It's funny by how much you inflated the prices to try to prove your point and criticize my suggestions.

                                                                      I understand prices vary according to location and for the high prices you stated, I don't think that it would be worth it, except for special occasions. I thought the same as you until I actually went and checked the prices, tried them and concluded that it was worth the relatively inexpensive price for fresh versus dried herbs. Try ethnic stores or areas for cheaper prices. If I had the luxury of space and time, I would grow them myself.

                                                                      1. re: amateurcook2

                                                                        < Surprisingly, fresh thyme, oregano and sage come in very small packets for only $1 each. They last me for at least 1 month. Same goes for fresh parsley is only $1 for a large bunch. It's funny by how much you inflated the prices to try to prove your point and criticize my suggestions.>

                                                                        I didn't "inflate" anything. Fresh thyme comes in plastic packets that cost $3 where I live. I don't buy oregano, but I imagine it costs the same. I think they're all $2.99.

                                                                        And parsley costs $1.79.

                                                                        I live in an apartment with a northern exposure and only 60 or so days of sun each year, so growing my own is out.

                                                                        Again, nothing "inflated." I don't know why you feel defensive; I was hardly criticizing you. Fresh herbs are expensive.

                                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                                          Jay F, I don't know if you have ShopRite supermarkets near you, but that's where I found those fresh herbs at a relatively inexpensive cost. I've seen them in ethnic stores or open markets for the same low price and you get even more volume of herbs per package.

                                                                          Keep looking...it's so worth it if you can find the fresh herbs at these low prices.

                                                                          1. re: amateurcook2

                                                                            No, though I grew up in Shop Rite territory. I'm in PA, where my choices are mainly the local chain monopolist or Whole Foods.

                                                                            1. re: Jay F

                                                                              Yes, I understand. Don't get me started on the price gouging of our food, oil/gas, housing, etc. This is why I try to go old school and prepare my own foods instead of getting into the habit of grabbing packaged foods.

                                                                              For example, if they charge you beyond the $1 for the fresh herbs, I would not buy it, just out of rebellion. Even the $1 per package of herbs is too much because in the past you could get 4 times the amount for the same price. Luckily I wouldn't use it all up anyway, so I'm OK with the cost for how many meals I squeeze out of it in a month.

                                                                            2. re: amateurcook2

                                                                              I'd like to know how you keep the herbs fresh for a month.

                                                                              1. re: iluvcookies

                                                                                The fresh herbs come in a very small plastic container and there does not seem to be much moisture, which I'm assuming accounts for why it does not spoil very quickly.

                                                                                Even when I purchase the herbs a couple of days before the supposed expiration date, it still lasts for 1 month. What surprised me even more is these herbs originated from Mexico so you can imagine the time for transport, etc. in addition to the 1 month that it lasts in my refrigerator.

                                                                                I pretty much just keep it in the original plastic container and store it in the refrigerator. I don't even wash it before using it, which I think is a general rule anyway (I just recently saw that same tip for basil, can't recall where, but the guy was adamant about that when he was topping pizza with fresh basil to serve...oh no, here it comes, the outcry, LOL! I cringed at first, but just try to think of it in the same way as recommendations to not wash mushrooms).

                                                                      2. re: amateurcook2

                                                                        Flat leaf parsley a 30year "New Fad"

                                                                        "salt can develop an odd taste when you boil" Hogwash
                                                                        There is no such thing as "over heated salt" and dissolved in water it does not get any hotter than 214F any way. When you bake things in salt crusts the salt reaches much higher temps than that with no ill effect.

                                                                        Salt is a flavor enhancer which serves to brighten flavors in general with added benefit of counter balancing bitter and sweet.

                                                                        “The ability to salt food properly is the single most important skill in cooking” Thomas Keller

                                                                        1. re: chefj

                                                                          Curly parsley was popular before flat leaf parsley became all the rage. I bought into the flat leaf parsley for about 20 years now, but I recently questioned why the celebrity chefs insist on flat leaf parsley over curly.

                                                                          All I had to do was just taste it and do a side-by-side comparison for my homemade pasta and now it's back to old school curly parsley for me. I wish that I had never completely dismissed the curly parsley. My homemade pasta would not be as flavorful without it.

                                                                          The truth is I never really liked the parsley taste when I was young, so flat leaf parsley, which is slightly milder, helped me to acquire a taste for it in general. Now that I actually like it and have developed greater appreciation for certain herbs and spices, I can tolerate and now prefer the stronger curly parsley taste, especially for Italian dishes.

                                                                          Anything that is not old school, I consider a new fad. I believe everybody eventually yearns for what was once good like seeded watermelon, grapes, tomatoes, etc. Fortunately curly parsley has not been genetically modified to become obsolete yet and I can enjoy it for however long it is still available.

                                                                          1. re: amateurcook2

                                                                            Curly Parsley was not popular before Flat leaf. Flat leaf parley was not readily available in the US until 20 or 30 years ago.It has been very popular and preferred in the Mediterranean, Europe and the Mideast for millenniums. Calling something a Fad has negative connotations and insinuates that it is based on popularity not practicality. I do not like the flavor or texture of Curly Parsley but would not describe your like of at a delusion.

                                                                            Which Parsley is more flavorful is of great debate.
                                                                            Flat leaf contains more Apiol and Curly more Myristicin.

                                                                            1. re: chefj

                                                                              I'm mostly referring to curly parsley for use in reference to Italian dishes.

                                                                              When I put curly parsley in my homemade pasta, I very finely chop it so the texture difference becomes irrelevant compared to flat leaf.

                                                                              One of my family members is married to an Italian and they always used fresh curly parsley. Regardless, it all boiled down to me taste testing everything for myself and as usual, I find myself returning back to old school.

                                                                              1. re: amateurcook2

                                                                                Curly Parsley is not "Old School" Especially when referring to Italian food. Flat leaf Parsley's Botanical name is P. crispum neapolitanum (Naples) and commonly referred to as Italian Parsley.
                                                                                It's earliest references are in the Greek. Which is Petroselinon which translated is Rock Celery because of where it grew and that its leaves looked like Celery Leaves. Flat leaf Parsley leaves look like Celery leaves, Curly Parsley leaves do not.

                                                                                1. re: chefj

                                                                                  I think that you are taking me too literally. "Old" is all relative. Old school in the way that I'm using it is what I first knew from growing up, my old schooling and what I've read from vintage Italian cookbooks, let's say from 1960's or even before with Italian immigrants (American Italians). I've never sat down and asked them what parsley was used in Italy, but just observed them using the curly parsley in America. It has worked fine for them and it is more than satisfactory for me now that I am making more homemade Italian dishes and pastas. No more flat leaf parsley for me in Italian dishes.

                                                                                  I'm not talking or caring about ancient times or whatever happened in Naples, etc. (by the way, I doubt if the flat leaf parsley available in America is the same or as good as Naples or other countries, so your argument is not a practical one if the old old school one (according to you) is not available in America). There is no way for me to know what happened in those times and even if they used flat leaf parsley, I said "regardless." To me, it is all about personal taste and I am very glad that I revisited the curly parsley, which has not been en vogue for a long time now after perhaps a resurgence according to you by Italian Americans since at least the 1960's (just a random guess from as far back as I can remember reading in cookbooks or even earlier; just saying because I know that you are going to use this random date as another point of argument to discredit my words).

                                                                                  My main point here is to open up some minds to not always follow the crowd. Find new ideas, even if they are suggestions to revisit "old" ones, test things and decide for your own personal taste. At this point, you are just nitpicking my words because you just want to counterargue for the sake of arguing. Everything I've said is more of an opinion, personal preference and recollection of my experiences, so you can relax with all the fact checks and word splicing.

                                                                    2. I don't think anyone answered this - apologies if so: Salt raises the thermal temp of the water. Water boils (no salt)at 212 F at sea level. So it boils at a higher temperature and therefor freezes at a lower temperature. The exact measurements I do not know. I add enough salt to get the taste of the sea (as others have said). Once water is at a boil it will not get any hotter. Simmer and rapid boiling is the same temperature. The extra energy in a rolling boil is released thru steam. When you put the water under pressure (like in a pressure cooker) it can get hotter than 212 (it goes to about 250 degrees F) - that is why it cooks faster.

                                                                      OK science hat off...

                                                                      And I use the starchy pasta water sometimes to augment my sauce.

                                                                      Welcome to Chow and good luck in school and work. Curiosity is a good thing!

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                        "The taste of the sea" is too salty. Balanced seasoning is neither bland nor salty.

                                                                      2. This isn't by any means a scientifically based opinion but when I lived in S. France the old ladies told my mom she should add enough salt to make the fresh water taste like the Mediterranean sea. It was common to see the old ladies dipping a bucket into the sea and taking the water home to cook with. Maybe there's some long distant past connection. I did the math a long time ago and determined I'd have to add a TON of salt to equal the salt content of the sea.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                                                          Yes, the time worn "as salty as the sea" recommendation for pasta water is completely bogus. The Mediterranean is ~3.8% salt (38 grams per kilogram of water). If you are using 4 liters (about a gallon) to cook your pasta you would need 152 grams of salt to make your water as salty as the Med. This works out to half a cup of regular table salt or a little over 1 cup of Diamond Kosher. (Mass to volume conversions take from http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...


                                                                          Yes, in my opinion pasta water should definitely be well salted buts let's put to death the phrase "as salty as the sea".

                                                                          1. re: kmcarr

                                                                            Sometimes I laugh reading Chow. Folks will crab about the oddest things. I think it simply means make the water plenty salty, not go find out the exact salinity of the nearby sea and match it.

                                                                            Stab the saying in the heart, dig a hole and bury it in your own back yard. I will send flowers. But the regular side of me will just continue to make pasta water plenty salty.

                                                                            If I see you around and happen to be talking salty pasta water I will put an imaginary star next to the sentence to reference the non literal caveat.

                                                                            Thank you for the giggle. I needed it just then.

                                                                            1. re: Sal Vanilla


                                                                              Yes, I know I was being hyper-pedantic. I'm happy you got a giggle. Cheers.

                                                                        2. A properly made pasta shouldn't have salt *in* the dough because you can't taste it (though it is often in there in store bought pastas as a preservative.) Iodized salt will turn the dough grayish after a few hours.

                                                                          The correct proportions of salt to water is 1 tbsp kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tsp regular salt) to 4 cups of water.

                                                                          Contrary to popular belief, you also don't need a million gallons of water to boil pasta. The extra flour on fresh pasta should thicken the water into almost a very thin "gravy" like consistency. Never drain the pasta, always scoop it out of the water because that "gravy" water will salt the pasta and make the sauce stick, giving it a wonderful creamy consistency.

                                                                          All that said, if you're using dried store bought boxed pasta, there's no flour on the outside of it so ignore everything I just said. Besides, it'd taste like card board anyways. :P

                                                                          Here's a blog post with a video where I talk about this (fast forward to 19:47 to learn about properly cooking pasta: http://christophercooks.blogspot.com/...

                                                                          9 Replies
                                                                          1. re: JetLaggedChef

                                                                            Every Italian Pasta Dough recipe has salt in it.
                                                                            Are you just making this stuff up?

                                                                            1. re: chefj

                                                                              Well somebody should let the Italians know they're doing it wrong. :)

                                                                              I think you might be confusing American (or English?) pasta dough recipes with "Italian" pasta dough recipes.

                                                                              In no region of Italy during any cooking class did any chef ever put salt in their dough. From personal experience, I've tried it both ways and you absolutely cannot taste it inside the pasta.

                                                                                1. re: chefj

                                                                                  I bet you could :)

                                                                                  There's a lot of what I call "ham logic" in cooking.

                                                                                  A girl called her mom to get her grandmother's delicious ham recipe. One of the steps was to cut off the back of the ham. "Why?" asked the girl. "It has something to do with giving heat a way to get in or something like that. I do it that way because that's how I learned to do it," answered her mom.

                                                                                  A few weeks later while visiting her grandmother, she asked about this unusual step. "My oven is small so I cut off the back of the ham so it'll fit," explained her grandmother.

                                                                                  Ham logic.


                                                                                  1. re: chefj

                                                                                    a quick google for hazan, bastianich and batali: no salt in pasta dough. pizza dough or focaccia? yes. but not pasta.

                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                                      If you look at Italian cooking sites and recipes almost all the recipes call for Salt in the Dough.

                                                                                      1. re: chefj

                                                                                        Whatever the case, just don't use idolized salt as it will turn your dough grayish unless you dry and use within hours.

                                                                                        Scientific fact. :)

                                                                                        1. re: chefj

                                                                                          i no longer eat it and haven't made it in forever. my grandfather didn't use salt. my point only is there is not ONE way, even amongst italians.

                                                                                  2. re: chefj

                                                                                    Relatively few Italian doughs contain salt and the few that do contain only a small amount.

                                                                                    The Italian formula for the cooking water is 1 liter of water and 10 grams of coarse salt per 100 grams of pasta. Occasionally someone will attempt a scientific justification, but it is really about the taste. Pasta does not taste right without salt in the water. It will never get enough salt from the sauce. Some people will swear it tastes fine without salt, but they are a small minority.

                                                                                    And while we're at it, oil is not used in cooking pasta with occasional exceptions, such as fresh sheets of lasagna, which are cooked for only a short time and have an annoying tendency to stick together. Oil has no place in normal cooking of pasta.