Monday, January 25, 2016

The Other Reason to Salt Pasta Water

By: Cecily Costa

Hopefully, we all know that seasoning pasta water will add more flavor to your dish. How much salt should you add to your pasta water? A common opinion is that the water should taste like salt water, or 1.5 tablespoons of salt to 1 pound of pasta. This will ensure your pasta is seasoned throughout and needs less added salt at the end.

The other reason for seasoning the pasta is to help reduce the gelation of the starch. The starch in pasta is the form of microscopic grains. When these grains come into contact with cold or lukewarm water, they become trapped (think cornstarch in cold water), but when the water is hot, they swell up like balloons and merge with each you starch gelation.

Does salt help with cooking time? Really, no. You would need to add a lot of salt (20% !) to make even a marginal difference of just a few degrees. What type of salt should you use? Anything except iodized salt because it can give off a metallic taste.

Some chefs believe you should salt boiling water only. Why? One, because the salt dissolves completely and thoroughly versus it being put into cold water and not dissolving completely. And secondly, salt corrodes metal so the longer the salt is in the pot, it might tarnish the finish.

So while you are seasoning your pasta water, you might want to add some acid (lemon or cream of tartar) to your pasta water too! Tap water in most cities is made alkaline (including the Bay area), which increases the starch loss from the pasta to the water, making the pasta stickier. Most tap water leans to the alkaline side of the chart. Adding some vinegar or lemon juice to water to raise its acidity will keep the pasta from sticking. How much? You'll have to experiment.

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