How Salty Should My Pasta Water Be?

Salting pasta water

Short answer
Our ultimate preference is a 0.7% salt-to-water ratio, but if you're not total culinary dorks like us, you can do a hell of a lot worse than just relying on a generous pinch.

Long answer
There’s a plethora of things that annoy Italian chefs when they see others incorrectly appropriating their cuisine. Putting pineapple on pizza, making carbonara with cream, drinking cappuccino after midday and snapping spaghetti in half before cooking will all – quite rightly in our opinion – be greeted with contempt.

But the one thing that annoys Italians more than anything else is under-salting (or even worse, not salting at all) your pasta water.

Just like Maggie Thatcher's pearls, salting the water you're about to cook your pasta in is non-negotiable. It’s crucial to have your pasta nicely seasoned or your dish will simply taste bland.

Traditional wisdom says to simmer your pasta in water as salty as the sea, but if you’ve ever swallowed a mouthful of the water off the Amalfi coast or cooked your pasta in water that has a 3.5% salinity, you’ll know that that’s just gross.

These days we're so used to cooking pasta that we tend to just eyeball how much salt to add. When we set about finding the perfect salt-to-water ratio though, we dusted off our trusty digital scales and cooked pasta in water with no salt up to water with 3.5% salt in 0.1% increments. (Told you we were dorks.)

For us, a 0.7% salt-to-water ratio is right on the money, but we vary the amounts a little either side of that depending what we are serving it with. If we’re serving our pasta with something already very salty - like pancetta, anchovies or 'nduja – we go easy on the salt. On the flipside, if we’re pairing our pasta with something naturally quite bland – like tofu or turkey – we may be a little more generous.

Ultimately, it’s completely down to personal preference, so you be you.

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