How Much Salt Should Pasta Water Have?

Salting pasta water

Short answer
Traditional wisdom says to cook pasta in water that is as salty as the sea, but if you've ever eaten pasta that has been cooked in water with a 3.5% salt-to-water ratio, you'll know that the result is completely inedible. Having conducted numerous tests, we've settled on a 0.5% salt-to-water ratio, although you may prefer a little more depending on your personal preference.

Long answer
There are a plethora of things that annoy Italian chefs when they see others appropriating their cuisine. Putting pineapple on pizza, making carbonara with cream, drinking cappuccino after midday, and snapping spaghetti in half before cooking will all 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, adding salt to 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 taste bland regardless of how flavourful your sauce is.

Traditional wisdom says to simmer your pasta in water as salty as the sea, but if you’ve ever swallowed a mouthful of sea water or cooked your pasta in water with 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 3.5% salt in 0.1% increments.

For us, a 0.5% salt-to-water ratio is perfect, but people who really love their salt may like to increase that to 1%. Any more than that, and we find the resulting pasta to be overseasoned. We tend to vary the amount a little depending on what we are serving our pasta with. If we’re pairing it with something already very salty, like pancetta or anchovies, we go easy on the salt. On the flip side, if we’re pairing our pasta with something naturally quite bland, like tofu or turkey, we may be a little more generous.

Percentage of salt in water

Water 0.5% salinity 0.75% salinity 1% salinity
1 litre 5g 7.5g 10g

Teaspoons of salt to water

Water 0.5% salinity 0.75% salinity 1% salinity
1 litre 1tsp 1.5tsp 2tsp