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Making Pasta and Boiling Water

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Most pasta package directions call for using four quarts of water to make a pound of dried pasta. Some chefs and articles I've read say that the water should return to a boil quickly after adding the pasta, or, better yet, not lose it's boil, which, on a typical kitchen stove, is nearly impossible to do - the heat produced by the burners isn't high enough and, it seems, that four quarts of water will lose some heat when the pasta is added, slowing a return to the boiling process. It would seem that using more water - perhaps a gallon or so - would retain more heat when the pasta is added and come back to a boil quicker, or, perhaps, not even go off boil. Any thoughts on this?

Another comment I hear frequently is that the water, when salted, should taste like sea water, yet I also hear that one need only add a Tbs of salt to the water. That sure doesn't taste like sea water to me <LOL>. So, just to get a point of reference, how much salt do you add to how much water when cooking pasta? And, if one wants the water to taste like sea water, might it be advantageous to use a reasonabvle quality sea salt instead of Kosher or table salt? Finally, since salt raises the boiling point of water to some small degree, would more salt raise the boiling point to a greater degree?

Shel
post #2 of 18
More water is definitely better for the exact reason you mentioned, bouncing back from the temperature change. Heat always travels to areas with lower heat, so the second you act pasta to the pot there's heat lost in the water. Mass is key here, in the same way cast iron is up to this same task in a skillet. Even if I'm only cooking small servings of pasta I usually use a decently-sized 4-8qt stock pot of water. Oh, and 1 gallon is 4 qts btw. ;)

RE: The salt issue, NaCl is NaCl. The only difference between Kosher and table is the granular size/shape, and since either will melt in the time it takes the water to boil it's a non-issue on which one to use. If you forgot and want to melt it quickly definitely reach for table salt, as it dissipates quicker in water, but both melt pretty quickly in liquid so again mostly a non-issue. On solid food that's a different story, but use whichever you like for pasta water. I've always been taught to heavily season the water (to the point of tasting salty), so that means a decent amount of salt for a normal stockpot of boiling water. 1 Tbs definitely won't cut it, and I imagine that recommendation is largely based on the anti-sodium movement which I'm not convinced much gets transferred to the pasta anyway (in this application it's more of a flavor enhancer than a salty-taste adder, which is the worst sentence I've ever written).

Good luck!
post #3 of 18
I don't use any salt when I make pasta.. I quit using it years ago and can honestly say I've not noticed any difference in how fast my water boils.. (Could be because I have gas burners tho..)

When I add the pasta I do it a bit at a time so the water stays as close to boiling as possible. If it does slow down then I top the pot with a lid for a few secs and that usually does the trick..

PS.. I though you might enjoy this Shel.. Bit of fun reading.. :D

What Einstein Told His Cook (Excerpt)
post #4 of 18
Great article, thanks!:chef:
Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
I know that 1-gal = 4-qts. Don't know why I typed that ... probalby an early AM protein defficiancy <LOL>

I understand about the kosher and regular salt, but I was wondering if using some sort of sea salt might add additional flavor to the pasta.

Thanks!

Shel
post #6 of 18

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Edited by Luc_H - 10/30/15 at 10:11pm
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks, I saw that last night ....

Shel
post #8 of 18
I don't know.................

I can look back for years and years in my mind and see the assortment of old italian women of my life standing at the huge, boiling pot with a tasting spoon in their hand and saying "the macs need more salt."

Not enough salt, the sauce will taste flat on the pasta.
post #9 of 18
I would always tell my daughter to add a lot of salt to the pasta water and when you think it's enough, add a bit more.

Actually, I think the Italian standard is that the water should taste like the Mediterranean Sea and as has been suggested, a TBS isn't enough. I would not waste a good sea salt in pasta water. You are going to end up throwing most of it down the drain when you drain the pasta.

I only ever use table salt to gargle with when I have a sore throat. I think the taste is too harsh in almost every culinary application. Whatever salt you use, add enough to the water, tasting it until you think it's enough (then add a bit more :smiles:)

Jock
post #10 of 18

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Edited by Luc_H - 10/30/15 at 10:09pm
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #11 of 18
Excellent article, Joyful.

The bigger the water:pasta ratio, naturally the quicker it comes back to the boil. Same as, for example, when you're deep frying, Try using a small oil:food ratio and you've seen it I'm sure, the temperature drops and takes ages to come back up to temp., and the result is awful.

As to the salt issue, yep, most of it goes down the drain. I salt after it boils before putting the pasta in. Salted water takes longer to boil than unsalted, so save on your power bill and salt after. The quantity - I try not to overdo it, but like to have some in there, it needs it.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #12 of 18
True in theory, but the real world difference isn't enough to measure. Go ahead and put the salt in any time before the pasta.

There are far more important things to worry about.
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Barilla - The choice of Italy

FWIW, according to Barilla, a pasta maker, the rule is "ten, one hundred, one thousand": the perfect ratio for cooking pasta is 10 g of salt, 100 g of pasta, 1 litre of water. It is important to remember that the salt must be added once the water has started to boil, turning down the heat slightly as you do.

Shel
post #14 of 18

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Edited by Luc_H - 10/30/15 at 10:07pm
I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #15 of 18
I agree, I used to be the same way, tasting as I went along for just the right amount of salt in anything I cooked.. Unfortunately now my DH and I are on sodium restricted diets..

I eliminate the salt from the pasta water so I won't feel so guilty adding a bit to my sauce..

All in all, trying to go as salt free as possible is a complete drag!
post #16 of 18
Too true CIC :)
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #17 of 18
I must be doing something wrong. I work at a frozen pasta manufacturer and we NEVER use salt when we cook our pasta. I have also found that I do not need to add extra salt to my sauces to account for the lack of salt in the pasta water. In my experience, pasta flavour should NOT be affected by the water. The flavour in the dish comes from the sauce. The only reason that I ever added salt to my pasta water was to ensure a consistant boil, as saline boils at a slightly higher temperature than unsalted water. Just my opinion though....
post #18 of 18

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Edited by Luc_H - 10/30/15 at 10:14pm
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