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How to Salt Water

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 280
pasta noodles that have been cooked in perfectly salted water being pulled out of a pot with tongs
Photography by Gayle McLeod

You could simply add salt to your pot of cold water, but why not do it the right way and get the best your pasta and vegetables have to offer?!

Salted Water, A Step-By-Step Guide

We’ve heard the old adage, that the water you use to cook your pasta should be salty like the sea. This is because dried pasta noodles absorb salt as they boil, and properly seasoned food is the secret to tasty finished dishes. If you don’t have an Italian nonna in your life to teach you such lessons, we’re here to share our tips for salting water for pasta and cooking vegetables like broccoli. Keep in mind, you can over salt pasta water, especially if your pasta is going into a recipe with other salty additions (think capers and anchovies or even parmesan).

one tablespoon of salt in a small ball to use to salt water to cook pasta noodles

How To Salt Water For Pasta

It is possible to add too much salt to your pasta water, and we generally follow this water salt ratio for pasta: add 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt to 4 quarts of water for every 1 pound of pasta. When boiling or blanching vegetables (like broccoli), add 1½ teaspoons per quart of water. It is ideal to wait until your water is at a full boil before you add the salt. The boiling water will agitate the salt and it will dissolve more quickly. But you can add the salt to your cold water if it helps you to remember to add it! If you go this route, swirl the salt around in the water to help it dissolve.

one tablespoon of salt being poured into a pot filled with 4 quarts of water to use to cook pasta noodles

Types Of Salt For Salted Water

There’s a salt for everything, well, nearly everything! There’s salt that’s better for baking (any non-iodized salt), and salt that’s good for curing (pink salt), and salt that you can use to brine (Kosher salt), and salt that you keep on the table (the fine, uniformly-shaped table salt). And don’t get us started on the various gourmet salts out there (saffron and truffle salt are some of our favorites)! For salting water, we recommend using Kosher salt, and even then there’s quite a bit of variation in the size and saltiness amongst brands (Morton and Diamond are the most popular). You can also use fine sea salt, which is how Marcella Hazan, the doyenne of Italian cooking, would have salted her pasta water.

broccoli being blanched in perfectly salted water
pasta noodles being cooked in perfectly salted water

Tools You’ll Need

Now Let’s Cook With That Perfectly Salted Water

Are you ready to make all of the pasta? We thought so! Here’s some of our easy pasta dishes to get you started:

Feeling Salty?

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How to Salt Water

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 280

Ingredients

  • 4 quarts (16 cups) water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt (see note)
  • 1 pound dry pasta

Method

  1. Fill a large pot with the water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Stir in the salt. Return the water to a boil.

  2. Add the pasta and cook al dente according to the package instructions, stirring occasionally, reducing the heat to medium-high if it starts to boil over, about 9-11 minutes.

  3. Using a colander, drain the pasta. Serve immediately.


Note: if using Diamond Crystal salt increase to 1 ½ tablespoons.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories280
  • Protein11 g
  • Carbohydrates56 g
  • Total Fat1 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol24 mg
  • sodium196 mg
  • Total Sugars1 g

How to Salt Water

Questions & Reviews

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  • Jenn

    Very helpful, thanks for this!

    Glad we could help!