Eminently popular among Italian food lovers, pasta is a staple food for most people around the world. Mainly comprised of wheat flour and water, (eggs too sometimes) a wide range of dishes can be made from pasta. The most popular dishes include the Fettuccine Alfredo, Lasagna, Spaghetti Bolognese, Carbonara, Four Cheese Pasta, Chicken pasta and Pesto Pasta. The list however, can go on and on.
Nevertheless, pasta can also be made from whole grains instead of wheat. Many industrial manufacturers often formulate two or more grains together to bring in a different texture and taste to the usual pasta found in your grocery stores. And each of these pastas can be transformed into a wide range of mouth-watering dishes.
Even though most people make pasta at home on a regular basis, there is this key ingredient that a lot of them often miss out or add in a minimal amount. This key ingredient, salt, is a staple in every kitchen pantry and without it, any dish would be bland and incomplete. While some people worry too much and add only a pinch of it into the pasta water, others end up using an excessive amount making the pasta way too bitter.
The Ratio Method
In order to find a permanent solution to this problem, you can use the ‘1:1:4’ ratio method which will ensure that your pasta has the right amount of salt in it. The 1:1:4 ratio comprises of 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 pound of dry pasta (450 grams) and 4 quarts of water (16 cups).
- Take a pot large enough to sink in 450 grams of pasta in 16 cups of water.
- Fill the pot with water and wait till it starts boiling.
- Sprinkle the salt (exactly 1 tablespoon) into the bubbling water and use a spatula to stir it even.
- After the salt has dissolved, dump all the pasta into the pot. Stir it from time to time. Lower the heat at this point so that the pasta has enough time to be cooked properly.
- Once the pasta is ready, drain the rest of the water into the sink.
- Cook it the way you want using your culinary skills after you have drained off all the water and serve it right away.
You can use any kind of pasta following the same ratio. If you want to double or triple the amount of the pasta, do the math and use the correct amounts of salt and water while boiling it. However, you should keep in mind that different salts have different densities. Your regular table salt is way different from kosher salt or any other salt for that matter.
If you plan on using sea salt or table salt, add exactly one tablespoon of it if you’re following the 1:1:4 ratio. If you prefer kosher salt, 1.5 tablespoons would be the right amount of salt to be used in your pasta. Otherwise, you can experiment using different amounts of salt from time to time in order to find out the right proportion for you because taste differs from one person to another.
The Perfect Time for Seasoning Pasta Water
Usually, when the water in your pot is bubbling or at a rolling boil, that is the perfect time for you to add the salt. The intensity of the hot water will allow the salt to dissolve quickly and you will be able to boil the pasta in no time.
But if you prefer to put the salt in cold water, you can apply that method too. Though it will take some time for the salt to dissolve, it won’t make much of a difference to the pasta. However, you should be careful while adding the salt because some pots cause vigorous reactions with an excessive amount of salt. Hence, dissolve the salt properly.
The Dos & Don’ts
- If you ever forget to add the salt in your pasta, never add the salt after you are done cooking it. This will risk the presence of salt lumps in your pasta and you will be able to feel the salt crystals in your mouth. The salt will not dissolve into the pasta and it will eventually taste bitter and horrible. The only solution to this problem would be to add the salt right after you have drained off the water after boiling the pasta. The pasta is still hot at that time and the salt will melt down immediately after being added to it. However, if you have already finished cooking your pasta and served it, you can try adding more sauce or cheese to slightly make up for the absence of salt, even though it would make negligible difference to it.
- The ingredients in your dish also play a vital role in the amount of salt that you’ll be adding in your pasta water. If you plan on adding a lot of chicken or vegetables into the dish, you will need to add more salt in order to season it. Since the other items in your pasta will also soak up some of the salt leaving the pasta bland and tasteless.
- As mentioned before, the type of salt you use also holds an important key to bringing your pasta into perfection. Due to the various densities of the salt, you will need to figure out the right concentrations by testing different amounts from time to time.
While adding the right concentration of salt may not be a hard task for people who cook on a regular basis, it is a big deal for people who cook occasionally. For them, the ratio method would be the best way to season the pasta water because it contains the accurate amount of salt, water and pasta that needs to be used. Once you have familiarized yourself with the method and got a nice grip to it, you will have mastered the art of making the most flavourful and succulent pasta in no time!