May 11, 2013

Boiling Spaghetti without Salt/スパゲティを塩なしで茹でる

I have learned great news today. This site (Japanese only) says that it's not necessary to add salt when boiling spaghetti. This is a finding of NAGAO Keiko, Prefessor of the Graduate School of Home Economics of Tokyo Kasei University.

The reason for adding salt to water when boiling spaghetti is said to make the spaghetti firm. A common way to boil spaghetti is to boil ten times as much water as spaghetti in weight and add salt 0.5 to 1% of the water to boil the spaghetti.

Adding such a low percentage of salt to water does NOT change the elasticity of the spaghetti, keep the protein in the spaghetti, or raise the boiling point of the water.






Sissi said...

Hiroyuki, I add salt to spaghetti because otherwise it simply tastes bad. I have never heard about firmness and can very well believe what you have heard.
I once have forgotten to salt pasta and it was awful, even with lots of sauce (and everyone has noticed!).
Italian standard way to cook pasta is as you say 10 g salt, 100 g pasta and 1 liter water. (And no oil added to water! This is apparently a big mistake, but often seen abroad...).

Anonymous said...

I don't use salt because I like to taste the natural sweetness of the pasta.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: Actually, I have boiled spaghetti without salt several times in the past intentionally, and no one has noticed.
I do add 1 tsp salt when boiling brocoli, and I can tell the difference.
I will boil spaghetti without salt again and report back!

Anonymous: Thank you for your comment. But, you do use some salt when eating the pasta, don't you?

Sissi said...

Maybe it's a question of habit? Like salted bread. I once had bread made without salt in Italy and it was awful for me, but locals got used to it I guess (Florence's speciality). It's funny but I would have never thought about pasta's "sweetness"... When a sauce (salty) is added afterwards the taste is not the same. It's a bit like salting thick steaks before frying. Some people don't do it, meat "closes" while grilling and it's not salted... On the other hand, I don't mind of course cooking unsalted rice.

Fräulein Trude said...

I don'*t think using salt it is just a habit but a matter of taste preferences.
Pasta has to be boiled in salted water, saltyness nearly the same as seawater. The pasta noodles will not take in salt after boiling or you have to use a very salty sauce they can soak up. Spaghetti don't soak up well except they are cooked too soft. But that is just how we learned pasta should taste alike in italy - other cultures other tastes.
Bread is a totally different matter. If there is no or not enough salt in the dough it will taste really bland and there is no helping afterwards. These kind of bread is served in italy and is ment to be dipped in sauces and soupes, it soaks well but never eat it as it is. Tastes like paper.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: The Japanese often talk about the sweetness of gohan (cooked rice). The sweetness does not come directly from the rice, but you sense sweetness while chewing rice in your mouth due to the conversion of starch into sugar. I think Anynymous is referring to this sweetness.

(As you may know, the Japanese do not add salt to rice when cooking.)

Kiki: Seawater? Isn't that too dense?

In short, the conclusion of the professor is:
The firmness of noodles depends on the temperature and amount of water and the boiling time.

Finally, just as you say, the site adds the following:

Whether to add salt to water is a matter of taste preferences.

As for me, I'm a kind of relieved to know that I can overtly leave out salt when boiling spaghetti!

Sissi said...

Hiroyuki, I agree about the rice (especially the Japanese!) and would never cook it with salt. I still don't see Italian pasta's sweetness (I know now what you and the anonymous mean but the wheat "grano duro" has no sweetness for my palate...).
Kiki, in Florence most bread is made without salt. It comes from a siege a long time ago when Florence was deprived of salt and decided to do without it... Then they got used to it I imagine. I have never tasted the same in any other Italian city. Italian bread is in general not my favourite though.
Kiki, taste preferences are very difficult to separate from eating habits... How otherwise we would explain all the food phobia... Some people don't mind pools of blood around their rare steak but are disgusted by black pudding...

Sissi said...

As for taste preferences, some things, as meat cooked without salt are just unbearable for most Europeans (maybe Japanese too?). For me it's unbearable to eat unsalted pasta, but not Asian noodles. I think it's the both taste preference and habit.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: Thank you for mentioning the bread in Florence! I'm very interested in it, and I want to taste it some day!

>taste preferences are very difficult to...

You are absolutely right. Let me give you another example: Steak tartare vs. sashimi (laugh)

>unbearable... (maybe Japanese too?)

That's probably true of any nation and other ingredients. Just think of yakitori and salt-grilled fish. But the best way to eat wagyu beef is said to grill (and "close") it without salt and have it with salt.

I don't know about other Asian noodles, but udon, somen, hiyamugi, and ramen noodles all contain salt, while soba (buckwheat noodles) doesn't.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: I checked the ingredients lables of all the soba packs that happened to be in the storage space and found all the soba contained salt, which makes me wonder because you usually don't add salt when making soba (buckwheat noodles).

I checked several recipes for rice flour noodles (komeko men 米粉麺), and found some call for salt while others don't.

Sissi said...

Hiroyuki, I love both steak tartare and sashimi :-) You have just reminded me I haven't had sashimi for ages...
In Europe some chefs (and home cooks) prefer salting beef just before grilling, but some say it's better to grill it without salt and salt it afterwards (to close the juices as you say). Nowadays, my impression is that the majority of French chefs advise salting before grilling so that the salt enters the meat (of course it's not wagyu beef which is completely different!). The taste is different, but I think the difference wouldn't be that big if it was a very thin piece of meat for example.

Hiroyuki said...

Sissi: Needless to say, the steak tartare vs. sashimi remark was not meant for you. I was referring to a passage on page 158 in your favorite book (Tsuji's) that reads:
In their own countries, Westerners feel no qualms in asking for filet mignon so rare it is "just passed over the fire" - or steak tartare, oysters on the half-shell, or raw clams. But the food best loved in Japan, sashimi - sliced raw fish - often seems unbearably exotic, almost bordering on the barbaric, and requiring a great sense of gastronomic adventure and fortitude to down!

I think we all agree that salt is the greatest seasoning on earth, and we just argue whether salt should be only on the outside only or it should be on the inside too. Now that I am in my 50s, I'd like everything on the less salty side, and that's why I want to season ingredients with salt on the outside only whenever possible.

Fräulein Trude said...

Sissi: I highly recommend the books from Thies Herve about the physical and chemical processes taking place during cooking. He solved some interesting riddles.
There is also an explanation about the usage of salt before or after (laugh).

Sissi said...

Hiroyuki, thank you so much for this passage. You seem to know Tsuji's book by heart ;-) or at least much much better than me!
My husband loves soy sauce so much, I'm not sure if he wouldn't say that soy sauce is the best seasoning on the earth ;-)
Kiki, Thank you for the link. I know Hervé This, but have never bought any of his books yet. I have been meaning to do it for ages...

Pasta lover said...

Regarding salt and spaghetti, the reason we boil spaghetti with salt water is so that the texture becomes such that it can be combined with sauce, and the sauce will stick to it. Sauces are rarely sweet, so there's no point to enhancing the natural sweetness of the flour or the noodle. If salty water isn't used, then the sauce won't stick to the noodles. Plain and simple.

Also, if you wash off spaghetti once you've boiled it in salty water, the "tacky" characteristic of the spaghetti is also decreased, and the quality of the spaghetti decreases as well.

Please, salt your spaghetti! It's not a matter of "need to cook with", so much as the taste of the dish will change drastically. It's like saying, "I don't need to make miso soup with katsuo dashi", and that's true, but the flavor will be drastically changed. That's my opinion, at least.

Hiroyuki said...

Pasta lover: Thank you for your convincing comment. I did some googling and found one site that says the "starch" on the outside of the spaghetti helps the sauce stick to the sphaghetti.
I think I have to make a side-by-side comparison to see if salt is necessary for the sauce to stick to the noodles.