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How To Make Pasta Less Salty: A Chef Explains

Norah Clark
Cooked pasta on a plate

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, Editor of Boyd Hampers! Norah is a food writer with over a decade of experience in hospitality as a pastry chef, sous chef, and barista; former chef at the Savoy Hotel, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Plaza Hotel.

Even as a seasoned chef, I sometimes err on the side of over salting my pasta. There are many ways to make pasta less salty; whether it’s cooking the pasta in unsalted water, saving the pasta water, or diluting it with unsalted ingredients.

However, when you are making pasta, it is important to get the seasoning right to avoid oversalting the dish.

Instead of starting from scratch, I learned to save the pasta water and add some unsalted cream to dilute the saltiness.

I also add a squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of brown sugar to balance out the flavors.

How To Make Pasta Less Salty

Before I explain how to make pasta less salty, you should know why we add salt to pasta and many other dishes in the first place.

Salt is used as a seasoning to enhance the flavor of the dish. It also helps to bring out the natural sweetness and depth of the food.

Too much salt can overpower the other flavors and ruin the dish altogether – which is why you probably find yourself reading this!

1. Cook The Pasta In Unsalted Water

One of the easiest ways to make pasta less salty is to cook it in unsalted water.

Many people add salt to the water when cooking the pasta, thinking it will give it extra flavor.

However, this can lead to oversalting the dish, especially if you are using salted butter or cheese in the recipe.

To avoid this, use unsalted water when cooking the pasta.

2. Save Salty Pasta Water

Another trick to make pasta less salty is to save the water you cooked the pasta in.

This salty water can be used to adjust the seasoning of the dish later on.

Simply add some of the pasta water to the unsalted sauce or dish and taste.

Keep adding it until you reach the desired level of saltiness.

3. Dilute With Unsalted Ingredients

If your pasta dish is already too salty, you can dilute it with unsalted ingredients.

For example, you can add more pasta and sauce to the dish to distribute the salty flavor.

You can also add unsalted cream or milk to cream-based sauces to balance out the saltiness.

Another trick is to add a squeeze of lemon juice or a pinch of brown sugar to counteract the salt.

4. Taste Throughout The Cooking Process

It is important to taste the pasta dish and adjust the seasoning accordingly throughout the cooking process, ensuring balance.

NB: When tasting, use a clean spoon or fork each time to avoid cross-contamination.


Can I fix salty pasta without diluting it?

There are a few tricks you can try to fix salty pasta without diluting it. You can add a bit of starch, like flour or cornstarch, to thicken the sauce and spread out the saltiness. You can also add a little bit of unsalted butter or olive oil to soften the saltiness.

Can I use salt substitutes to make pasta less salty?

While salt substitutes can be helpful for people looking to reduce their salt intake, they may not be the best option for fixing an over-salted pasta dish. Salt substitutes have a different flavor profile from regular salt and may not blend well with the other flavors in the dish. It is best to stick with diluting or adjusting the seasoning as needed.

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