I eat more pasta than anyone I know. It doesn’t matter if it’s spaghetti, fettuccine, macaroni… I just can’t get enough. And every time I boil up a new batch, I do what every cooking-show chef does: add some salt into the mix. Probably a little too much of it, if I’m being honest.
Using the not-so-secret ingredient while cooking those noodles makes them so delish that I could—and often do!—eat them plain. But since loading up on salt isn’t exactly the most nutritious way to increase the flavor, it’s probably time to start reaching for alternatives that still bring on the umami without all the extra sodium. One of the easiest—and most unexpected ways—to do so is reaching for some seaweed.
“If you’re looking to reduce your sodium intake, you can add other types of seasoning to the water to help infuse your pasta,” says Whitney English, RD. “Bragg makes an awesome organic, vegan sea kelp blend that’s salt-free, yet provides that umami flavor thanks to the sea vegetables.”
Seaweed is just the beginning, though. English has a handful of other simple ingredients up her sleeve to boost the flavor, too. “Use roasted garlic, sautéed mushrooms, fresh herbs, infused oils, and stewed tomatoes,” she says.
Richard Rea, executive chef of The Butcher’s Daughter, is a fan of adding a little acidity. “Using a little bit of natural acid will always help enhance your pasta water and/or sauce,” he says. “Onions are also a great natural flavor enhancer. They produce the perfect amount of amino acids, isomers, and sulfur, which is responsible for the aroma and flavor of many dishes in the world’s culinary development. If you don’t have an onion handy, try a little splash of vinegar and you’ll be all set.”
As much as I love salt, it looks like it’s finally moving to the back of the pantry. Pro-chef level pasta dishes, here I come.
Can’t decide on a noodle? Here’s the definitive ranking of every alt-pasta at Trader Joe’s. Then whenever you’re making quinoa, stick to the pasta method to make sure it’s cooked perfectly every time.