The book on whether to salt the pasta water had been written by your humble narrator in 2014. Experiments were done. The consensus was that there was little difference to adding salt in the process.
My recent trip to Italy opened my eyes to the world of Italian cooking. Saving the pasta water, using wine, and salting the pasta water was part of the drill. So I rethought the salt in the pasta water.
The food learning process is an ongoing experience. Even when you test things out, the results aren't the final results.
The argument delves between salting the pasta water in the beginning or once the water has reached a boil. I actually wrote this sentence in 2014.
"Before we start, I should note that when I did salt the pasta water, I made the mistake of salting the water when it first went onto the stovetop. You are supposed to salt the water after it has reached a boil."
That was a fairly presumptuous point. Cooking rarely has a singular path to success. In the 2016 experiment, I still chose to salt the water at the beginning out of personal preference.
Whether salting the pasta water depends on a pair of other factors: type and quantity of salt. I might have used kosher salt in both experiments but I'm not sure about which salt I used in 2014. I did use a couple of levels of salt in the 2014 experiment but perhaps I added more in the 2016 experiments. I used a lot less than Giada de Laurentiis does on television.
The one element missing from the 2014 experiment was fresh pasta. I admitted at the time that I only experimented on dried pasta.
So in the 2016 experiments, I tried fresh and dried pasta. I used about the same amount of salt in both tests. The difference between 2014 and 2016 was using a much smaller pot so the salt:water ratio would have been higher.
The impact on the fresh pasta was somewhat significant. The taste of the pasta was improved and the pasta didn't feel salty. On occasion, I certainly add elements to pasta that are salty: pancetta, bacon, anchovies, olives. But those salty foods don't change the taste of the pasta.
The dried pasta did have more of a salty taste, a negative. The impact on dried pasta was much less than on fresh pasta.
The original story stemmed from a criticism by a hedge fund on Olive Garden's refusal to salt the pasta water. The chain was more concerned about the impact of salt on the pans than in improving the taste of the pasta. Given the blandness of Olive Garden food, salt might not have been enough to save those pasta dishes.
While the 2016 experiment conclusion was significantly different, the consensus on whether to salt the pasta water isn't certain. The pasta dishes were just fine without salt. And I tend to be salt-conscious in my diet to not get too much salt.
Taste buds change over time. Your increased knowledge can make a difference. Or like this example, you may want to try variations on your experiment techniques.
Using salt for the pasta water is a better method to get the needed sodium in your diet as opposed to junk food filled with salt. There is definitely a ceiling on using too much salt in a dish but recognize that there is a floor to using salt and there are times when food needs to be a bit salty.
You still don't have to salt your pasta water, but this is a reminder that your food needs can change over time.