Tomato pasta sauce is a staple of Italian cuisine and probably the most important element of any pasta dish. Everyone knows that it’s the sauce that makes the best pasta.
However, one of the biggest mistakes we can make when making spaghetti sauce is making a watery pasta sauce that slides off our pasta.
The fact you’ve landed here tells me you’re having that exact problem.
If you’ve made a pasta sauce that’s too thin and watery, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, I’m going to show you how to thicken spaghetti sauce.
I have eight different methods to show you, so let’s get started!
What’s The Problem With Watery Tomato Sauce?
First of all, let’s look at the main problem with watery tomato sauces. While people tend to make both thin and thick spaghetti sauce, the desired consistency most of us aim for is a thick sauce.
The main reason for this is pretty simple, thicker spaghetti sauce sticks to pasta and stays on it until we eat it.
The same can’t be said about watery pasta sauce. Watery pasta sauce slides straight off the pasta. The excess liquid in the sauce also takes away from the overall flavor of the pasta dish.
How Thick Should Tomato Pasta Sauce Be?
Pasta sauces vary in terms of thickness so there isn’t one right answer. However, a thicker sauce should have an obvious sauce-like texture. It should also have a deep, sweet flavor.
I tend to aim for a sauce that doesn’t make the pasta swim in liquid. Aim for a texture that lets the sauce stick to the pasta. You should be able to draw a line in the bottom of a pan when your sauce is thick enough.
How To Thicken Spaghetti Sauce?
I’m going to start by showing you the best and most common ways to thicken spaghetti sauce. Homemade spaghetti sauce is surprisingly easy to thicken so you shouldn’t have too many problems.
After that, I’ll show you some alternative ways some people thicken their tomato sauce. This will give you more choice and variety. I’ve got eight different methods for you in total so let’s get cracking!
1. Simmer The Sauce
By far the easiest way to thicken spaghetti sauce is to simmer the sauce over low heat. Medium heat will work just fine too.
Simmering a sauce essentially boils out some of the excess liquid, which in turn helps thicken your sauce. Simmer your sauce over low or medium heat for 5 to 20 minutes depending on how watery it is.
Be sure to stir it frequently to prevent burning.
2. Add Starchy Pasta Water
Starch is what is released into pasta water when we cook pasta. It may not have many uses but we can use this starchy water to thicken a watery sauce.
We appreciate that it may sound counterproductive to add more water to a dish that already contains excess water but it works. The salt in the water helps blend the pasta and sauce. It also adds extra flavor.
3. Add Cornstarch Slurry
If your watery sauce needs thickening, you could use cornstarch slurry. If you’ve already thrown your starchy water out, corn starch is a simple solution.
The best thing about adding cornstarch slurry to a sauce is that you don’t need much of it. You only need one to two teaspoons of cornstarch when thickening spaghetti sauce.
Add it slowly so you don’t risk making your sauce too thick.
4. Add Ground Beef
Add ground beef to your pasta sauce if you want to make your sauce thicker and more flavorsome. The fats in ground beef help add lots of meaty flavors and thicken sauces.
To add ground beef, simply cook off your beef in a separate pan. Once browned, you can add the cooked ground beef to your sauce.
This method is perfect for spaghetti sauce.
5. Add Tomato Paste
Adding tomato paste to your spaghetti sauce is a quick and easy way to thicken sauce without any hassle. Tomato paste is highly concentrated so a small amount goes a very long way.
Not only does tomato paste help thicken watery spaghetti sauce, but it also adds more flavor. When added to your sauce, it will immediately begin to thicken by combining with the water.
Perfect in almost any thin pasta sauce, this method works best in marinara sauce and in pasta dishes that contain canned tomatoes.
Alternative Ways To Thicken Spaghetti Sauce
Here are some less common ways to thicken spaghetti sauce.
6. Add Egg Yolks
Egg yolks are probably an option that never crossed your mind, but they can make a big difference. Egg yolks will change the flavor of your sauce but it’s a great way to effortlessly thicken a sauce.
You don’t just want to add egg yolk straight into your sauce though. Instead, add the egg yolks to a mixing bowl and add a few tablespoons of hot sauce.
You can then add the yolks to your dish slowly, stirring throughout.
This will prevent the egg yolks from scrambling in your sauce.
7. Add Cream Cheese
Cream cheese or grated cheese is another fantastic alternative. The great thing about this method of thickening is that you’ll probably be adding grated cheese to your pasta dish later anyway.
Cream cheese might not be very common in a spaghetti sauce but it isn’t that unusual. Besides, it can put a unique twist on your dish.
8. Add Mashed Potato
The final way you can thicken your pasta sauce is by using mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes are a rogue choice I’ll admit, but if you need a solution quickly and you have leftover mashed potatoes, it could be all you need.
Adding just one to two tablespoons of mashed potatoes to your sauce will help make it much thicker. Add the potatoes slowly so you don’t ruin your sauce.
There you have it, 8 different ways to thicken spaghetti sauce. In this post, I’ve shown you the very best ways to thicken tomato sauce quickly.
While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a watery pasta sauce, the very best pasta dishes have a sauce that doesn’t slide off the cooked spaghetti noodles.
Now you know how to thicken spaghetti sauce, all that’s left to do is pick the method that suits your recipe best. Once you’ve done that, you can get to work thickening your sauce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is A Thick Tomato Pasta Sauce Necessary?
Generally, there is nothing wrong with having a thin or thick tomato sauce. Traditional spaghetti sauce is quite thick because it contains extra ingredients. However, a traditional tomato sauce is usually quite thin.
There’s nothing wrong with having a thin or thick sauce, so feel free to experiment with both.
Does Heat Thicken Pasta Sauce?
If you want to thicken spaghetti sauce you can use medium heat. Using heat is a great way to thicken homemade tomato sauce because it cooks away a lot of the water within the tomatoes.
The longer you cook the sauce, the more excess liquid evaporates and the thicker your sauce becomes.