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How To Thicken Pasta Sauce

If you need to know how to thicken pasta sauce, you’re in the right place. This delicious sauce can easily be thickened with just a few quick steps using ingredients or methods that you can do right at home. 

These steps work for homemade or store-bought pasta sauce from a jar and can be adapted to fit what you have on hand.

Metal pot with red pasta sauce on a rustic board counter surrounded by vine ripe tomatoes.

How to thicken Spaghetti sauce 11 ways

Sometimes pasta sauce can get watery or runny but don’t worry, there’s an easy fix for that! 

These steps work whether you’re making a creamy white pasta sauce or a tomato pasta sauce. 

You can also learn how to thicken mashed potatoes.

You’ll never throw out sauce again with these easy steps.  

Simmer 

One of the easiest ways to thicken the best spaghetti meat sauce is to let it simmer on the stove until the liquid has reduced and the sauce has thickened. 

Turn up the heat and stir quickly and continually so the higher heat doesn’t burn the sauce. Once it’s thick enough, remove the pan from the heat. 

Add more solids 

If you find that your red sauce is consistently too thin, you may want to think about adding more solids like vegetables. You can chop up some extra veggies or blend them to make the sauce smoother. 

Remember to reduce the liquid from those extra vegetables since they contain a lot of water. It’s possible that simmering could save you from having to add any extra vegetables at all. 

Reduce liquid 

Another option to thicken the sauce is to reduce the amount of liquid that you add in the first place. When the solids to liquid ratio are higher, the sauce will be thicker. 

This can be done by straining the canned tomatoes and other chopped vegetables or by reducing the amount of broth or cream you add to the sauce. 

Tomato paste 

Tomato paste is a concentrated form of tomatoes and lends a rich flavor to any dish. It also acts as a thickening agent that you can use to thicken your tomato-based sauce. 

Add it in after you’ve sauteed the vegetables, stir quickly, and make sure you have your next ingredient on hand to pour in because tomato paste can burn easily.   

Mashed potatoes 

Potatoes are rich in starch and when they’re mashed and added to the sauce, the starch combines with the liquid and swells. This, in turn, thickens the sauce. 

Be sure to simmer the sauce for a few minutes and allow the process to take place before adding any extra. Taste the sauce to make sure the seasoning ratios are correct and didn’t get off balance when the potatoes were added. 

Egg yolks 

Egg yolks are a magical ingredient that is used in many dishes to combine and thicken them. This includes desserts, meatloaf, meatballs, and other dishes. 

Only use the egg yolk, not the whites for thickening. Also, be sure to temper the yolks before adding them to the pot. 

To temper, the yolks, put them in a bowl and add some of the hot liquid while whisking quickly until it’s combined.

If you put the yolks directly into the pot, you’ll get scrambled eggs and it will ruin the sauce.   

Pasta water 

When you cook pasta in water, starch is left behind in the water. This starch is great for thickening the sauce. Add a quarter cup of the water to the sauce and allow it to simmer. 

It may seem counterintuitive to add water to a sauce that’s too thin, but allow it to simmer and for the starch to combine with the rest of the sauce. If this doesn’t work as well as you’d like, then try one of the other methods as well. 

Cornstarch 

Cornstarch is a powerful thickening agent used in lots of dishes. You may want to make a slurry of cornstarch and water before adding it directly to the sauce first so it doesn’t get clumpy. 

Combine cornstarch with cold water and whisk until it’s smooth. Then pour the liquid into the pot and let it simmer for a few minutes. You should be able to see improvement quickly. 

Roux 

Roux is made by cooking flour and butter together for a few minutes until it’s the thickness and color that you want. This is a flavorful way how to thicken pasta sauce. 

This method requires cooking the mixture but, it may be well worth it in the end. 

Cheese 

Grated parmesan cheese releases starches into liquid and will thicken the sauce in no time. Keep in mind that the sauce will now be cheesy and be flavored with parmesan. 

This won’t be a big deal if you’re thickening Alfredo sauce but you may want to think about the flavor if you’re adding it to red sauce. 

Proteins 

Sauteed ground beef, pork, chicken, or turkey will also make pasta sauce thicker. Add it to the sauce and let it simmer so the flavors can meld and the sauce can thicken. 

Conclusion

If you need to know how to thicken pasta sauce, there are many great ways to make the best sauce you’ve ever had. 

The best option is to let the sauce simmer and cook out the extra liquid. You can also add more vegetables or reduce the amount of liquid you add to the sauce in the first place. 

Some other options include adding mashed potatoes, tomato paste, egg yolks, pasta water, cornstarch, roux, cheese, or proteins. 

Needless to say, there are many methods you can use to thick pasta sauce before you throw it out. Don’t give up, and try these steps! 

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