You’ve in the process of preparing dinner and you notice that your pasta sauce is rather runny. Not good. Not good at all. But what can you do to make it thicker? Thankfully you have several options, and this is how to go about them.
So, how do you make pasta sauce thicker? The best way to thicken pasta sauce is with reduction. This will require gentle simmering with continuous stirring over low-to-medium heat to burn excess liquid off. Otherwise, you can add a thickening agent, such as cornstarch, a roux, egg yolks, mashed potato, or cheese (although these can change the flavor of the sauce).
The good news is that you have options.
And better yet, the recommended method does not require any additional ingredients; the ones that do you likely have at home already (or at the very least, they are easy to get hold of).
Nevertheless, let us now look at the process involved with each method:
- 1 Thickening Pasta Sauce With Reduction
- 2 Thickening Pasta Sauce With A Thickening Agent
- 3 Thickening Pasta Sauce With A Roux
- 4 Thickening Pasta Sauce With Other Ingredients
- 5 Other Tips For Preventing Runny Pasta Sauce
- 6 Finally
- 7 Related Questions
Thickening Pasta Sauce With Reduction
Without a doubt the easiest means of thickening pasta sauce. The idea here is that you are simply boiling off some of the liquid from the tomatoes.
All you need to do is simmer the sauce on low to medium heat for as long as it takes to reach the consistency you require.
It may take a couple of minutes, or it may take up to 30 minutes in some cases.
If you do opt for this method be sure to continuously stir the sauce to prevent it from burning or worse, sticking to the bottom of the pan.
A recommended approach here is to use a pan with a large surface area. The wider the pan, the better – this will evenly distribute the heat.
A frying pan, therefore, is typically preferable to a taller saucepan or stockpot.
This will reduce the time it takes to simmer to some extent.
And even then, while this method does take a little time, it should not alter the fundamental flavors of your sauce as the following methods can.
Thickening Pasta Sauce With A Thickening Agent
Thickening agents involve essentially adding another, solid ingredient, to help combat the liquid. Soaking it up, if you like.
There are several options here, but the most commonly recommended is cornstarch, or cornflour (depending on where you live or what you have to hand).
All you need to do here is prepare what is known as a cornstarch slurry ahead of time.
This is basically where you mix one part cornstarch with one part water – combining them thoroughly together in a small bowl.
From there you simply stir this into your pasta sauce as it simmers on low-to-medium heat, being sure to do so slowly and incrementally to ensure that you reach the consistency in the pasta sauce you desire.
If you add too much cornstarch slurry, you can always re-even it back out by adding a little more water.
Thickening Pasta Sauce With A Roux
A roux is essentially the combination of flour and fat, in equal parts, that have been mixed together. Often butter is used, but you can make a roux from oils, too.
A roux will add thickness but will add calories to your sauce and will make it more creamy and rich.
Before you add it to your pasta sauce, you will need to prepare the roux first.
This will involve mixing and gently heating in a separate pan first.
From there, you will need to slowly mix it into your sauce, stirring continuously until you reach your desired consistency.
Thickening Pasta Sauce With Other Ingredients
There are other common household ingredients that you can use to thicken your pasta sauce. These are:
- Tomato Sauce/ Puree – despite not being entirely solid, it will add thickness to your sauce and help retain or enahnce the tomatoe flavor.
- Cheese – You can add grated parmesan or romano cheese to your sauce to thicken it. Just be mindful that it will alter the flavor and can add a lot of additional calories/fat.
- Egg Yolks – will alter the flavor of your sauce, but is an ideal solution. Be careful not to add your egg yolks directly to your sauce or it will cook and become lumpy quickly. Instead, you will need to whisk it in a seperate bowl first and then slowly work it into your pasta sauce, stirring constantly over a low to medium heat.
- Mashed Potato – if you have any spare mashed potato lying around, or don’t mind quickly whipping some up, you can stir this into your pasta sauce to help it thicken. Potato is basically starch, so works in very similar ways to cornstarch/corn flour.
Other Tips For Preventing Runny Pasta Sauce
Outside of the aforementioned fixes, there are some other things you can do to prevent running pasta sauce going forward.
Use Less Juicy Tomatoes
For starters, you can try using less juicy tomatoes. While it does depend on the varieties you get, you are essentially looking for tomatoes that hold less water.
Plum tomatoes are typically better than your average, typical grocery store tomato.
Remove Liquid First
While this may lose you a little flavor, it will prevent the need for reduction or another method discussed above further down the line.
If you’re using canned tomatoes, be sure to drain them.
Puree Your Sauce
To spread the pulp and thicken the liquid. This will naturally happen as you cook but you can fasten the process by cutting your tomatoes finer, grating the tomatoes, or smashing them together first.
You can ensure your pasta sauce does not remain runny by bringing it to a rapid boil at first, and then quickly reducing it to a simmer for the rest of the cooking time.
Drain Your Pasta Properly
To ensure you do not waterlog your sauce.
At the same time, if your recipe calls for pasta water using it more sparingly to begin with.
And that’s it.
Seven quick, simple, and effective methods to reducing a pasta sauce.
All of which is somewhat different and you will need to consider what is going to be best for you.
Nevertheless, reduction is generally the way to go.
At least if you don’t want to alter the existing flavor.
The most likely reason your pasta sauce is not thickening is that you have not reduced it for long enough and it will take more time, or you need to add more thickening agent (e.g. cornstarch, roux, mashed potato, egg yolk, cheese etc)
Hi there. I’m Jeremy – a passionate food technologist with several decades in the food industry. With a love for sauces, food, and nutrition, I decided to create WeWantTheSauce. Here I share my experience, knowledge, and recommendations; from ingredients and recipes to storage all the way through to nutrition for every sauce imaginable.