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How To Thicken Spaghetti Sauce ⋆ The Best Ways ⋆

Who doesn’t love a bowl of spaghetti, perfectly cooked with the sauce clinging to each bite? The answer to that is no one. But to achieve that perfect culinary experience, your spaghetti sauce needs to be a perfect consistency. A sauce that is too runny or too thin simply won’t do. In today’s post, I am going to explain exactly what you need to do to restore a watery spaghetti sauce. 

So how do you thicken a spaghetti sauce? The best way to thicken a spaghetti sauce is by simply simmering the sauce on medium-high heat and constantly stirring until it’s at your desired consistency. If you’re short on time, you can hasten the process by adding a thickening agent like cornflour or all-purpose flour to your sauce.

So if you happen to have made sauce that’s too watery, don’t fret! You can easily thicken it with a few simple tricks.

The good thing with spaghetti sauce is that you can’t really mess it up. It’s pretty easy to fix, and you can do it with a few simple steps.

But before we get to all that, let’s focus on why your spaghetti sauce is watery. So we can effectively avoid the whole ordeal the next time.

Why Is My Spaghetti Sauce Too Thin?

Your spaghetti sauce is typically too thin if you add too much water while making the sauce, you didn’t cook it long enough, or you didn’t properly strain your spaghetti before adding it to the sauce.

To avoid this, it’s always important to follow the recipe exactly how it is written. 

If you’re not following a recipe and winging the whole thing, it’s important to keep the proportion of ingredients in mind while adding them. 

Another important aspect of bringing your spaghetti sauce to the correct consistency is by cooking it properly. 

Most experts recommend slow-cooking the sauce for a long time so the sauce can cook properly without burning. 

Sometimes even if your sauce has the right consistency, it might become runny once you add your spaghetti to it. 

This is because you didn’t properly strain your pasta before adding it to the sauce. 

It’s important to let the spaghetti sit in the colander for a while and shake it to ensure that all the water has properly drained from it.

So those are the possible reasons why your sauce might be too thin. Now let’s focus on what we can do to fix it!

How Thick Does Spaghetti Sauce Need To Be?

You’re looking for a sauce that’s thin enough to cook your spaghetti in, but not too runny that you end up with a bowl of sauce… With some spaghetti in it. 

Check the consistency by scooping it in a ladle and letting it run from it. 

You want some of the sauce to cling to the spoon so you can wipe it with a finger and get some sauce on the tip of your finger!

Another way to check the thickness is by stirring your sauce by running your spoon through it. 

You’ll notice as you bring your spoon through the middle of the pan there will be a line drawing through the sauce.

What Can You Use To Thicken Your Spaghetti Sauce?

You can use thickening agents like cornstarch or all-purpose flour to thicken your sauce. You can also use some of the water you boiled your pasta in (leftover pasta water) or milk instead of plain water to cook your pasta. 

Some people also recommend adding additional ingredients like tomato sauce or starchy vegetables like potatoes to the mix. 

These will help thicken the sauce while also adding more flavor to it.

Easy Ways To Thicken Your Spaghetti Sauce

You can easily thicken your spaghetti sauce by the addition of ingredients you probably have in your pantry or by cooking it further to reduce it until it comes to your desired consistency. 

You can use these steps in chronological order or just stick to one that seems to work for you. 

It also depends on how thin your sauce currently is, the availability of additional ingredients, and how much time you have to fix it. 

Step One: Use Pasta Water To Cook The Sauce

If you’re reading this article before you start cooking your sauce, you’re in luck! 

One of the best ways to avoid a runny sauce is by replacing the plain water in the recipe with your leftover pasta water.

The pasta water has some starch content that will help thicken your sauce. 

It’s also more flavorful, avoiding the blandness that comes with adding water.

If you don’t want to use leftover pasta water, you can also use milk or bone broth if you think you can use it in your particular sauce type.

Step Two: Reduce It

If you’ve already made your sauce and think it’s too thin, you can simply reduce it by increasing the heat to medium-high and stirring it continuously until it comes to the consistency you want.

If you’re short on time and need a quicker fix, transfer the sauce to a pan with increased surface area. 

This will increase the surface area exposed to heat, making it easier to reduce in less time. 

Just make sure you’re stirring it continuously to avoid getting it burnt from below!

Step Three: Add A Cornflour Slurry

Now, if you think your sauce is too watery and can’t be salvaged with a little more cooking time, use a cornflour slurry.

To make the slurry, use equal parts cornflour and lukewarm water and add them to a small cup, stirring until it dissolves. 

Once dissolved, add this prepared slurry to your sauce slowly while stirring.

The quantity of slurry you need depends on the amount of sauce and how runny it is. 

It’s recommended that you use small amounts at a time until it comes down to the thickness you want. 

Just make sure you’re letting your sauce cook for a reasonable time before adding more. 

The cornflour doesn’t work instantly! It needs a minute or two to bring about the thickening effect. 

Adding too much will result in a doughy sauce, which we don’t want.

Step Four: Add A Roux

Suppose you don’t have cornflour at hand, no worries! You can simply make a roux using all-purpose flour and some oil or butter. 

The added advantage of using a roux is the nutty flavor and silky texture it adds to your sauce.

To make the roux, you need equal parts fat and flour. For example, melt two tablespoons of butter in a saucepan let it heat. 

Then add two tablespoons of flour to it, whisking continuously until it bubbles up and comes to a light brown shade.

Make sure you make your roux at a medium-low flame to prevent it from burning! 

Once it’s ready, add it to your sauce while stirring continuously. Mix until completely incorporated. 

Give it a few minutes to work, and voila, your sauce will thicken! 

When using a cornflour slurry or a roux, make sure you’re tasting it as you go so you can adjust the flavors accordingly.

Step Five: Add Some Tomato Sauce Or Cream

Sometimes your sauce can use a little more flavor along with the thickness. 

In such instances, it might be better to add more tomato sauce if it’s a tomato-based sauce or cream if it’s a cream-based sauce to thicken it. 

This will give your sauce more substance along with thickening it.

Some Other Methods You Can Use

Here are some other things you can use to thicken your sauce. But remember, it might not work with all kinds of sauces, so be wary before trying these out!

  • Add some mashed potatoes: Since potatoes are high in starch, they help absorb liquid from your sauce. You can use sweet mashed potatoes as well.
  • Use eggs: Sometimes, you can add eggs to your sauce to give it a thicker consistency. However, this might alter the flavor a little and might not work for all kinds of sauces.
  • Add cheese: If your sauce can use some cheese, add a little to bring the ingredients together and help the sauce cling to the pasta.

Why Your Spaghetti Sauce Might Not Thicken

Some reasons why your spaghetti sauce won’t thicken is because maybe you’re not cooking it long enough or not using enough thickening agent your sauce needs.

In order to reduce the liquid from the sauce, you need to be patient! 

You might have to cook it for 5-20 minutes, depending on how thin it is until it comes down to a consistency you want. 

If you’ve added a cornflour slurry or roux and your sauce still isn’t thickening, there might be two reasons for it: 

First: You haven’t let it cook long enough to bring about its effect. 

Second: You might be using a lesser quantity than what is needed. 

So first, let your sauce cook for a few minutes and see if it thickens. 

If it’s thickening, but not as much as you want, prepare a little more of the thickening agent and add it to the sauce before letting it cook for a while again.

Make sure your cornflour or flour isn’t expired! Sometimes, that may prevent it from working.

What To Do If Your Spaghetti Sauce Does Not Thicken

Now that you have tried every trick in the book and your sauce still hasn’t thickened enough, here’s what you can do.

Increase the amount of pasta you’re using, or if you can’t do that, decrease the amount of sauce, freeze the remainder to use later.

Decreasing the amount of sauce or increasing the amount of pasta will improve the proportions, making the whole dish more cohesive and less bland. 

Make sure to adjust the salt and other flavors before presenting the final dish!

To Wrap It Up

It’s pretty easy to mess up spaghetti sauce consistency, especially if you’re new to it. 

But the good news is, a watery spaghetti sauce can be fixed just as easily!

Just remember to be patient when using any method, especially with thickening agents! 

Using too much at a time will lead to the clumpy sauce, and that will ultimately lead to spaghetti that feels like bottled baby food. 

Trust the process; it will turn out okay!

Have other questions about spaghetti sauce or encountered other issues? My guides may be for you:

Want to learn how to thicken any type of sauce? Then check out my definitive guide: