How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce
Nobody likes to eat pasta that has a watery and bland sauce. Spaghetti is best when it comes with a rich, thick sauce that you can taste with every bite of the pasta. There are two general ways on how to thicken spaghetti sauce.
Thickening the Mush Without Affecting the Flavor
Reduction is the simplest and easiest way to get a thicker liquid for your pasta dish. However, one has to be very careful when it comes to the measurement of ingredients. Reducing the volume of the liquid also concentrates the different flavors.
Simmering your sauce over low heat allows it to thicken to the desired consistency. Leave the saucepan uncovered to help in the process of evaporation. Make sure to stir the dish every now and then to prevent bits from sticking to the pan’s bottom. The only issue with this method is that it can take time to reduce the volume of the liquid to achieve the desired consistency.
So, how to make spaghetti sauce thicker without having to wait that long and without affecting its flavor?
- Add Cornstarch
One of the easiest tricks is to add a mixture of cornstarch and water. Cornstarch does not have any distinct flavor that can affect that of the dish. Mix equal parts of cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl. Start with a teaspoon of cornstarch.
Pour a small amount of the cornstarch mixture into the dish. Stir and wait for it to thicken. You can always pour the remaining cornstarch if the dish needs more thickening.
- Use Pasta Water
Another alternative is to use the water you used in boiling your noodles. Pasta water contains starch that came from the pasta during cooking. You can use this pasta water as an ingredient for the sauce recipe. Do not add it to your dish if it is already thin.
- Make a Roux
Making a roux can also help thicken your pasta gravy. This method can give your dish a slight hint of butter. However, it is not strong enough to overpower the unique flavors of your dish. Roux involves creating a mixture of butter and flour. One has to be very careful in incorporating these two ingredients. The mixture should be as uniform as possible.
Add a small amount of the roux to the dish at a time. It is also crucial to increase the cooking time of the dish by another 30 minutes. This will help eliminate the grainy texture of flour and its characteristic taste.
- Add Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes are rich in starch. You can peel a few pieces of potatoes and boil them until tender. Mash them well and put a little amount of it into the dish at a time. Potatoes have a flavor of their own. However, this is often not enough to affect the flavor of the spaghetti sauce in a negative way.
You can also add cream, milk, or butter in the mashed potatoes if you wish. This will give your dish a creamier flavor. It can be a little sweet, too.
- Use Breadcrumbs
Another trick you can use in how to thicken pasta sauce is by adding breadcrumbs. This is also rich in starch, which can thicken the consistency of the liquid. One has to pound the crumbs as fine as possible to help incorporate it better in the dish.
Adding breadcrumbs to your dish can alter its taste a little bit. The good news is that you will notice the thickness of the liquid a lot more than the flavor. It can make for a very fascinating pasta sauce.
Using Flavor Boosters
There are also other ingredients that you can add to your dish to thicken its consistency. Ground meats, heavy creams, and cheeses are examples of ingredients you can use to improve the consistency of the gravy. Keep in mind, however, that these methods can have a more profound impact on the overall taste of the dish.
- Tomato Paste
Adding tomato paste is one of the easiest ways on how to thicken tomato sauce. Tomato paste has a very thick consistency. It also has a concentrated tomato flavor. If you intend to use tomato paste in your dish, it is best to do so in the beginning of the cooking. This will allow you to make adjustments in the other ingredients as you cook the dish.
- Grated Romano or Parmesan Cheese
Both Parmesan and Romano cheeses are salty. It is for this reason that one has to be cautious when adding these ingredients as thickeners. The good thing about cheeses is that they can lend your dish a very velvety texture and rich flavor. Always grate your cheese before you add to the dish. This will allow it to melt and incorporate into the dish a lot better.
- Heavy Cream
This method can change the type of your sauce. It can also alter its taste by making it creamier. The color may change, too, owing to the light-colored nature of cream. You will not get that deep, dark red color of the pasta dish that you want. Regardless, it remains one of the easiest tricks to thicken the sauce of your spaghetti.
There are several vegetables that you can use in thickening your pasta dish. Vegetables can add richness and depth to your food, not to mention the nutrients that they provide.
Italians love using shredded carrots in their sauces. The trick here is to cook the carrots until they are mushy. Soft and mushy carrots can also reduce the overall acidity of the dish. Other cooks prefer to use sautéed or pureed onions and peppers. Adding these ingredients can change the overall flavor profile of the dish, however.
You can add shredded mushrooms, too, to give the dish an umami flavor and extra thickness. Shredding eggplants can also be a good substitute for mushrooms.
- Ground Meat
Adding ground beef to your dish can also thicken the liquid. One should cook this together with the tomatoes and other ingredients for a better blend.
There are two general ways you can thicken your spaghetti sauce. One does not have a significant effect on the flavor of the dish. The other one can enhance it.