11 brilliant ways how to thicken pasta sauce

Pasta sauce is a staple in millions of kitchens and restaurants around the globe. You can buy pasta sauce at your local grocery market, or you can make it from scratch.

Which is better? This is a debatable subject. Some will say that making your pasta sauce from scratch is your best option while others will say that you can buy exceptional pasta sauce in the store.

You don’t need to be a culinary expert to know that you may need to thicken your pasta sauce at some point. When it comes to thickening your sauce, you have many methods at your disposal. However, it’s vital to point out that some methods will change the taste and texture of your sauce. This can throw your recipe off course.

The amount of time you have, the ingredients in your kitchen, and the desired taste will determine your choice.

How to thicken pasta sauce? 

Contrary to popular belief, thickening your pasta sauce is really not that difficult. We will now take a close look at several methods that will help you thicken your pasta sauce with ease.

1. Make a Roux

It’s normal for a roux to be used as a thickening agent in Cajun and French recipes. To make your roux, simply melt a cup of butter and add one cup of flour in a medium-sized skillet. Carefully mix the sauce until it becomes smooth and thick.

Homemade roux in a white bowl

Once you have your roux, add it to your spaghetti sauce. Make sure you add small amounts at a time. This will keep you from overdoing it. Please keep in mind that this method will change the flavor of your sauce. If you are allergic to gluten, you can use gluten-free flour.

2. Add Cornstarch Slurry

I prefer using cornstarch slurry because it does not change the flavor of my sauce. I use a roux from time to time, but it is a little more difficult to use for thickening my sauces. Its starches do not break down, so this stretches the cooking time.

If you fail to cook the roux for a considerable amount of time, the raw flour texture will be present in the taste. It’s also important to mention that it will change the taste of your sauce. You will be forced to make some adjustments to your seasoning after adding the roux. Make sure you stir it well, if you don’t your sauce will be lumpy.

Corn flour in spoon on wooden bowl

You may be under the impression that it’s a good idea to add plain flour to your sauce. However, this will lead to epic failure! You will see bubbles in your sauce, and you may not be able to get the taste you desire.

Slurry is made of water and cornstarch (in equal parts). It excels as a thickening agent. Simply dissolve 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into 1 tablespoon of water. Mix both ingredients well.

Carefully add your slurry to the sauce carefully. I suggest that you add 1 tablespoon at a time. The slurry will thicken as it cooks. It will blend well with your sauce.

Proceed by stirring your sauce continuously until you see a change in consistency. When you get the ideal consistency, turn your stove off. Don’t forget to take your saucepan off your stove. Make sure you don’t overcook your sauce.

3. Use Your Pasta Water for Sauce

There are plenty of starches floating in the water you used to cook your pasta. This makes it a terrific thickening agent. If your sauce is thin, it wouldn’t be a great idea to add all of your water to your sauce. You should use a small amount of pasta water instead.

Spaghetti pasta in a pan with water.

Some people are unaware that pasta water can work well as a thickening agent for tomato sauce. To make this happen, you simply remove the cooked pasta from the pot with a spider strainer or pasta basket. You can also use a spaghetti spoon.

Take a few teaspoons of the water, and add it to your sauce. It may have a watery appearance at first, but it will thicken as it simmers on your stove.

4. Add an Egg Yolk

Breaking egg to add to thicken pasta sauce

How to thicken spaghetti sauce? This may seem like a weird idea, but adding an egg yolk can do wonders for your spaghetti sauce. It will thicken your sauce, and give it a distinct flavor. To be honest, this old trick comes from the culinary superstars that dominated the kitchens in the past.

Egg yolks are well-known for doing a great job of thickening salad dressings and cream sauces. Fortunately, more people are now using egg yolks to thicken their spaghetti sauces.

Eggs typically scramble when you add them to water and hot meals. So, it’s vital for you to be extremely careful when you add them to your sauce. Carefully add ½ cup of your favorite hot sauce to a large mixing bowl. Crack an egg and add whisk it into your sauce.

From my experience, whisking the yolk in your sauce for one minute will do the trick. At that point, you should see a smooth texture. It’s now time for you to add it to your sauce. Make sure you continue to whisk away.

Allow your sauce to simmer for one to two minutes. However, don’t allow it to come to a boil. You will ruin your sauce.

What type of eggs should you use? This is an excellent question. You can use eggs that suit your taste. It’s really not a big deal.

5. Grated Cheese

Did you know that shredded or grated cheese can thicken your sauce? This may come as a shocker, but many world-renowned chefs use grated cheese to thicken their patented sauces.

You can save a tremendous amount of time by using semi-soft or soft cheese. This type of cheese will melt fast on the low heat setting.

Should you try cheeses like Romano or Parmesan? It may seem like a good idea, but these types of cheeses have too much salt.

There’s no need for you to reinvent the wheel in the kitchen. Yes, it’s okay to be creative, but you don’t want to make choices that will ruin your meal. This is why you should stick with semi-soft or soft cheeses. They will give you the best results.

6. Simmer Your Sauce

If you know anything about cooking, you know that simmering your sauce is an easy way to get the desired thickness. This old trick has been used for many years. To be honest, you don’t need to add more ingredients if you use this sauce thickening method.

How to Thicken Pasta Sauce with a Crockpot

This is not the time for you to get nervous. It’s easier than you think. Simply simmer your sauce on low for three to five minutes. The liquid will begin to evaporate.

Man cooking pasta in boiling water

If you have thin sauce on your hands, allow it to come to a boil. Then you can let it simmer for ten minutes. This will give your sauce enough time to thicken.

Remove your sauce from the heat, and pour it into a blender. Blend your sauce until you get the desired thickness. You will be more than pleased with the outcome. Your family and friends will love your sauce.

7. Add Butter to Your Sauce

Butter will not add a major amount of thickness to your sauce, but it can give it a significant boost. Adding butter to your sauce at the end of the cooking process will provide better results. Make certain you stir well.

Wooden board with butter on blue checkered napkin

If you use this technique, make sure you keep the temperature low. This will prevent your sauce from breaking. As you can see, butter has its place in the kitchen.

How much butter should you use? Well, you can use your discretion. One stick of butter has worked well for us.

8. Add Breadcrumbs

Bowl of breadcrumbs and slices of a loaf

Flour is a superstar when it comes to thickening your pasta sauce. Breadcrumbs may not be your first choice for adding thickness to your red sauce, but will get the job done. You can buy breadcrumbs at your local grocery store, or you can make your own by putting a few bread slices in the toaster. Remove your toast slices and break them down into small crumbs.

Will the breadcrumbs change the flavor in your sauce? No, not really. They will only add more texture to your sauce.

9. Flour

Flour and wheat flat lay on a wooden

If you’re not concerned about being gluten-free, you can add flour to your sauces. Flour also does a fantastic job at thickening soups, gravies, and dairy-based sauces. However, I prefer to use the flour to make roux.

Don’t worry about making someone sick. The flour will be cooked during the roux-making process. Everything will be fine.

You can add a small amount of water to raw flour. The ideal measurement is 2 tablespoons for every cup of liquid in your recipes. A 9-year-old child can do this. It’s really that simple.

Slowly whisk the slurry into the pot. Allow it to simmer for several minutes. The sauce will get thick. The heat will break the flour down. It will be cooked out.

Please remember that your sauce will be cloudy. So, you should consider using another sauce thickening method if you need to maintain clarity. In our humble opinion, you shouldn’t use flour to thicken your sauce for a cooking contest. The judges may penalize you.

10. Reduce the Liquid

If you have more time on your hands, you can thicken your sauce by reducing the liquid. When the liquid begins to evaporate, the other flavors will begin to bind. This may or may not suite your taste.

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the world to know that it takes a while to simmer your sauce in a large pot. You can remove some of the sauce, and pour it into your favorite sauté pan to speed things up. When the sauce gets thick, you can pour it back into the pot.

11. Puree Some Fresh Vegetables

You can use starchy vegetables to add thickness to your sauce. Vegetables like celeriac, winter squash, and potatoes work extremely well if they are pureed.

Organic pumpkin puree in a white bowl

You can begin by boiling or roasting your vegetables. Proceed by putting your veggies into a food processor. Turn on your processor. Puree your veggies until they are smooth. Stir your vegetables into your sauce. Your sauce will be thicker!

You can also use lentils, cooked beans, or cauliflower. The cauliflower can be mashed or steamed. It’s really your choice.

We’re not trying to insult your intelligence, but you should only use fresh vegetables. They will add more flavor to your sauce. You would be surprised at how many people use sub-par vegetables for their recipes.

There’s an old saying in life, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” As you can see, you have many options at your disposal.

Person getting some spaghetti from a black pot on a white table

Final Words

How to thicken pasta sauce? At the end of the day, there are many ways of thickening pasta sauce. In our humble opinion, you should stick with the practical sauce thickening techniques above. They will help you get the best results.

If you want to get creative, you can combine several of the techniques in this article. They will do an excellent job at thickening your sauce. They will also add a delicious flavor to your dinner.

You can start off with adding a tiny amount of starch (roux or cornstarch). Move forward by adding a small amount of tomato paste. This will thicken things up. It will also take the taste to another level.

Stir your masterpiece thoroughly. Let it simmer for a minimum of ten minutes. You will have the spaghetti sauce of your dreams. Everyone will be impressed.

If things don’t go well the first time, you can always repeat the steps. It’s important for you to taste your sauce while you’re cooking. If your sauce tasted too starchy, you can balance the flavor by adding garlic or more spices. You can also smooth things out by adding more tomatoes.

Have fun!