How to Thicken Pasta Sauce ( 4 Major Techniques )

how to thicken pasta sauce

Whenever you go to any cafeteria, the first thing you think of to eat is pasta. So, Pasta sauce is no stranger to all. Although, it not only tastes good but also provides many health benefits. Some people prefer homemade sauce while others stick to the processed store-bought one. As they believe that its viscosity is way better than the consistency of your homemade sauce. The homemade sauce should be in every home cook’s repertoire. When the luscious sauce you’re aiming for turns out feeble and watery. Then no one wants a watery pasta sauce or wimpy gravy. There are so many ways to muscle it up, and you’ll be sure to have at least one remedy in your kitchen! To get that perfect consistency, you’ll need to know which ingredient is right for what you’re making. Moreover how to use it for the best results. “How to thicken pasta sauce?” is the most asked query by pasta sauce lovers. Here are the easy ways, no matter what you’re making.

Now I do my best to explain the ways to thicken pasta sauce. In the end, you will be able to make your sauce all great and well.

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How do You Make Pasta Sauce Thicker? ( 16 Best Ways )

Following are the techniques to make the sauce thicker.

Thickening Pasta Sauce like A Pro:

Here are many ways you can make your pasta sauce thicker than it is. The most common option is adding tomato paste. You can also use starch like flour, corn-starch, or roux. Or add some mashed potatoes or arrowroot. My go-to way of fixing a watery pasta sauce is to let it decrease by cooking it a little more. Turn the burner to low heat and take the lid off the saucepan. Then I let the sauce decrease for 15 to 20 more minutes or until I get the viscosity that I’m aiming for.

During this time, I would make sure to keep mixing it so that the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. I love this method because it doesn’t alter the taste of the sauce since I’m not adding any ingredients. All it does is vaporize the extra liquid that’s in it. Yet, if the sauce is too watery, heating it will not be enough.

Here are my other trustworthy hacks:

Technique-1: Add Starch

#1 Use of Corn Starch:

Corn starch is a go-to when thickening sauce for good reason. It’s available to a great extent. Moreover, it is inexpensive, flavorless, and effective at thickening, even in small amounts. It also makes a clear combination when heated (which is why it’s sometimes preferred over flour). Corn starch contains cellulose that comes from corn kernels. When it’s whisked with liquid and heated, it becomes viscid and thick.

To thicken the sauce with corn starch, use about 1 tablespoon per cup of sauce. You’ll first want to make a slurry by mixing the corn starch into an equal amount of cold water. This will avert clustering when you add it to the hot sauce. While whisking the sauce over medium heat, by degrees pour in the slurry. And continue to mix while bringing the sauce to a boil for 1 minute. This is crucial; heat activates the corn starch and won’t thicken well if you don’t cook it long enough.

Corn starch is the best choice for thickening clear sauces (like stock- or soy-based sauces). It breaks down in the presence of an acid, so skip it for anything acidic. It’s also a great thickener for baking recipes, custards, and puddings.

#2 Use of Pasta Water:

We can also solve this query “How to thicken pasta sauce?” by using pasta water. While this trick may seem erratic, pasta water can be a thickening agent for pasta sauce. The starchy waterworks in the same way as the corn starch mixture mentioned above. To do this, all you have to do is use a pasta basket, spider strainer, or pasta spoon to extract the cooked pasta from the pot. Then, take a few teaspoons of the water and add it to your sauce. It might become more watery at first, but it will thicken as it cooks.

#3 How to Thicken Pasta Sauce Using Mashed Potatoes (Gluten-Free):

It sounds crazy. But in substance potatoes are pure starch and have extraordinary thickening power. Use leftovers, or microwave and a single peeled potato until it is very soft. Smash it well with a fork and then add it in small quantity to the sauce until you like the texture. Furthermore, it’s accessible, quick, and very effective. But it adds carbs and calories making the dish more filling. Potatoes have the effect of “soaking up” salt. Make sure to taste-test after adding potato!

#4 Use of Roux:

A roux is a combination of flour and fat that’s cooked for a little bit. While it takes a bit of effort to blend butter and flour and cook them until it stops tasting floury. Making a roux is one of the most common ways an experienced chef will thicken pasta sauce. You can do this very fast with a bit of practice. This intermediate-level technique is a powerful thickening tool. Over low heat, cook the same quantity of butter and flour. Once they simmer, add pasta sauce a little at a time until getting a velvety texture. Cook for an extra 20 minutes to get rid of any “raw flour” taste. One of its pros is that it confers a great texture. Besides to pros, its cons are that it is challenging to master and time-consuming. If you burn your roux, discard it and start over. Nothing on the Earth can cover up the taste of a burnt roux.

#5 Use of Flour:

Flour is a typical sauce thickener, whether you’re making gravy, bechamel, gumbo, or stew. Might you already have it in your pantry?. When added to a liquid, the starches in the flour extend and add body to the sauce.

To thicken the sauce with flour, you’ll want to cook off its raw taste first. Making a roux can do this, an equal mixture of melted butter and flour. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Then mix in the flour and cook until it’s golden brown and smells nutty. The roux can then added to your sauce and whisked to combine. Use flour to condense gravy, soup, stew, and dairy-based sauces. Bear in mind that it will make your sauce cloudier than corn starch will (and it won’t condense quite as much).

#6 How to Thicken Pasta Sauce Using Beurre Manie:

Beurre manié is French for “kneaded butter,” and it comprises soft butter and flour. It’s like a roux but eliminates the possibility of lumps by releasing the flour little by little into the sauce. To use it, first make a beurre manié. Then knead together equal amounts of butter and flour in a small bowl until it’s the texture of play-dough. Then it slipped into your sauce and whisked until combined. You’ll want to continue to cook the sauce and taste as you go to ensure the raw flour taste has cooked out. And the difficulty for pasta sauce lovers “How to thicken pasta sauce?” also solved. Use a beurre manié to finish sauces, soups, and stews and to condense sauces that you want to be clot-free and velvety.

#7 Use of Butter:

Butter is an excellent addition to pasta sauces that don’t need to be too thick but could use a little oomph. While adding a knob of butter to a sauce won’t thicken it well. It can be the little thing to add extra richness and a glossy texture. At the end of cooking, whirl a few tablespoons of cold butter into the sauce off the heat. (If it becomes too hot, the sauce will smash and end up greasy instead of glossy.)

#8 How to Thicken Pasta Sauce By Adding Slurry:

The slurry is a thickening agent that includes equal parts of corn-starch and water. To make slurry all you have to do is dissolve 1 tablespoon of corn-starch into 1 tablespoon of water. Mix it so until it’s well combined.

This is another way that also doesn’t change the flavor of the sauce. I prefer adding slurry compared to using a roux or plain flour. A roux can be difficult to use for condensing sauces. Because its starches don’t break down, thus, lengthening cooking time. If you don’t heat it enough, you will be able to savor the raw flour texture. Not to mention it can alter the taste of the sauce by degrees. This means you’ll have to readjust your seasoning after adding roux. It can also cause your sauce from being smooth to bumpy if you don’t mix it well.

Meanwhile using flour and adding it straight into the sauce is not advisable either. Not only that you’ll get bubbling of flour on the sauce. By mistake, you might add too much since it’s hard to tell how much you need to add. It can also alter the savor of the sauce.

Then I blend it with the sauce 1 tablespoon at a time. Do not pour in too much slurry all at once. It gets thicker the more it cooks and incorporates into the sauce. I then stir the sauce non-stop until I notice the change in consistency before I decide whether to add more or not. When I get the viscosity that I’m looking for, I turn the stove off and take the saucepan off the heat.

And I also understand “How to thicken pasta sauce?”. The longer you heat the sauce with the slurry, the thicker it will get. You might wind up with a paste rather than a sauce.

Technique-2: Thicken with Proteins

#9 Add grated Parmesan or Romano cheese to thicken the sauce:

Grated or shredded cheese will help to thicken the sauce at once. Somewhat the cheese will change the taste of the sauce. Cheeses such as Parmesan and Romano have a richer salt taste, so bear in mind when putting salt into your sauce.

#10 Use of Egg Yolk:

Egg yolks contain lots of protein, which will condense a sauce when cooked. Depending on how viscous you want to make your sauce, you can fiddle with how many yolks to add (but start with one or two). Egg yolks are especially tasty in pasta sauces. Because they add richness without being gloppy. They can also condense salad dressings, custards, and cream sauces.

To use them, first separate the egg yolks from the whites into a bowl. To prevent the yolks from scrambling into the sauce (gross). You’ll want to temper it by whisking a small amount of the hot sauce into the egg yolk. Then add that mixture back into the rest of the sauce.

Technique-3: Solid Ratios

#11 Use of Arrowroot:

Arrowroot is almost identical to corn starch. But it’s evolved from the arrowroot tuber, a tropical plant. It thickens like corn starch, but it’s even smoother and clearer and thickens at a lower temperature. It also doesn’t break down when mixed with acids and can freeze. It’s also gluten-free. You can thicken the sauce with arrowroot likewise you would with corn starch. Use about 1 tablespoon per cup of sauce. First, make a slurry by whisking the arrowroot into an equal quantity of cold water. While whisking the sauce over medium heat, step by step pour in the slurry. Then continue to whisk while bringing the sauce to a boil for 1 minute. Apply arrowroot in place of corn starch or in sauces that contain acidic ingredients. Avoid it in dairy-based sauces, because it can get vicious.

#12 Toss in Bread Crumbs:

Flour is another thickening agent that can use to thicken sauces. Because we use flour to make breadcrumbs. We can thicken pasta sauce by using breadcrumbs. You can either buy a can of breadcrumbs. Moreover, you can make your own by toasting bread slices and crumbling them into fine crumbs. Although you will observe the addition of breadcrumbs in the sauce’s texture. It doesn’t change the taste much. But you get “How to thicken Pasta Sauce?’ by using breadcrumbs.

#13 How Do You Make Sauce Thicker By Adding Meat:

Meat is another method to thicken up watery pasta sauce while making your sauce tastier. All you have to do is brown ground beef, turkey, pork, or Italian sausage and mix it to the sauce and let it heat. The longer you let your sauce simmer, the more flavourful it will be.

Technique-4: How Do You Thicker Pasta Sauce Without Corn Starch?

#14 Stir in Heavy Cream:

Besides other methods, this method will completely transform your pasta sauce. Heavy cream will make your pasta sauce creamy and thick at random. It also mellows out the acidity, resulting in a less traditional pasta sauce.

#15 Simmer it:

This is an old trick used to thicken the Pasta sauce, but you can thicken any sauce this way. Extra ingredients are not required. Let the liquid evaporate by heating your sauce over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the quantity. If your sauce is very thin, bring it to a boil and then heat for 10 minutes until it becomes viscous. Remove from the heat, bring your blender and blend it until smooth. You’ll get a different sauce for your pasta.

#16 Use of Tomato Paste:

Add 1 tbsp. of tomato paste at a time to the sauce while it’s over the low heat to reduce the liquid. Stir the sauce from time to time until it gets thick as you expect. In the beginning, you should add tomato paste into the sauce. So that the spices in the Pasta sauce will mellow the bland savor of the paste. You can also season the sauce later on if required as the tomato paste is quite flat.

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Why Is My Pasta Sauce Watery?

One of the most common reasons that pasta sauce gets watery is when the pasta is not drained enough. Let your pasta drain until it stops steaming. The steam from a moment ago cooked pasta causes condensation. And thus it gives rise to a pool of water when you mix the sauce. It can also come from rinsing your pasta. It also drenches the starch which makes it harder for the sauce to stick to the pasta. If you drained pasta enough so that it doesn’t get watery. Then, you don’t need to ask that “How to thicken pasta sauce?”

Does Pasta Sauce Need to Be Thick?

Yes. This is for the sauce to cling to the pasta and hold the dish together. If the sauce is too runny or slushy, it will not be as appetizing. A thick sauce will let you have a little bit of everything with each munch. To know if the sauce condenses enough, try to part the sauce in the middle with a scoop or ladle. Somewhat the sauce should cover the path that your spoon has taken.

Can You Simmer Pasta Sauce Too Long?

Yes and no. It depends on what you’re aiming for. If you want to have a thinner, fresher tasting pasta sauce, leave it to simmer from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. If you’re like me, and you want to have a thicker, richer tasting pasta sauce. Then leave it to simmer for up to 4 hours on low heat. Make sure to keep whisking it so that the sauce will not adhere to the bottom of the pan. You can also adjust the seasoning as you go.


16 best ways described above to explain “How to thicken pasta sauce?” These techniques listed above work well once at a time or in combination. Play with several of them to find the perfect taste and texture for your signature pasta sauce!

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