Given the high water content in fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce can get very watery. If you find yourself with sauce that is too runny, don’t throw your batch away. Instead, use these easy methods to take your red sauce from a watery mess to a thick masterpiece.
Because cornstarch doesn’t have flavor, it won’t alter the flavor of your sauce. However, it will change the consistency a bit and give it a glossy sheen. For this method, combine equal parts water and cornstarch and add it to the sauce. Be sure to add a small amount at first and gradually add more to achieve the desired thickness. And because cornstarch is a strong thickening agent, you would only need to use less than a teaspoon of the mixture for a pot of red sauce.
Use The Pasta Water
While this trick may seem counterintuitive, pasta water can actually be a thickening agent for tomato sauce. The starchy water works in the same way as the cornstarch mixture mentioned above. To do this, all you have to do is use a pasta basket, spider strainer or spaghetti spoon to extract the cooked pasta from the pot. Then, take a couple of teaspoons of the water and add it to your sauce. It might become more watery at first, but it will thicken as it simmers.
Throw In Mashed Potatoes
Yes, it may sound a little taboo, but this method works wonders for your watery tomato sauce. It serves the same purpose as the cornstarch because potatoes are loaded with starch. All you have to do is peel, boil and mash a potato. You can even add butter and milk if you want. This method will result in a slightly sweeter sauce, but it will be thicker and more filling.
Toss In Breadcrumbs
Flour is another thickening agent that can be used to thicken sauces. Because breadcrumbs are made primarily of flour, they a great for thickening your red sauce. You can either purchase a can of breadcrumbs or you can make your own by toasting bread slices and crumbling them into fine crumbs. Although you will notice the addition of breadcrumbs in the sauce’s texture, it doesn’t change the taste much.
Make A Roux
A roux is used in French and Cajun cuisine as a thickening agent. To make a roux, just melt butter and add flour. Specifically, melt one cup of butter in a medium sized skillet and then add one cup of flour. Mix until the sauce becomes thick and smooth. After you create a roux, add it to the spaghetti sauce small amounts at a time. Keep in mind that this method does alter the flavor of your sauce a bit. For those with a gluten allergy, substitute plain flour with one of these gluten-free flours.
Add Grated Cheese
Kick your sauce up a notch with some shredded cheese. This is a quick and easy way to thicken up your pasta sauce. Because most cheeses including parmesan, cheddar, and romano tend to have a higher amount of sodium, therefore, adding cheese will make the sauce a bit salty.
Reduce To A Low Boil Or Simmer
This is the easiest way to thicken tomato sauce. First, bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat and allow for it to simmer uncovered. Be sure to stir the sauce often to prevent it from burning. Allowing it to boil on low heat will encourage the excess water to evaporate, resulting in a thicker sauce. While this does take longer than other methods, an advantage to this is that it does not change the taste of the sauce.
Add Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is a go-to for many to thickening their spaghetti sauce. The best time to add tomato paste is in the beginning so that the flavors of spices can tone down the mild flavor of the paste. If you find that the tomato paste makes your sauce a little bland, just add more spices and seasonings.
Stir In Heavy Cream
This method will completely transform your pasta sauce. Heavy cream will automatically make your tomato sauce creamy and thick. It also mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes, resulting in a less traditional spaghetti sauce.
Meat is another way to thicken up watery pasta sauce while making your sauce more savory. All you have to do is brown ground beef, turkey, pork, or Italian sausage and add it to the sauce and let it simmer. The longer you let your sauce simmer, the more flavorful it will be.
Vegetables not only increase the nutritional value of your spaghetti sauce, but it also adds depth. You can add shredded carrots, celery, peppers, onions, mushrooms, or diced tomatoes. The flavor of the sauce depends on the type of vegetable you decide to add. Also, if you don’t mind a little crunch on your tomato sauce, stick to crunchier veggies.