Why Is My Spaghetti Sauce Watery? Tips for Fixing This

The beauty (and joy) of eating spaghetti is in that thick, hearty spaghetti sauce. But you will agree with me that many people have experienced what can be described as “a watery halo effect” at least once while making spaghetti sauce (except, of course, if you rarely cook or you never made spaghetti sauce).

A watery halo effect is when you have your spaghetti sauce watery and thin and your spaghetti appears to be drowning in it. It is not uncommon to have a little too much or excessive water in a spaghetti or pasta sauce, which is undesirable because a watery spaghetti sauce won’t stick to your spaghetti instead it becomes more like spaghetti in tomato soup.

At this point, you need to know what exactly it is that makes spaghetti sauce watery so that you’ll be able to prevent a mess.

Why Is My Spaghetti Sauce Watery?

Usually, you must have done either of these two things to make your spaghetti sauce watery. 

  1. You did not boil off the liquid in your homemade tomato sauce: This is a common mistake when you’re using fresh tomatoes to make your sauce, especially when you are in a hurry. Fresh tomatoes contain a high percentage of water which must be boiled off so as not to have your spaghetti sauce watery. Always remember to drain your canned tomatoes also.
  2. You did not drain the pasta well enough: Not draining your pasta completely before adding your sauce will also result in a watery mess on your plate.

Why Is My Spaghetti Squash Watery?

Spaghetti squash has high water content and tends to be watery when cooked. Spaghetti squash can be watery if

  • It was overcooked.
  • It was not properly dehydrated by sprinkled salt over it to draw out the water.

How to Thicken Pasta Sauce Without Cornstarch or Flour

If you notice that your pasta sauce is watery, don’t pour it away. Even if you do not have any cornstarch or flour left in your pantry, these easy methods below will transform your sauce from a watery mess to a deliciously thick sauce, without the addition of cornstarch or flour.

  1. Allow the sauce to simmer on low heat

Boiling off the water is the easiest way to fix watery pasta sauce. You can even add a few teaspoons of boiled water from the pasta to your boiling sauce; the starch in the pasta water helps to further thicken pasta sauce based on the principle of starch gelatinization. Bring the sauce to a boil, remove the lid from your pan and continue stirring. Reduce the heat source and stir sauce continuously to prevent burning. Allow the sauce to simmer for some minutes until your desired consistency is reached. 

Note: Using pasta water to thicken your sauce won’t work well if you are making gluten-free pasta. If your pasta is gluten-free, simply boil off the excess water in your pasta sauce by simmering on low heat till the sauce gets to your desired consistency.

  • Add tomato sauce or paste

Tomato paste is a commonly used thickener for soups, stews, and sauces. Adding tomato paste to your watery spaghetti sauce will help balance the ratio of solids to liquid in the sauce, thereby, thickening it.

  • Stir in some mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes can also be used to thicken watery spaghetti sauce. Boil a few potatoes, mash them and stir into your sauce.

  • Add egg yolk

Proteins such as eggs can be used to draw out water from your sauce. Remove an egg yolk and mix with a small amount of your sauce first, before mixing with the entire sauce.

  • Add shredded cheese

Cheese also works well to thicken watery pasta sauce. Soft cheese will melt faster when cooking on low heat, compared to hard cheese. Add your grated/shredded cheese directly into the sauce and stir until it reaches your desired consistency. Be careful not to add excess cheese, as too much cheese can leave your pasta sauce with a salty taste.

  • Add meat or veggies

Another effective method to thicken watery spaghetti sauce is to add meat to the sauce. This will even make your sauce more savory in addition to thickening it. All you have to do is to add ground meat (beef, turkey, pork) to your sauce and allow it to simmer. The longer your sauce simmers, the more flavorful it becomes.

Alternatively, you can add some vegetables to your spaghetti sauce. Veggies not only improve the nutritional profile of your spaghetti sauce but also improve the flavor and appearance of your sauce. You can add some shredded veggies such as carrots, celery, peppers, onions, mushrooms, or diced tomatoes. However, you should stick to crunchier vegetables; they work best in this case.

Read also: What to Put in Ramen Instead of Seasoning

How Do You Thicken Pasta Sauce with Flour?

You can thicken your pasta sauce with flour in two different ways.

By adding flour slurry

Make a slurry by adding 2 tablespoons of flour to 1/4 cup cold water and whisk until it is smooth. Add the slurry to your spaghetti sauce over medium heat, stir continuously and cook until your desired consistency is reached.

By adding a roux

A roux is a thickening agent usually made from a mixture of equal parts flour and fat, usually butter. To make a roux, heat butter over medium heat, sprinkle some flour when it starts to bubble and whisk until your mixture forms a thick paste and turns golden brown. Add the roux to your sauce and whisk to combine. Cook until your desired consistency is reached.

How To Thicken Tomato Sauce For Canning

The best way to thicken tomato sauce for canning is to boil off all the water completely. Adding flour and other additives may affect the taste or flavor during storage. 

Read also: 10 Best Vegetables to Add to Ramen

Best Cornstarch and Flour Alternatives for Thickening Spaghetti Sauce

The best cornstarch and flour alternatives for thickening spaghetti sauce include;

  • Tomato paste
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Egg yolk
  • Meat
  • Veggies
  • Cheese

Now that you know what makes your spaghetti sauce watery and the ways by which you can prevent it or thicken your sauce in case of any mishap, you can enjoy your thick and delicious spaghetti sauce every single time; there is no need to throw watery spaghetti sauce away. We’d like to hear from you to know how it goes when you get to try any of the aforementioned methods of thickening your spaghetti sauce. Bon apétit.

By Luong Tan

Luong Tan, the creative and passionate founder of Bourbono, is a multi-talented individual with a deep love for the culinary arts. An accomplished food blogger, cookbook author, and former Ambassador of US cuisine in Vietnam (2015-2016), Luong has been on a mission to share his appreciation for food with the world.

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