How to Thicken Pasta Sauce? 4 Easy Way!

How to thicken pasta sauce

Pasta is probably the greatest gift of Italians to the rest of the world next to pizza.  It’s versatile flavor, interesting shapes, and accompanying array of sauces really leaves you wanting more and more.  

Our goal with this article is to affirm your love of pasta and share some recipes for you to make and enjoy at home with your friends and family.   Pasta lovers unite!  

Complex History for this Complex Carb

There are many theories on how pasta came to be.  The most famous theory would have to be the one of Marco Polo introducing pasta to Italy upon returning from a trip to China.  But this seem to more like a myth.   According to the International Pasta Organization (yes, there is really such a thing), there is evidence that pasta dates back to the 3rd century BC and it originated in Naples, Greece. The first known form of pasta is lasagna.

Pasta and their Sauce-Buddy

Pasta is made from flour, water, and eggs.  These are then formed into different shapes and sizes. 

Technically, you can use any type of pasta for any sauce (sorry Italian friends).  But foodnetwork.com provides a guide on how to pair your pasta with the right sauce.  We are sharing their recommendations for some of the more common pastas available in your local supermarket.

  • Spaghetti, Angel Hair, and Spaghettini – These thin long noodles are perfect with light sauces like tomato, or garlic and olive oil.  Their thin strands allow them to get easily coated by the light sauce.  A topping of chopped fresh herbs, diced tomatoes or bits of pancetta is suggested to add oomph.
  • Fettuccine, Linguine, Tagliatelle, and Pappardelle – These flat ribbon-like pastas with their shape have a lot of surface that can accommodate rich and heartier sauces like Alfredo.
  • Penne, Rigatoni, Ziti, and Macaroni – These short tube pastas work best with soups, salads, casseroles and pasta dishes that have creamy or hearty sauces.  The bigger the tube, the better they can capture the sauce, meats, and veggies.

The Secret is in the Sauce!

It’s a bit cheesy, but it’s true.  The crowning glory of any pasta dish is a tasty, well-seasoned, and rich sauce that coats every piece of pasta.  Here are some pasta sauce recipes you can try. 

  • Classic Marinara Sauce – this is a classic Italian pasta sauce made of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and herbs.  Here is a recipe from spendwithpennies.com.
  • Creamy Chicken and Bacon Pasta – try this creamy recipe from recipetineats.com
  • Tomato Cream Sauce – this sauce combines the best of both world’s tomato and cream.  Try this recipe from allrecipes.com.  You can also add meats to this sauce, like canned tuna or ground beef.
  • Ragu – is a basically a tomato sauce that has meat.  Here is a recipe from recipetineats.com.

Say Cheese!

No pasta is complete without the addition of this dairy.  It’s more than just a garnish, it adds flavor and texture to your pasta sauce.  Level up your pasta by adding the right cheese.  Here is a guide from Rachel Ray cheeses used for pasta.

  • Parmigiano Regianno – More commonly known as Parmesan cheese.  This is the all-around, one-size fits all cheese for all types of pasta sauces ranging from tomato, cream-based, oil-based, and even brown butter pasta sauces.
  • Ricotta Salata – This is made from goat’s milk that is salted and aged.  It’s wet and crumbly in texture and adds a briny taste.
  • Pecorino Romano – Made from aged sheep’s milk, this sharp flavored cheese is best for olive-oil based sauces.
  • Ricotta – Made from cow or sheep’s milk, this adds creaminess to pasta sauces.

Adjusting Your Sauce

Depending on which sauce you choose, you may want to adjust a pasta recipe to make it either thicker or thinner according to your preference.  We compiled some tips here for you on how to trouble shoot your pasta sauce.

How to thicken pasta sauce

Put it back in the heat

If the sauce is just a thin, you can thicken it by simmering it lid-off, this way you boil off any excess liquids.  But don’t leave it simmering, you need to stir it occasionally and monitor the thickening progress.

Add some bread crumbs

These crumbs soak up the excess water and are basically tasteless.  But add them little by little until you get the consistency you want.

Bring on the Cheese

Adding Parmesan cheese also thickens your sauce and adds flavor as well. 

Add a bit of Pasta Water

Pasta water absorbs the starch of the pasta, so adding it to your sauce which adds flavor because it’s salty but also thickens the sauce too.  Add little by little to avoid making your sauce too salty.

How to loosen pasta sauce

Simply add liquids that are already part of the recipe like cream, tomato puree, stock/broth, wine, or water.   Add it bit by bit, then let the sauce simmer a bit. 

Healthy Pasta-abilities

As if you needed more reasons to love it. But here goes:

Pasta helps you with that diet

Pasta is known to be fat-free, it’s also low in sodium and calorie which will help you feel full without packing on the calories.

It gives you sustained energy

It is a complex carb hence it makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time.  It also releases energy at a sustained level, so you feel energized longer.

It is rich Folic Acid

This B vitamin helps your body produce new cells and maintain them.  They also prevent cancer by safeguarding your DNA.

Pasta makes you happy

Of course eating something as delicious will really make you happy.  But this is actually backed by science.  Carbohydrate-rich food (pasta is a complex carb) increases the amount of serotonin our body produces.  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that trigger feelings of happiness and well-being. 

What’s not to love?

Pasta tastes good, is good for you, and makes you scientifically happy.  If that’s not reason enough to love it, we don’t know what is.