How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce: 3 Brilliant Tips and Tricks

Published Categorized as Sauces, Guide

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Spaghetti Bolognese is a deliciously rich, Italian pasta dish that is popular the world over and is often made from home. That said, when a lot of people make spaghetti Bolognese at home they tend to use ready-made jars of pasta sauce. As such, when you come to make some homemade spaghetti sauce instead of it being a nice and thick sauce you may instead end up with some watery sauce. As such, you may be scrambling for a quick method of how to thicken spaghetti sauce. If so don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Table of Contents

What Is Spaghetti Bolognese?

As mentioned above spaghetti bolognese (or ragù alla bolognese as it is typically known in its home nation) is a pasta dish of Italian origins. It is quite simply a dish that uses a mincemeat and bolognese tomato sauce or ragù and mixes it with some spaghetti sauce. Often outside of Italy, this dish will be abbreviated to just be called spaghetti, as such it is not uncommon to see people colloquially talk about spaghetti sauce.

The dish itself is a truly delicious and rich combination of tastes and textures which range from the al dente spaghetti pasta to the zesty, meaty and tender yet crunchy bolognese ragù. This is will often have generous amounts of other ingredients such as garlic, onions and various fresh herbs. As a result of all these diverse flavours and textures, this dish is truly a hit with people of all ages and taste preferences. Therefore versions of it have become something of a home-cooking staple the world over.

How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce: 3 Brilliant Tips and Tricks

How To Make Spaghetti?

As mentioned above spaghetti bolognese is something of a staple of home cooking recipes. However, many people will use a sauce from a jar out of convenience or due to lacking the necessary knowledge of how to make this tomato sauce from scratch. Additionally, you may want to give it a go but be worried that you’ll end up with water spaghetti sauce. If this is the case for you though, don’t worry. Below we’ll outline how to make a truly delicious spaghetti bolognese from scratch:

Spaghetti Bolognese Ingredients

Before you can begin making your spaghetti bolognese though, you’ll need to make sure that you have the necessary ingredients to do so. The beauty of making this dish though is that in most situations the necessary ingredients can be easily procured from the local grocery store or supermarket. With this in mind then, you will need the following ingredients:

  • MInce Meat: Traditionally beef will be used. That said pork or a mix of pork and beef can also work. You’ll need approxiamtley four hundred grams of this either wya though.
  • Onion: A single diced onion add some wonderful extra flavour to spaghetti sauces along with a nice soft crunch. White onion will typically be used but red onions can also work but will add some subtle sweetness. Whether this is a good thing though it’s up to you to say. Either way, one onion should be sufficient for the recipe.
  • Garlic: The eternal secret ingredient in pretty much every great dish is of course some garlic. This adds some wonderful extra flavour to your dish and enhances those already there. That said too much can be overpowering so two chopped cloves is plenty.
  • Tomatoes: These will of course make the tomato sauce a tomato sauce. The combination of zesty tomatoes and minced meat is truly a wonderful combination of flavours. For this recipe two four hundred grams of canned tomatoes. Ideally chopped if possible. Alternatively though, one can of tomato paste and one of chopped tomatos also works excellently.
  • Olive OIl: Ideal for browning your mince and allowing your sauce to simmer. In particular though olive will also add some wonderful extra flavours. Two tablespoons of olive oil should be sufficient though.
  • Salt and Pepper: Naturally, these are used in all sorts of dishes as they give your dish that extra bit of flavour. Of course, how much you add will depend on your taste.
  • Red Wine: This is an optional extra, however, to make it truly special adding some merlot to the sauce is truly wonderful. Using this sparingly with half a cup of red wine is the perfect amount to make the sauce that extra bit special.
  • Thyme: A teaspoon of thyme added to the sauce will add a little bit of extra wonderfully herby flavour that plays wonderfully with the tomato sauce.
  • Bay leaf: Adding a bay leaf to the sauce whilst it simmers is a great way to add even more subtle earthy, herby and aromatic flavouring to the dish.
  • Beef Boullion (beef stock): Adding some stock to your ground beef whilst making the sauce will once again add some extra layers of flavour to the dish.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Once again, a small dash of Worcestershire sauce will add that little bit of extra nuance to the sauce and make for something truly special.
  • Spaghetti: Of course it wouldn’t truly be a spaghetti bolognese without the spaghetti. As such four hundred grams of this pasta noodle will be essential. You can of course use store bought varieties, however, to make it truly special then you should make the pasta yourself from scratch.

How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce: 3 Brilliant Tips and Tricks

Spaghetti Bolognese Method

Now that we have our ingredients assembled it is time to start making your spaghetti bolognese. This method might be more complex than some others or by using some ready-made sauce. However, if you take the time to get it right at this stage then you can ensure that you start with thick spaghetti sauce and therefore do not need to thicken tomato sauce. With that in mind then, to make a truly delicious spaghetti bolognese then you should follow the steps found below:

  1. In a a large saucepan heat some olive oil and brown your mincemeat on a medium heat. When doing so ensure that you don’t burn the meat as it will cook incredibly quickly. When cooking the mince it should only take roughly two minutes and use salt and pepper for taste.
  2. Once browned, remove the mincemeat from pan and place it to one side for the moment. Following which add some more oil to the now empty pan and heat it up once again.
  3. Sauté you onions and garlic until they have become tender and fragrant. This should be quite a quick process so once again be sure to avoid burning them.
  4. Add in you canned tomatoes/tomato paste, beef stock, thyme, worcestershire sauce, red wine, and the bay leaf to the pan along with some salt and pepper to taste. Then stir until the sauce is sauce is cohesive and reduce the heat to a low heat to let the sauce simmer.
  5. Allow the sauce to reduce slightly, following which add ground beef (or pork) back to the pan. Stir this well but gently with the sauce until it has become fully integrated.
  6. On a low heat allow the sauce to reduce until it reaches a nice and thick consistency. This essentially means allowing it the moisture to the evaporate as steam. During this process ensure that you occasionally stir the sauce in order to prevent it form clumping or sticking to the pan.
  7. Once the sauce is reaching the desired consistency you should begin to prepare your spaghetti. To do so bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Then add the your spaghetti and some salt to taste. Roughly two ounces of dry spaghetti per person should be sufficient.
  8. When the spaghetti is al dente you should drain the water and plate it up. Following which add your bolognese ragù to the top of it when it has reduced to be thick enough.

Does Spaghetti Sauce Need To Be Thick?

Whilst many people tend to talk about wanting thick spaghetti bolognese sauce this may not always necessarily be essential. This is because of the way that different types of designed since some variations will work best with a watery spaghetti sauce whilst others will work better with a thicker one.

Spaghetti for example is typically served with more water and smooth sauces. Meanwhile, rigatoni, fusilli or rotini will be used with thicker and chunkier sauces. As such, ragù alla bolognese as the traditional version of the dish is known in Italy won’t be served with spaghetti for this reason unless in a touristy part of Italy.

As such, when you end up with some more watery bolognese you won’t necessarily need to thicken the sauce in order for it to work well. That said though if wanting to serve the bolognese more traditionally or simply prefer it thicker, then you will need to know how to thicken pasta sauce.

How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce: 3 Brilliant Tips and Tricks

Methods To Thicken Spaghetti Sauce

When you’re wanting to thicken up your spaghetti sauce the though there are a variety of ways that you can do so. Now whilst you can enjoy it when spaghetti sauce is watery, you may not enjoy it from a textural context. As such when thickening pasta sauce you should try one of the following ideas to make your spaghetti sauce thicker without compromising on any flavours:

  1. Change The Ratio Of Solids And Liquids
  2. Thickening With Starch
  3. Thickening With Proteins

Change The Ratio Of Solids And Liquids

When you are wanting to thicken a sauce perhaps one of the simplest ways to do so is to change the ratio of solids and liquids that a present in the sauce. This is because naturally, the higher the ratio of solids then the thicker the sauce will inevitably be.

This can be accomplished in two main ways which are to reduce the number of liquids that a present within the sauce. Meanwhile, you can also add more solids to the sauce in the first place. Both methods can work well depending on your preferences and whether you want to alter the flavour of the sauce at all.

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Reducing The Liquid

To reduce the sauce you can of course use the method outlined above in the spaghetti bolognese recipe. However, the issue with this can be that if you have gone massively overboard then allowing it to reduce gradually can take a long time and may burn the other ingredients.

As such if the sauce needs thickening then boiling it to reduce some liquid is an excellent way to thicken your spaghetti sauce. This will get rid of the excess wateriness quickly and thereby thicken the sauce in no time. However, when using this method, ensure that you do so before adding the mince back to the sauce as the meat may lose its flavour when boiled.

Adding More Solids

To add more solids to the sauce though the best and simplest option is to add a vegetable puree. Obviously, tomato puree may be your first thought but truly any vegetable puree should work well in this context. That said though they may slightly alter the flavour of the sauce subtly. However, whether that is a positive or negative comes down to your own palette.

When using a puree you can of course use one that is store bought and this can work well. However, in order to have better control over the flavour added by the puree blending your own is recommended. That said though, doing so will add more steps to the overall preparation process.

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Thickening With Starch

Perhaps one of the most traditional and easy ways to increase the thickness of your pasta sauce though is to add some extra starch to the mix. Starches are found within plants and are long chains of glucose molecules that are used to store energy within cells. When heated such as when mixed into a sauce on a hob a process called starch gelatinization will begin, a process that results in the starch soaking up the water around it. As such, they can be used to effectively thicken the sauce by removing liquid. Some great ways of adding starch to your sauce are as follows:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Cornstarch slurry
  • Roux
  • Pasta Water

Mashed potatoes

This might sound like a strange idea but if you have any leftover mashed potatoes then mixing this into your sauce can make for a great sauce thickener. Alternatively though, taking a peeled potato, microwaving it until soft and mashing it can also work for this purpose.

How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce: 3 Brilliant Tips and Tricks

Cornstarch slurry

Adding a one to one ratio mix of corn mix and water into your sauce a tablespoon at a time is a great way to do so. To use it simply mix it in increments until you reach the satisfactory consistency.


For a slightly more advanced option making a roux is a classic option for thickening up your sauce. Cook equal amounts of butter and flour and allow it to simmer on a low heat. Add to the sauce once it has taken on a velvety texture and cook the sauce for an extended period until the flour flavour is gone.

Pasta Water

A classic option for your adding some starch to your pasta sauce is to add some of the water used in boiling your pasta to the sauce, The reason for this is because pasta is naturally starchy, as such when boiled the water will naturally take on some of this starch.

As such, an excellent and simple way to thicken your pasta sauce is to add some of the pasta water to your sauce. Alternatively though, if boiling your sauce then adding the pasta directly to it whilst making it is an excellent way to kill two birds with one stone.

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Thickening With Proteins

In a similar vein to using starches to thicken your sauce, another excellent option is to use proteins to achieve a similar process. When they’re heated up though these proteins will become unfolded and expose the hydrophilic moieties within that will eagerly bind with water. When using proteins for this purpose there is the possibility that once again the extra ingredients will have an influence on the final flavour, which again may be a pro or a con depending on your preferences. With that in mind then, two main ways in which you can use proteins in this way are as follows:

  • Egg Yolks
  • Cheese

Egg Yolks

We all know that when eggs a heated that they will change their structure significantly. As such they are commonly used in baking such as with cakes. With this in mind then it makes perfect sense to use egg yolks to thicken up your pasta sauce to the desired consistency.

That said though when you are using them in this way it is crucial to temper them first as they may cook too quickly if you don’t. In order to do this, simply whisk some of your hot pasta sauce with the egg yolk first and then mix the resulting mixture with the rest of the sauce whilst cooking at a low temperature.

How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce: 3 Brilliant Tips and Tricks


Cheese often goes hand in hand with not only pasta but also with meat and tomato sauces. As such adding some to the pasta sauce to help thicken it up is an excellent way to add more cheesy goodness to your dish. Naturally, this will have some impact on the flavour of the spaghetti bolognese but with how commonly cheese will be served with this dish anyway this is unlikely to be a downside.

When you’re using cheese to thicken your sauce, you should always use a generous scoop of cream cheese or an easy to melt cheese in decently sized handfuls. Additionally, you should be certain to cook the sauce on low heat in order to not burn the cheese. The result will be a wonderful sauce that is brilliantly rich that has a unique spin for this classic dish.

Some Ideas For Spaghetti Side Dishes

Naturally, when you have made a deliciously thick spaghetti bolognese using the techniques mentioned above, you’ll want to ensure that you’re serving it with the best accompaniments. Naturally, this won’t be a comprehensive list but when serving spaghetti bolognese you should consider pairing it with the following options;

  • Garlic Bread
  • Foccacia Bread
  • Side Salad
  • Fruit Salad

Garlic Bread

When it comes to spaghetti bolognese and really any Italian dishes some garlic bread is always an excellent choice for a side dish. When you have made a rich and creamy tomato and meaty sauce some crusty and doughy bread along with the garlic and potentially some melted cheese makes for a heavenly combination.

Additionally, the beauty of garlic bread is that the type of bread you choose can add even more variety to the dish. Some great examples are a crusty baguette, a pizza base, or even pitta bread which will each bring their own unique texture. Not only that though, if you’re into baking, serving some freshly baked garlic bread of your own alongside your homemade spag bol will truly elevate the overall dish.

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Foccacia Bread

Another great option for bread dishes is some focaccia bread which is a delicious form of Italian flatbread that can be easily prepared in the oven. Often this bread is compared to pizza but focaccia is typically much thicker, springier and slightly more crispy.

Focaccia bread is truly a wonderful choice though because it can be prepared in a variety of different ways with an assortment of different ingredients and toppings. This can include being made into the aforementioned garlic bread. As such, when serving it alongside your spaghetti bolognese, you can truly customize it to make a side dish that is tailored to your own desires.

Side Salad

When it comes to a classic and fresh side though, some side salad is a deliciously fresh and crunchy counterpoint to your main dish. A classic green salad is of course an excellent choice for pairing your main dish with as they are easy to make and can be made in a variety of different ways.

As such, when you are deciding on a salad option, there are a number of avenues you can go down. Some great examples of which include the Caesar salad, an arugula based option or even potentially a Greek salad are all fantastic options.

How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce: 3 Brilliant Tips and Tricks

Fruit Salad

For an excellent choice for a dessert to follow your spaghetti bolognese, a fruit salad makes for a great choice that is light, sweet, fruity and zesty. These make for a great option after your main dish because it offers a refreshing contrast to the heavy and rich main.

An example of a great option for this is of course a zesty ambrosia fruit salad. To do so, simply combine some crushed pineapple, orange slices, shredded coconut, marshmallows and whipped cream. The beauty of this being it is simple to make and is great when served after being cooled in the fridge overnight.

Answered: How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce

When you’re planning to make some spaghetti bolognese from scratch, then you may end up finding that the sauce is somewhat watery and therefore underwhelming. As such, if you end up in such a scenario there are a multitude of ways in order to avoid it. At its core though, the three main ways to do so are to add starch or protein or to simply change the ratio of solids and liquids in the recipe.

FAQ – How to Thicken Spaghetti Sauce

How do you thicken your spaghetti sauce?

When the sauce for your spaghetti bolognese is a bit watery you naturally may want to thicken it up somewhat. At its core though, these methods boil down to changing the ratio of solids and liquids or to add some proteins or starches.

How do you make spaghetti sauce not watery?

When you’re making a spaghetti bolognese sauce from scratch you should try to reduce the sauce as much as possible before serving. However, if it is still too watery then changing the ratio of solids and liquids or adding some proteins or starches to the sauce.

What are 3 ways to thicken a sauce?

When you want to thicken a sauce for a dish such as pasta, there are three different ways that you can do it to great effect. These methods are to simply change the ratios of solids and liquids, add some proteins or add some starches to the sauce.

Why is my spaghetti sauce watery?

When you are making spaghetti bolognese you may find that it has become incredibly watery. This can come from a variety of factors such as not draining the pasta properly using too many wet ingredients in the dish or not enough solid ones. Fortunately, though no matter the cause it can always be fixed either by changing the ratios of solids and liquids or adding some starches or proteins to the sauce.

By James Clarke

James is an enthusiastic home-cooking hobbyist (being very modest) his taste-buds are tuned for flavor profiles that will have you salivating at the thought of what's cooking. As an occasional author at Alice's Kitchen he brings his own unique style to his articles and entertainment through them. You can always check out what he's up to over on his social profiles linked below.