Spaghetti sauce watery

casiMay 2, 2008

What can I do to prevent home made spaghetti sauce from becoming watery? I drain my noodles well but I hate it when I put my nice thick looking sauce on the noodles and a big puddle of water appears around the noodles. What am I doing wrong?

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Even with thorough draining, not all the water comes off. Before plating, add a good dollop of sauce to the spaghetti and stir it up. That will coat the spaghetti with sauce instead of water.

With some types of sauce I dump the whole batch of pasta into the sauce, stir it up and plate the pasta from there, usually with tongs. Then top the pasta with the remaining sauce.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 9:07PM
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What Jim said:
Or maybe you are not letting it drain long enough ?

I usually flip the Noodles in the strainer about 4 times ,
especially if they are curved.
The water will lay in the Noodles, if you don't and come out onto the dish.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 9:33PM
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I drain the noodles and then place the pot back on the burner (electric) the heat that is left there after it's turned off dries up the water, just give it a shake or two. THEN add the sauce.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 9:43PM
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And be sure you aren't putting oil in your water.....makes the sauce slide off.
Perhaps your sauce needs a little tomato paste?
Linda C

    Bookmark   May 2, 2008 at 11:31PM
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Also, don't rise your pasta. Drain it well but don't rinse it. Rinsing removes the starch that helps the sauce cling.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 9:29AM
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I think that sometimes it's possible that the sauce is a bit overly-watery.

Is it possible you could post your sauce recipe?


    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 10:31AM
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To avoid the puddles of water that pool at the bottom of your plate of spaghetti, simply wait for the pasta to stop steaming after you drain it. It's the condensation that creates the puddle of water.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 12:05PM
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Yes, stir your pasta as it drains, to give the surface of the spaghetti a chance to dry out.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 12:40PM
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Thanks. It isn't just my sauce. I've eaten other folks'and theirs did the same thing. I just really did think that I drained sufficiently. Never heard of not rinsing. Thought you were supposed to. I will try draining better or like the one suggestion of putting the pan back over the burner. I was just worried that there was some reason that maybe the sauce was breaking down.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 2:49PM
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casi, you should never rinse your pasta unless you are using it in a cold pasta salad. When you rinse hot pasta you loose all the starchiness that allows the sauce to cling to the pasta.

There are many references on the web to support this. Here is one from the Food Network.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rinsing Pasta

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 3:00PM
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I think the same thing as Joe, that the pasta is likely not the problem, unless you really don't let it drain enough.
Here's what sometimes happens to me: a sauce looks thick enough in the pot, but when you pour it over a tangle of spaghetti, the spaghetti is like a strainer and separates the sauce -- the solider tomato bits stay on top while the watery juices run through and pool on the plate.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 5:37PM
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It must be your Sauce. I've never had a problem either adding oil to to water,
or rinsing the Spaghetti. I was told since the 40's to rinse the starch out.
The Sauce sticks to the Spaghetti. Maybe I've been lucky all these years.

It could just be that you don't let them drain enough.

Some Sauces with a lot of Crushed Tomatoes and no Puree or Paste, the water will drain out.

Could you put in your Sauce Recipe ?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2008 at 7:04PM
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Dump your sauce into a strainer over a bowl and see how thick it really is. Reduce it if it drips, you may dirty an extra pan but you may concentrate the flavor.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 3:29AM
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I usually add about a ladle full of the pasta water to my sauce, too, after I've let it reduce. Then, after draining the pasta, back in the pan, shake it around it a bit, and then add some sauce. I never rinse the pasta, and I don't use much tomato paste, but I let it cook most of the day.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 3:37PM
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Is there a rule that if you add very hot food to a cold/room temp plate that condensation wil occur? That would be my guess.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 4:45PM
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It's not clear to me whether the water is coming from the sauce or the pasta. Or, as a couple of people said, from condensation of steam on the plate. That last one can be helped by warming the plates, which is a good thing to do in any case.

Adding a small amount of pasta cooking water to the sauce as mentioned by ideefixe is advocated by Lidia, not necessarily to prevent water, but to add a little body to the sauce. I like to do that. I no longer use tomato paste for anything, every other form of tomatoes, but no paste.

Do you know which of the three is the sources of the water, the sauce, the pasta or condensation? If not, do you have just a hunch?

We have to solve this one. Watery plate! Yecchh!!!


    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 5:42PM
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I vote for condensation. Wait until your pasta has stopped steaming before putting it on the plate.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 5:44PM
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I think Cloudy Christine & Kandm may have a clue. If the sauce is added to naked pasta, the tomato sauce solids may rest on top of the pasta while the watery juicy part flows through and pools on the plate. I've found that putting the pasta back in the hot pot and tossing it over low heat for about a minute or so with a few ladles of sauce helps. It distributes the sauce evenly and allows the pasta to absorb the sauce flavors. Then I can add another ladle of sauce to each serving if desired (along with a swirl of extra virgin olive oil & a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese). I saw a couple of chefs on TV do this, tried it, and liked the end result.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 6:58PM
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Could you please put in your recipe, so they can figure out what you did.
Also , Did you use noodles ( Elbow's )that could hold water ?
If you did they have to be shaken a few times.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 7:38PM
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I do almost exactly as you, shambo. Except I am more likely to put the drained pasta into the sauce than back into the dry pot, although that used to work for me. I totally agree that the pasta should be coated with sauce before plating. No naked pasta, puleeze.

Olive oil is the basic, most important ingredient of my pasta sauces, whether it be marinara, clam sauce, putinesca, oil and garlic, or whatever. Olive oil is the first ingredient added and a drizzle is applied at the end of cooking.

I've seen the TV chefs do this too, notably Lidia, one of my faves.

But casi, what do you think is the source of that puddle of water, the sauce, the pasta or condensation?


Note to Jessy,
I am not a prude. Eating pasta naked is acceptable under certain circumstances. But never eat naked pasta.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 7:52PM
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New to the site. I have the same problems with watery pasta sauce. I have tried everything from ensuring the pasta is well drained, putting in extra tomato paste. Cooking the sauce for a long time, shorter time, I use canned chopped tomatoes and have tried draining the tomatoes of the juice they are canned in and my spaghetti is always sitting on a layer of runny water. Aggravates me to no end.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 12:12PM
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Maybe the sauce needs oil/fat? I've never had this problem, but I have a lot of meat in my sauce, that's well cooked down, and I always use oil in a quick sauce.

I also usually reheat the pasta with the sauce before serving. I think this allows any water released to steam off, but I do it because I like to serve it hot. :) My friends from Italy always bake it in a casserole dish.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:09PM
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Welcome! If you use a pasta pot with strainer, drain your pasta into the strainer at the kitchen sink, allowing the water to go down the drain. Shake the strainer well, and now insert it back into the main pot over a low flame and allow it to steam any leftover water off.

Once I started to do it this way, no more flooding on my plates!

And if you think you will have leftover pasta for another use/meal, it is ok to rinse it to keep it from sticking. Your sauce with adhere just fine.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:10PM
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You can also try using a different pasta other than spaghetti. I usually use fettucini or linguini instead of spaghetti, and the sauce adheres better. The last pasta I made was rotini (day before yesterday), and I made the sauce with fresh tomatoes from my yard and cooked them only a few minutes with red (ripe) Serrano chiles (also from my yard), and garlic. I cooked the chilies and garlic in butter and oil at a low temperature before adding the tomatoes, and then I added a bit of tomato powder to thicken the sauce. I also added fresh oregano and dried thyme.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 2:57PM
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Hello again and thank you for the welcome.
I don't use a pasta pot. I drain into a strainer. I don't usually put meat into my sauce. I love meat balls and cook them off in the oven then add them to the sauce after draining them. I have used different pasta's. Not just spaghetti. I have tried different things to prevent the water at the bottom of the plate. I use tongs to put the pasta on the plates and top the pasta with the sauce and meatballs. I made spaghetti with home made Italian sausage meatballs yesterday. I started the sauce about 4 hours before we ate and let the sauce cook on low for the 4 hours. I added extra tomato paste to thicken the sauce and it worked. The sauce was thick. But as we ate there that that puddle of water soaking the garlic bread and drowning the salad. I am just about ready to give up and go back to expensive jarred sauce. I simply do not know what to do or why it's happening.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 4:14PM
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Another thing you can to is use pasta plates for pasta - they are like shallow bowls and generally have a wide rim for you to put your garlic bread on, and they come in a variety of sizes and depths. I found some really nice ones on eBay a few years ago and always use them when pasta is the main course. I would not put salad on the same plate as pasta, but then I have a large collection of individual wooden salad bowls, although they do not get used often enough. I also found those on eBay, and so I try not to go to eBay too often!

Also, you can use tomato powder instead of tomato paste to make the sauce thicker. To me, tomato powder has a more intense tomato flavor than tomato paste, and it is easier to store, since it does not have to be refrigerated.


This post was edited by publickman on Thu, Apr 17, 14 at 17:22

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 5:19PM
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Always add the pasta to the sauce - never the sauce onto the pasta. That's what the Italians say!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 2:32AM
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My mother used to add the sauce to the pasta and mix it in and for some reason I always liked it on top the pasta and not mixed but I will try mixing it next time and see if it makes a difference. I think it has something to do with childhood going to Italian restaurants and seeing a pile of pasta with perfect meatballs sitting on top. But I believe non watery spaghetti bolognaise outweighs pretty spaghetti bolognaise.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 4:43AM
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Bolognese is a slow cooked meat sauce with the main other flavor being tomato. When it's made the fat from the meat is rendered into the sauce, and whatever water there is has been reduced out as steam. Hence the pretty restaurant plate. They also have a hot environment that probably dries out the pasta pretty fast. :) You can make a vegetarian version, but you still have to reduce it until no water separates, and being generous with the oil--which all the jars are, even when they're fairly low calorie--helps it stick to the pasta.

If you really don't want to change the way your recipe, there's one more, easy trick to try. Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth and let your sauce drip through that until it stops. At least half an hour for a full stainer, longer if you can stand it. Then you'll just have solids that are like a thick sauce which you can reheat on its own or with the pasta. You can use the water in soup.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 12:35PM
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Watery sauce is why I usually don't like homemade sauce. Every time, and I mean every time I have had homemade sauce made by someone else or the one time I attempted it, the water puddle appears. I have eaten sauce from pro chefs (in their homes) and still the water appears.

When I pasta out and usually have lasagne or ravioli and I don't notice any water. When at home usual Prego or any other store bought sauce, no water.

Since for me it only happens in homes with homemade sauce, is pasta prep and draining that much different than in a restaurant? Or is the sauce so much different? and why doesn't it happen with prego no matter how much I abuse my pasta?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 5:52PM
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Hello DebraK
Yes, I make my own sauce. I started doing this when the price of jarred sauce went up yet again now being over 2 pounds for a regular sized jar. I can not stand the generic brands and my daughter and I could not agree on name brands anyways. When the economy hit the all time low I had to start stretching pennies to ensure we got everything we needed for the month so I started finding recipes for things we like and ate a lot of like the pasta sauce and sausage. I started making bread, yoghurt and ice cream again which are very expensive at the shop and we at a lot of it. Right now I am struggling with the watery pasta sauce and yoghurt. The yoghurt is to runny and when I strain it it becomes to thick. I just can't seem to find that happy medium.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2014 at 6:27PM
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I have NEVER had watery sauce! I think you're just not cooking it long enough. Pasta drainss really quickly and steam dries in a matter of seconds so all this fuss with the draining is IMHO a load of .........
Perhaps I sound a little harsh but it's not complicated cooking. Really not. No harder than boiling eggs...........

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 3:45AM
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Yes that is harsh. If you read the posts above you will see I have cooked the sauce 4 hours. Should I have started the day before? Possibly the week before? I cook the pasta until done but not mushy. I drain well. I add the meat after the sauce has been cooking and I drain the meat well before adding.

Nice talking to you

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 6:11AM
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There is a certain transformation my sauce undergoes, and it's during an all day simmer. Certainly well past the four hour mark. Again, it's about what you want your sauce to be. Old time Italian mamas would talk about taking three days to make the sauce, but that's when you're starting with fresh tomatoes, so first you're making puree, then concentrating and only then starting on your sauce proper. I start with canned puree, though I do add some fresh tomatoes, start with the onions, and add the harder veg, then work my way down to the meat. Then it simmers, complete, for as long as I can stand it. Somewhere about the sixth or seventh hour, it darkens and...transforms. And, of course, it's been steaming all that time. I sometimes have to add water!

If I make a quick sauce (i.e., start now for tonight's dinner), I start with oil and tomato paste. There's no way a quick sauce isn't going to be watery if you put water into it. There's enough water in the onions, peppers, mushrooms, etc., that I saute them high and sweat the heck out of them before adding them. And while I always put zucchini in my simmered sauce, I never put it in a quick sauce because it's way too wet.

I never really thought about the why's of it. It's just the way I cook, and probably learned by rote as a kid. So I'm trying to pick apart what I do that works. Come to think of it, I also saute all of vegetables when I start a simmer sauce, though I'm not particularly trying to sweat them. It's just the way I was taught. "Get them going" before putting in the puree and all.

I'm afraid there is no magic solution for you. Simmer longer to get the water out. Strain it. Use fat in the sauce. Dry the pasta in a warm pot after you drain it. Heat the plates. Make a baked dish, Italian style, with the spaghetti and sauce together in the oven (allows the water to steam out). There are many ways and tricks to control the water content, but mostly you have to keep trying until you find what works for you.

I think Islay_corbel was trying to be a bit funny because we have a couple of threads going about boiling eggs. Boiling eggs is easy, except when it's not coming out right and it's hard. Same with spaghetti sauce.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Thank you PLLLOG,
I use tinned chopped tomatoes and tinned puree as well as pasata. I will try cooking it longer. I think I may actually try putting it in the slow cooker and letting it go 8 to 10 hours on low and see how that goes. I will put the pasta back in the pot after draining and see if this helps. I always start with a bit of olive oil to cook the onion in. I have this dislike of meat fat in my pasta sauce. I always cook the meat first and drain well before adding it to the sauce. But I rarely use minced beef in sauce. I prefer meatballs or Italian sausage which I always cook off in the oven and drain well before putting it in the sauce.

Islay_corbel I am sorry if I mistook humour for sarcasm.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 4:36PM
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The slow cooker should work, but leave it uncovered so the water can escape and check it now and then to make sure it doesn't get too dry.

I understand not wanting to use meat fat, but if you start with a generous amount of oil rather than "a bit", it could help. I really only know what I've made and experienced, and at a certain point picking apart which part does which is difficult, and the fat, while it does help the sauce stick to the pasta, might not help with the water issue. The jarred sauce always has a visible amount of fat (usually oil) in it, however, and you said that jarred sauce works for you. Actually, considering that, the problem with wateriness isn't the pasta, right? Or the expensive jarred sauce wouldn't be an alternative.

I had to look up pasata. It's not common in the U.S. I found this Jamie Oliver recipe for making pasata and looked at a couple of pictures of jars. It sounds like good stuff. :)

I use tomato puree and tomato paste, and add fresh tomatoes, so in the end, I think I have the equivalent of JO's pasata in there somewhere. :)

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 5:10PM
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PLLLOG lol yes I forget the difference between countries sometimes. I was born and raised in Florida but have lived here in Scotland for the past 15 years. Pasata is what is called Tomato sauce in the US. Tomato sauce here is called ketchup in the US lol I get so confused going back and forth with food names. What you call potato chips in the states are called crisps here and chips here you call french fries in the states. A cookie in the states is called a biscuit here and a biscuit in the states is called scone here haha I could go on and on but I will spare you the boredom. I thank you for the advise which I will try.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2014 at 6:25PM
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humour often doesn't travel ;)

SOmetimes I think the problem comes from the tomatoes. It's better to use tinned for most of the year a do the Italians. I kknow we can buy them fresh all year round but hot house toms aren"t the same as sun ripened.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 1:56AM
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I agree Islay_corbel
The one down fall about living in Scotland is the constant cool weather. 70f we get heat stroke warnings lol but we rarely reach 70. The mid to high 60's is our summer (when we get one) so fresh sun ripened tomatoes are hard to come by. The tomatoes we do get are expensive and tasteless. Tomatoes that are shipped in from Spain are ready to go off by the time they arrive. So tinned tomatoes are a big seller here and very expensive. I have an allotment plot that I will be attempting to grow some veg this year. I have a small green house (If I can get it put up) which I am going to attempt to grow tomatoes. I am looking at different ways of heating the green house, like using compost to raise the temp inside to see if the added heat and plenty of sun (if the skies stay clear this summer) then maybe I can grow a half decent tomato. I don't know if I can grow enough to make a huge batch of sauce to freeze or can. But all I can do is give it a go and see how it turns out.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 4:31AM
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Good luck with your tomato growing!

My advice, though, is unless you're overrun with tomatoes and need to preserve them, use them fresh. Why make something you can buy well in a tin given your limited season and space? I have a feeling even your fresh tomatoes from Spain that are ready to die didn't start out as the best of the crop. My mother still mutters about what were being advertised as California tomatoes in Canada. They were what we see in the culls bin. The ones that are sent for canning because they're not fine enough to sell at the grocery store.

I come from the land of the everlasting tomato. When people talk about giving up nightshades, I cringe. I know it's good for them--some people can't eat them--I just can't bear the thought of doing without tomatoes myself, and I expect to have at least five varieties to choose from at the store, plus heirlooms and extras. And I have better things to do with my energy than process bushels of tomatoes to make puree, though it's not so expensive here, probably because of the short freight. Have you checked if you can get a discount if you buy by the case? Or checked Amazon? (Do Amazon UK do groceries?)

Tomatoes are variable, though. When I was having my tomato consomme adventure, the Romas were very firm and not very fragrant, and there was a lot (as in group) of hot house tomatoes on discount that were deep red, rich, ripe and delicious. I couldn't keep from licking my fingers as I was peeling them no matter how many times I had to wash my hands. :) Then, as I was buying more of the good ones, the next lot came in and they were the same wan looking hot house tomatoes that we expect from the name.

The ones you grow yourself are precious. Enjoy them while they last!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 7:20PM
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I've never had watery tomato sauce, and so now (that I know you are in Scotland!), I am thinking that perhaps climate is a factor. It may be more humid and cooler where you are than where I am in Southern California (think southern Spain or northern Algeria for climate comparison). I got sun ripened tomatoes all last winter, but my vines are now beginning to play out, and I am planning to try planting seeds to see if I can grow them in the summer - they do better in winter for me.

Are you able to buy tomato powder where you are? I find that it works much better than tomato paste and even has a better flavor.

I had a lot of Scottish friends in British Columbia when I lived in San Francisco, and they had a difficult time with the heat in parts of California (or anywhere) when they would drive down to visit.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 7:39PM
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Well, up there in bonnie Scotland.... whreabouts are you by the way?
If your toms aren't the best, I've found the best thin to do is to cook them ÃÂ la Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - cut them in half and pack into a baking dish. Add cloves of garlic and seasoning and bake in the oven til there's a little charred round the edges. That drives off ome of the wateryness and makes for a richer-tasting sauce. I then whazz up the whole pan and freeze it in suitable sized blocks for us. It works a treat. I do seive out the seeds as I'm not a fan.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 2:44AM
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I really think the solution to watery sauces is easy. Had that problem for pasta sauces as well as with the numerous (daily) curries I cook. (Where is our friend from Tamil Nadu, GWlolo, to lend support here? I'm sure she's an expert with this phenomenon.) I love preparing various dhals, with consistencies ranging from liquids intended to moisten rice, through to those dry enough to pick up with a chapatti, with no dribbles.

The simple solution is not just to simmer for longer, but to turn up the heat and evaporate any excess liquid. Imagine if you forgot to turn off the heat and returned a couple of hours later to find a baked-on chunk of dry, burnt food stuck to the bottom of the saucepan. (Yes, been there, done that). I'll bet that wouldn't give you a watery sauce when added to the pasta. If it does, it's clearly a problem with the watery pasta, not the sauce.

So, you obviously want to achieve something slightly less than that burnt, dried outcome, but this only requires judicious supervision in the latter stages of cooking. (I have been known to add a good slug of tomato sauce/ketchup/catsup to aid in the thickening process.)

When you reckon it's thick enough and ready to serve...cook it for another minute to be sure.

And as mentioned by the others here, ensure that the pasta is well-drained and finished in a dry saucepan over heat, to dispel any remaining water.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:37AM
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Publickman lucky you! I lived in SanDiego when I was very young. Navy Brat. I was born and raised in Florida. My granny used to grow beautiful tomatoes and strawberries. But since moving to Scotland many years ago I have not been able to grow anything but mould. I got the allotment to see if the elderly people with plots around mine could advise me and they have given a few tips. Tomatoes.... get a green house. As for tomato powder I was actually just looking at some on Amazon UK they do have it and it is really expensive. But I have gotten into dehydrating fruits and veg and making up meals that just need water added. We have had some pretty severe weather and floods here, black outs etc so I have started buying in emergency supplies like candles, sterno kits, tents etc. So if we get hit by something we won't starve and if we have to go up into the highlands we are prepared. Where I am we sit right on the north sea. It's cold. I am currently looking for online companies that make dehydrated foods like eggs, milk, cheese, veg. The ones I have found are all in the US and the freight charge is ungodly. 4 times the cost of the food. But I am still searching. There has to be somewhere in Europe.

Hello again. I am in Arbroath. I like Hugh. I actually will try that! Roasting them is supposed to add flavour or bring out a more toatoey flavour. Thanks for that.

Shaxhome Hello
Thank you. I will try cooking it longer. I am trying to remember a product name I used years ago when I was at college. Professional cookery classes lol it was a vegetable based flavourless starch to thicken stocks and soups. It's not corn flour, rice flour or anything like this. I added that to my list of items to find. Thank you for the help.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:06AM
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Might just want to look at your recipe. Start with a good finely diced mirepoix. Your choice of veggie. I use onion, garlic, celery, grated carrot, parsley stems and half a very finely diced sweet potato. Sometimes a regular small white potato will do. I add ALOT of veg but not necessary.
Just a bit will help as a binder in your sauce. I do roast at least a portion of my tomatoes with some onion and garlic for some concentrated roast flavor. I don't use tomato paste. Just a personal preference not wanting that thick ketchup taste. My tomatoes are frozen from the fall harvest and still have that bright fresh flavor that paste seems to destroy.
Another good trick is to take out a cup or two of your mirepoix, after soft, and put aside. Later blend it with some of your tomatoes, (i often use some fresh ones), and puree in the blender with fresh herbs and use as a later addition for thickening.

Hundreds of sauce recipes, but i'm guessing your speaking of the classic red sauce with or without meat.
My basic red sauce, with the veggie addition, is never watery. Still bright red color. The veg breaks down and you would not even know it is there. (don't tell the kids)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 12:40PM
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I always had watery spaghetti sauce, until I moved to Texas and started using a different brand of canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. Before I had always used Hunt's tomato products. In Texas, I use Central Market brand San Marzano tomatoes and Muir Glen Organic tomato sauce. As long as I use those brands, I don't have watery spaghetti sauce.

btw, I cook my sauce forever. I generally start it in the morning, then cook it in the oven at a bare simmer until dinner.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 10:09PM
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Alexandra, on English TV yesterday there was an Italian chef saying that the Italians never use fresh toms in sauces... here's a link to the recipe he was cooking yesterday

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 2:38AM
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Hi Islay
I love Gino lol
Yes everyone uses canned over here. Tomatoes are not nice and expensive here.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 5:36AM
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Yes, the reason so many Italians use canned tomatoes is mostly the price. It costs a lot less and they can get the best tomatoes that way. Bbstx has a point. I also use Muir Glen or San Marzano--mostly because that's what my store has--and it could be that a bargain brand has more water in it to begin with or something.

But on that point, there's a story making the rounds, which might have begun as a joke, but is plausible enough to be real: Police in the Northeast were using jumps in electrical usage and heat signatures to find "grow houses" during a marijuana crackdown. They arrived at the door of a good sized house that they were sure had a big operation inside. To their surprise, an affable regular guy opened the door. They were ready for an armed raid and taken aback when he invited them in, pleasantly. Then they were surprised again when he admitted to growing a great many plants in the basement, but he equally pleasantly invited them to come see. There were row upon row of planting tables, grow lights, misters, the whole shebang, but it wasn't the telltale seven branched cannabis leaf they saw. It was the distinctive, notched tomato leaf, and all along the rows were hanging beautiful, ripening plum tomatoes. "Mamma says she can't get a decent tomato in this state," the man said. "She brought the stock for this over from Italy. As long as she keeps us in Sunday gravy, it's worth it."

So, A-F, I was making pasta (penne) last night and observed stuff. I had frozen the sauce in a three cup container. There was some water that had separated out in the freezing, but very little fat, even though there was oil and a lot of meat in the sauce. Generally, if there's a lot of fat, it'll rise to the surface on freezing and form its own layer. There were some little spots, but not a layer. I heated the defrosted sauce in a heavy pot, and the water reabsorbed. I also noticed that the sauce coated both the sides of the enamelled pot (I had to scrape it down after stirring) and the silicone scraper-spoon.

Does your sauce do that? Coat the pot and spoon?

I just dumped the pasta in a colander, and shook it a couple of times. Put the pasta in the pot of hot sauce and warmed them together. I observed no dilution of the sauce, even though penne could easily keep extra water. It was whole wheat pasta, though, and only cooked al dente. There was no separation or water in the dish.

If I had more than a single dinner's worth of sauce, I would have done things in a different order, putting the pasta in the dishes first and covering with sauce, but given your question, I was interested in observing what I was doing. ;)

I wish we could solve the mystery for you...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 3:08PM
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Golden David

For red sauce: Cook the pasta until it's just shy of finished, drain, then place pasta plus some pasta water in simmering sauce. Stir gently until pasta is cooked through and has absorbed some sauce.

The water content of various canned tomatoes barely matters here. You can control that completely by how long or or short you cook the sauce.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 3:16PM
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Italians only using cans does not make sense at all. I'm guessing he is just referring to a home based marinara?
Or convenience when fresh is not possible.
I lived in Rome for a year just around the corner from the central open market. Piazza Campa de' Fiori.
Sure , like most of us, we have a few crushed favorite tomato cans in the pantry. And Italians do as well. But even Marcella Hazan has a few favorite sauces that use fresh.
Italy has a great tomato growing season as we do. We make fresh sauce when we have fresh.
A can does not grow on a tomato can tree. It starts as a fresh tomato and, because of ripe abundance it needs to be canned.
Bottled and jared 'named' restaurant sauces have thickeners and emulsifiers to prevent separation.(read the labels) Use a thickener if you want a better sticky sauce. Or just a natural veg based 'glue'.

Restaurants use a large pot of water with inserts for their pasta. The water is used all night and gets starchy. Very useful to use a bit of that water in their sauce. Put a bit of pasta in that pasta pot early in the evening and it gets starchy quick. (breaks down).

Similar to finishing chili with a bit of masa.
Made chili last night and added masa and chocolate at the end. Used that rare last can tomato rather than my garden roasted frozen. I save that for a fresh flavor and it is watery but i don't mind it. Italians don't mind it either for certain sauce dishes. That's what good bread is for.

Boiling rather than a simmer might cause separation. Also, like many stews, chili, bolognese, does sometimes do best buy a chill and overnight rest in the fridge to thicken without needing the all day simmer.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 3:56PM
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Sleevendog, I read the Rao's (only bottled restaurant name on the store shelf) Marinara jar and there are no emulsifiers or anything. Tomatoes and oil, and other veg and spice. You can see that the oil separates a bit. I still think it's the oil that makes it stick, though, of course, if there are chemicals in the sauce, it could certainly help it along.

I don't doubt that there are places with good tomatoes all over Italy. Just like in where I live in SoCal, I can get good tomatoes all year round. Though they have occasional periods when they aren't the very best, they're always available in quality that most people would consider excellent. Twenty miles from where I live, there are areas where it's hard to get any decent produce at all. I'm sure the "Italians" who were being spoken of as always using canned tomatoes were ordinary home cooks. That's whom I've heard it from. They think that the good cans have the ripest tomatoes in any season, and half the work is done for them, in making the puree. I have made sauces from 100% fresh, but I honestly can't tell the difference when it's done, other than having to put a lot more salt in.

I have to thank you for the starch water explanation! I'd always heard this about using the starch water for thickening from TV chefs, and was baffled since I've never seen that much starch in the water and didn't realize they weren't really talking to me. The water for a restaurant's fill of dishes of pasta would be very different. And your point about thickening the spaghetti sauce with starch is something I never would have thought of (I don't finish my chili with masa, either), so thanks for teaching me a new trick.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 1:03AM
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