How To Thicken Pasta Sauce

Whether you’ve purchased pasta or made your own, knowing how to thicken pasta sauce will transform your pasta dish. Serving your pasta with a runny, watery sauce won’t sit well with your friends and family. 

A good, thick, flavorful sauce is often best suited for most pasta dishes. But what if your sauce is too thin? Is it possible to save it? Or must you start over? The good news is that there’s no need to panic. Simply read on to learn how to thicken pasta sauce and ensure a thick, rich, creamy sauce every time.

How To Thicken Pasta Sauce

Pasta sauce isn’t all that different from any other sauce regarding basic thickening techniques. To thicken pasta sauce, try the following methods:

1. Simmer The Pasta Sauce

This is the simplest method for thickening pasta sauce without changing the taste. Simmering your pasta sauce on low heat allows the excess water to evaporate. 

For the best results, keep it covered and stir it frequently to ensure it doesn’t burn. One caveat is that it may take some time but produces a wonderfully thick pasta sauce. 

2. Add Heavy Cream

Drizzling some heavy cream into the mixture as it heats will thicken your pasta sauce. But bear in mind that this will result in a creamy consistency and taste. 

3. Add Roux

If you want a creamy, thick pasta sauce, try adding roux. Roux is a butter and wheat flour mixture. Start with a small amount when adding roux to your pasta sauce. Add it to your pasta sauce while it’s still cooking to allow the roux to dissolve thoroughly.

This method requires far less effort, but it may change the flavor. But it’s not ideal for thickening pasta sauces after cooking.

4. Add Cornstarch

This is one of the quickest ways to thicken pasta sauce. Unlike heavy cream or roux, cornstarch will not significantly alter the flavor of your sauce.

You can easily mix cornstarch into your pasta sauce. To avoid lumps, mix it with a bit of water to make a paste, and then add more water. Pour it into the sauce in small quantities at a time to monitor the results. Too much cornstarch can ruin your sauce, so use it sparingly. 

5. Add Mashed Potatoes

It may come as a surprise, but mashed potatoes are excellent thickening agents. Potatoes, like cornstarch, are starchy and can quickly thicken your sauce.

They also lend a sweet flavor to the pasta sauce, making it even more delicious. As an added advantage, you won’t need to reheat the sauce when adding the mashed potatoes. This eliminates the risk of overcooking the sauce.

6. Add Egg Yolk 

Here is another option you may not have thought of. But don’t add egg yolk directly to the pasta sauce. Instead, beat the egg yolk with a few tablespoons of sauce. Then slowly pour it into the rest of the pasta sauce while stirring constantly. This keeps the egg yolk from turning into scrambled eggs.

7. Add Cheese 

You can also add cream cheese for a creamier pasta sauce. Or you could try freshly grated cheese like parmesan to give it a cheesy kick. Make sure to stir gently while on low heat after adding the cheese. This allows the pasta sauce to thicken as needed.

Why Won’t My Pasta Sauce Thicken?

Making a pasta sauce too thin is relatively common and requires methods to thicken it. But there are just a few reasons why your pasta might not thicken. 

First, if you remove the pasta sauce from the heat too soon, the excess liquid will not evaporate. Allowing your pasta sauce enough time to simmer is key to obtaining a thicker sauce.

Second, any excess water that the pasta holds could make your sauce run. If you don’t drain the pasta properly, you may end up with a watery pasta sauce despite your best efforts to thicken it. 


While making pasta sauce might be easy, learning how to thicken pasta sauce comes with its share of challenges. But once you know how to thicken pasta sauce, you’re sure to enjoy perfectly delicious pasta dishes every time.