Quick Tip: Thicken Sauces with Pasta Cooking Water

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

It feels counter-intuitive to add water to a sauce in order to thicken it, but this trick works! As any Italian home cook will tell you, just a little starchy cooking water gives the sauce extra body and an almost creamy mouthfeel. Have you ever tried this?

All we do is dip out about a half a cup of the cooking water just before draining the pasta. It will look cloudy and yellowish from the starch. Stir this into your simmering sauce a few tablespoons at a time. The sauce will thin out a little and then thicken as the starchy water is absorbed.

This is less dramatic than adding cornstarch to a sauce or soup, but it works to bring the sauce together and make it silky. It works best with non-dairy sauces like tomato sauce, or with sauce-less pasta dishes like spaghetti carbonara or aglio e olio (pasta tossed with garlic and olive oil).

Give this a try next time you make a pasta sauce!

(Image: Flickr member FotoosVanRobin licensed under Creative Commons)