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It's a fairly standard recipe with passata and wine, simmering on a low heat for a couple of hours. After stirring and putting the bolognese onto the pasta, after a couple of minutes the sauce separates a watery run off onto the bottom of the plate. The pasta is fully drained, and the bolognese seems good in the pot. How can I reduce the wateryness, simply cook the bolognese for much longer? I haven't wanted to risk drying it out/burning.

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

A few things that can help, if it's not an issue with fat like @Aaronut suggested:

  • Tomato paste. Yes, I know it's a sacrelige, but it'll act as a thickener.
  • Take the pasta out before it's gotten to al dente, and finish cooking it in the sauce; the pasta will absorb any extra liquid, and help to thicken the sauce.
  • Do not rinse off the pasta after you drain it. Way too many people do, and it washes off the starch that you want for the sauce to bind to the pasta properly, and may introduce extra water.
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Indeed, pulling the pasta early will mean it's still slightly hygroscopic, pulling in moisture from the sauce. Not only will the sauce not run but it'll stick to the pasta a lot better. – Mike Yockey Jul 21 '10 at 18:35
Thanks everyone. It wasn't fat, that seems to have absorbed fine, so i'll cook up the veg and mince for longer, then it's pasta in the sauce to finish. I'll post back with stories of great success. – paprika Jul 21 '10 at 19:20
In my experience 9.8 times out of 10 when I see water, its from the pasta. – EDabM Sep 6 '12 at 0:23

Cooking longer and slowly will help. Also, are your vegetables fully cooked when you add them to your base? That could be the problem if they are not.

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That run-off you're seeing is probably not water, but fat separating. Touch or taste a bit of the liquid; if it seems oily at all, then it's fat.

When making bolognese, if you don't want this to happen, you need to frequently skim off the fat that rises to the top. If you just stir it back in, it will separate again later.

You should also cook it slowly (skimming often) for a good 4 hours or so.

I should note that the fat is not necessarily evil and some cooks insist that you should never skim, because that's where the flavour is. Personally, I've never found much difference in the flavour whether you skim or not - but if you don't skim, the fat content causes the mixture to separate later.

The same thing happens with chili, or any dish where you're using ground chuck that hasn't already had all the fat removed by deep browning. Eventually, during cooking, that fat will leave the meat, and you have to either skim it off, cook it off, or contend with greasiness.

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you do have another option, which is emulsify the fat back into the sauce, which you may or may not be able to do without affecting the flavour – Sam Holder Jul 21 '10 at 18:56
I've cook ragu for 20 years and never had a "fat" problem. Maybe you should use leaner mince? – Sklivvz Nov 13 '10 at 16:36
@Sklivvz: Bolognese is just one type of Ragù, so it's not clear that you're actually referring to Bolognese or what you would define as a "problem". Considering the amount of meat, milk, and oil used in Bolognese, it's very unlikely that you wouldn't get a certain amount of rendered fat. It might be less if you used shredded meat instead of ground, but that's hard to find here. – Aaronut Nov 13 '10 at 21:26
@Aaronut, there is no milk in ragù alla bolognese... and I can assure you that with lean mince, decent sausages and the appropriate amount of butter and oil, you don't have any extra fat. Trust me, I'm Italian ;-) – Sklivvz Nov 13 '10 at 21:30
@Sklivvz: Every recipe I have ever seen for Bolognese involves milk. In fact, it's one of the most important ingredients. It's clearly stated in the traditional recipe. I really don't care where you're from or what your ancestry is; if you're not using milk, you're not making Bolognese. – Aaronut Nov 13 '10 at 21:34

I have had this problem of water on the plate too.

Fully drained pasta (not rinsed) and added back to the dry pot for extra drying out. Sauce made with passata, wine, fully cooked veggies - and cooked for hours.

After all this, still that small pool of water on the plate. Annoying.

My solution is to pour the sauce into a sieve / strainer and let the small amount of water run out. It is just water, not fat, and not adding any flavor.

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It seems that all spagetti sauce separates, regardless of who makes it, excepting those who use starch to thicken it....ugh.

Simple, make nests of spagetti, ladle the sauce on it, tilt the plate, and lay a few paper towels at the edge of the nest of sauce laden spagetti. In a minute or two the watery stuff separates and goes into the paper towel. Remove the watery laden towel and throw it away and voila! The remaining sauces is no longer watery.

And no...all the sauces that do this--it's not fat separating it's water.

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If there is watery run-off after simmering for a couple of hours, I would suggest that too much liquid was used to begin with. In my experience the only run-off after a low, slow cook is rendered fat, the excess water having evaporated to a large extent. – Chris Steinbach Sep 6 '12 at 2:02

To avoid watery spaghetti on the plate, drain spaghetti, do not rinse. Dump the spaghetti into the sauce. Make sure its al dente. Wait about 10 minutes and serve. You will have no watery spaghetti on your plate.

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Passata is not the base of any authentic Bolognese sauce. That is your problem. Soffritto is the base of Bolognese, and only a small amount of tomato should be added to it mid-way. Switching from tomato-based to soffritto-based sauce fixed my Bolognese, and I bet it will for you as well. Look up Marcella Hazan's recipe.

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