I recently made pasta sauce, and every couple of minutes decided to add something more... More tomatoes, more pepper, more garlic...
After that I let it sit on a small flame for a bit more.
As a result, the sauce set in the pot for a fairly long time (45 min at least).

I asked my roommate if it's ok to leave it this long, and he said that the longer I leave it, the better it will come out.

Is this true? Is patience a key ingredient to a perfect sauce?
(P.S, it really did come out great...)

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    a quick cooked pasta sauce is as good as a long cooked pasta sauce; different things, both are good.
    – Max
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 12:51

17 Answers 17


Yes, with any kind of 'stewing' sauce, the flavour improves the longer you cook it (provided it's a slow, gentle process). The longer you leave it, the more chance the flavours have to 'marry'. I have a recipe for a pasta sauce that calls for 6 hours of slow simmering!

You may also have noticed in the past that left over pasta sauce that you eat the next day is really good, for the same reason as above. Any stew, in fact, like bolognese, casserole, chilli, bourgignon etc, is really delicious when left overnight and reheated.

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    You're right! The same sauce tasted twice as good the following day, while I expected it to be much less good... BTW, can I have that recipe?
    – hizki
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 13:41
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    You're also substantially reducing the quantities of the least flavorful component of any sauce: water. Less water makes the remaining flavors stronger. Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 15:25

It depends on the sauce and the result you want.

Tomato based sauces without meat can be really good when just cooked and no more. This way you get a fresh summery flavor that makes the most of good tomatoes with maybe just basil and garlic to give a fuller flavor. This also applies where any vegetables want to stay chunky.

Cream, or white sauces don't need to cook long either and a pesto doesn't need cooking at all!

A Ragu, or other meat sauce, however will almost certainly benefit from a longer cooking period depending on how hungry you are.

By the way Corsican beef is incredible if you have patience to cook it long enough. I'd recommend serving it with a really good quality large tube pasta. Too many people spend ages on the sauce and use cheap pasta!


I agree with everyone that cooking longer is sometimes best, but with one caveat - make sure there is enough liquid to support the amount of cooking time. When a sauce simmers water is boiled off, so if your original sauce is already thick, cooking it longer will just create a really thick tomato paste. If you're finding that the sauce is thickening too quickly, try adding some stock (veggie, chicken, beef). Since a stock already contains concentrated flavors, this won't dilute the work you've already put into creating a flavorful sauce.

Also you'll want to keep in mind that some ingredients should still be added last: cheese, cream, fresh herbs.

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    Is it ok to add water, when needed, at any point? Or is it best to try and determine how much water will be needed from the start?
    – hizki
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 19:49
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    You could add water if you'd like, but keep in mind that it will dilute your flavor. I'm sure there's an equation for the amount of water lost per hour of boiling, but probably on the physics site?
    – Alison S
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 13:47
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    I also suspect that some of the flavor is being lost as it boils off, thus the nice smelling kitchen/house, although how much lost flavor is hard for me guess. One note on adding stocks instead of water: keep in mind the additional salt, as you don't want to have too salty of a sauce. Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 1:10

There are two different ways of cooking a tomato sauce. Both produce very different results and are apt for different dishes.

  1. Cook for a long time (an hour or more) on low heat (just bubbling). The contents of the pan thicken mostly by evaporation. The result is a smooth, dense sauce. This is what you use for ragu type sauces.
  2. Cook for about twenty minutes on high heat. (Beware of really hot tomato splatters!) The result is a somewhat grainy texture that appears suddenly: you go and stir the pan and suddenly it has become denser. This is used for the "light" and "summery" sauces.

If you eat a tomato sauce, it's easy to tell by sight and taste which of these methods was employed. I presume, but I'm not sure, that the difference is due to some additional chemical reaction becoming available at high temperature that somehow binds the water to the starch(?) of the tomato.


This is something we found out by accident. My dad used to be a policeman, and one evening we were having pasta. For some job-related reason he was more than one hour late. That evening the sauce was the best one we'd ever had. After that, we never ever went back to cooking it for less than one hour.

But it probably depends on the ingredients as well, this was a tomato-based sauce containing lots of minced meat, some salami and ham, as well as vegetables.


I now have another source on this. While being on holiday I found an old cookery book (published 1959) containing italian recipes. The two pasta sauces in it, one purely tomato based, the other one containing tomatoes and one pound of meat, both said simmer for one and a half hour. So it seems to be quite common to cook it for a rather long period of time.


I regularly cook my pasta sauce over low heat (around 150°F) for 3 hours or more. I see two main advantages:

  • Meat: The low temperature keeps the meat from getting dry, and the long cooking time melts away the connective tissue so to make it tender.
  • Flavor: Some flavors benefit from the long cooking. You will extract more flavor from the meat and spices to take the whole sauce to a new level.
  • Plus, evaporation, even if it's covered, will thicken the sauce and will intensify the flavors (less water = less "watered down") Commented Sep 7, 2016 at 14:48

Cooking depends on the type of sauce you're cooking. For example, if it is a sauce should be cooked a long time, but if you want to make a light sauce with fresh tomatoes, cooking must be very short!!!

Look here: ricette di pasta

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    Welcome to StackExchange, do you want to explain the 'why' of short vs. long cooking? Also, your link seems like its just a shopping site. Could you refine the link and say what you were pointing to with it?
    – mfg
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 14:28

My mother use to cook her sauce for 2 to 3 days albiet not 24/7 and I still think it's better than any other sauce I've ever had. I suggest trying them and seeing what you prefer and think tastes better as that's what counts.


It depends on your ingredients how long you simmer the sauce. A meat ragu needs time for the meats to cook and the connective tissues to beak down. That is how you get the tasty little meat bits and not hard dry hunks.. Time. You simmer out the excess moisture until the sauce is at the right consistany. If you are too thick and the meat isn't ready, add more water. It's all about how the sauce feels. Starting with fresh tomato will take longer than crushed annex when making said ragu.

Fresh, quick sauces are a whole other ball game.


I have experimented a lot with ragu/bolognese type sauces in the past and observed a few small things i would like to add here

1) the longer you cook it, the more tender the ground meet gets (with ground meat from low quality cuts the tenderization only starts at about 2h) 2) but if you cook it more than about 1.5h, most of the different and sometimes subtle nice tastes start to disappear: tomato aroma, the carrot, the onions, the garlic, even the herbs. it all mingles together into some sort of unified taste.

now it of course depends what you prefer personally, but i really like it, if i can taste all of these things individually. so my way of doing it, is to buy some fairly "good" cuts of beef, pork and a little bacon and then i grind them at home. double grinding also helps to tenderize the meat in case there is still any collagen/connective tissue. And then i simmer it for 1h. for me that makes the best sauce. but tastes are different, so i think its best to just let people know what effects exist and let them choose for themselves.


great tips from all. I make a Ravioli sauce (my grandmas from Genoa) She simmers for 9 hours. She never said covered or uncovered. Her recipe is tomato based with short beef ribs and pork neck bones. It makes sense to keep covered to minimize loss of moisture and flavor. I will try that. Best Regards, Joe D


The longer the better but you need to get the temperature right. It just needs to gently bubble, not boil. The longer you cook it the thicker the sauce so for thinner, long cooked sauce, consider adding no more than about a half a cup of water after about two hours of cooking. Then cook for another hour. After that, turn heat of and let sauce return to room temperature own its own while covered and on the stove top. I just did this last night since I am cooking for our New Years Eve party and this is the best sauce I have ever made. I grew up in an Italian family and worked in an Italian Restuarant. While I am no expert, I have found the longer you slow cook your sauce, the better the flavor. I also agree with a previous post.....no tomatoe paste. That stuff is nasty. I use whole peeled can tomatoes. I blend the tomatoes in a blender to get my own desired thickness. I also use a can of crushed tomatoes. I add a finely diced green pepper as well. Happy cooking....the more you experiment with ingredients and time cooking, the better you will get. By the way, when tomatoes are in season, always add fresh tomatoes to your sauce. I like romano tomatoes for sauces.


To start off, use a large 16-18 quart pot for the sauce.

Add raw sausage from your favorite establishment in links. Make homemade meatballs separate in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, with your basic lean meat, eggs, grated imported cheese, seasoned Italian bread crumbs, diced fine onions, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, parsley.

I get the sauce going on a super low setting on the burner, takes roughly an hour to heat the entire kettle slowly.

Sausage is placed in the pot, then add sauce as desired. I prefer 3 cans of crushed tomatoes, 3 cans of tomato passata and 2 cans of tomato puree for my batch. Add a bay leaf too. The sausage cooks with the sauce and becomes superb, add your seasonings such as basil, oregano, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, garlic, onion. On the side meatballs are cooked enough to hold together without falling apart and then gently placed into kettle.

Old style sauce with another yet wonderful secrete a chunk or slices of pepperoni for flavor. Note: sugar helps with the acid and flavor, if sugar is in your diet add some.

When you make sauce, it's a concoction of taste exploding into a masterpiece! However, "never leave unattended"! As soon as you get caught sleeping, your big batch will burn and you might as well throw out because you have to keep stirring every 10-15 minutes. Yes, it's hard work but so worth it. I cook the sauce for hours, cover, then turn heat off and let it cool.

The day after, it is ready to heat and serve! Puglisi!


I chop one fairly good size onion and 3-4 good size garlic cloves, chopped fine, simmer in olive oil... I then add 2 cans of crushed and two cans of whole (I chop them up a little in the can before adding) and my spices (Basil, oregano,some McCormick Italian seasoning, a teaspoon of sugar, salt and pepper.. I bring this all to a boil, slowly stirring as it cooks.. Then I cover, low heat for 2-3 hours, then turn off.. All the time the pot is covered.. Then 3-4 hours later I bring it back to a simmer, no cover, add my meatballs, simmer until it thickens(about 2 hours)... And everyone raves about my sauce! (Oh.. a dash of port wine.. I learned that from the cooking scene in "The Godfather!!).


I'm sorry but these answers are full of unsafe and technically flawed advice. First it's illegal for a restaurant to leave anything unrefrigerated for more then 2 hours per USDA food safety laws. USDA says anything left unrefrigerated over 2 hours should be thrown away.

It's also unwise not to bring any type of refrigerated sauce to a boil unless you want botulism to contaminate it. Even boiling a sauce that's been left out will season it with millions of dead bacteria. Especially a sauce with meat in it. This is why meat stocks don't last more then a day in the refrigerator.

As far as what's the best way to cook a sauce, it depends on what you're using it for. The best thing to do is follow the recipe and more importantly in my opinion make sure you are getting your recipes form seasoned, well schooled chefs. Especially when you are making something new to you. Then experiment but try to research and use sound technique. For example, if using Italian sausage links when you simmer them for hours you only end up with overcooked sausages. Save that for traditional stew meats preferably on the bone with connective tissue that needs to be broken down.

Good luck and happy cooking!


The longer you cook sauce the more the aroma fills the room and the less there is in your pot.

The reason you guys overcook or should I say overboil the sauce is because you add water in large amounts. Many amateurs add tomato paste (did you ever taste that straight from the can?). You absolutely do not marry flavors when the heat is on.

My grandmother used to say, you need to rest the sauce when cooked and reheat as desired, but never reboil. As the sauce cools it not only marries flavors, but thickens considerably.

If you want to preserve the fresh flavor, add little or no water, keep it covered so precious aromas are contained, and then if you want to seethe the meats, remove some sauce into another pan with the meat and boil your brains out.

The first pot will be ready and you will enjoy two flavors when you serve, similar to the difference when you have a strawberry sunday as opposed to putting all ingredients in a blender and making strawberry ice cream (not the flavor here but the concept of two flavors as opposed to one).

You may then store any leftovers in one pan and when reheated, not reboiled, enjoy another flavor marriage.

I have found that tomatoes are not always sweet since they are not all picked at their peak for obvious reasons, but the addition of asti spumante or a very similar, but much cheaper, wine called Canei will do you fine. For those who don't do booze, add it early and all the alcohol will evaporate. Remember the flavor of a tomato is basically citric acid. Enhance it, do not neutralize it.

NEVER brown your garlic or onions as the thin membrane on each will never digest in your stomach. Instead, sautee till mushy and they will disappear in the mix. The first part of flavor is aroma (remember when you have a cold you cant smell or taste very well?), so preserve the aromatics as though they were golden.


No more than 30 minutes is best.

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    No matter whether you're making a fresh sauce or a slow cooked/stewed sauce? Why?
    – Cascabel
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 1:36

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