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I made my home made spaghetti sauce this weekend, which I've been making for several years. As always, the flavor turned out great, so I don't want to change my recipe too much. However, I do have one concern.

Whenever I use store bought sauce, it always coast the noodles completely, or near completely, as well as anything I may add to the dish, meatballs in this case. The noodles end up with a thick red coating of sauce on them.

When I use my own sauce, it just runs off the noodles. It leaves enough on them to have a good flavor, but does not have the same visual appeal to me that I get with store bought sauce.

I used to use cans of whole tomatoes, but lately, I've been starting with fresh tomatoes.

Is the quality of sticking to the noodles something artificial and a result of the mass production / preservatives? Or is it something to be desired in a sauce?

Should I be doing something different? Would more tomato paste or less water help? Or is there something else I should be adding?

  • Do you rinse your noodles after cooking them? – Cos Callis Jul 3 '12 at 0:49
  • @Cos No, I do not. – cadrell0 Jul 3 '12 at 4:30
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    The quality of pasta has a major bearing on how much sauce sticks. Good pasta is rough, because its surface is porous, and so it absorbs sauce much better. Moral of the story: try your sauce with decent pasta! – ElendilTheTall Jul 3 '12 at 12:57
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    Oil content might be a factor, and the thickness, as Jennifer S suggests, in that case. – ElendilTheTall Jul 3 '12 at 14:00
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    modified food starch is in most commercial brands: I'd take have less coating over additives. – Pat Sommer Jul 13 '12 at 7:16
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Adding a bit of the pasta water that you cooked it in helps sauce stick to your noodles. Have you tried that?

  • I'm not sure what you are trying to say here. Can you try to be a little more specific. – cadrell0 Jul 3 '12 at 19:34
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    The pasta cooking water ends up containing a lot of starch from the pasta. Daniel suggests this since starch is generally sticky. Pasta cooking water is often used to help sauce or get thicker (assuming you give some time for the extra liquid to evaporate). – Jennifer S Jul 3 '12 at 20:32
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It may have to do with the thickness of the sauce. Is your fresh tomato sauce thinner than the storebought sauce? I'm guessing that the storebought sauce has been reduced further than your homemade sauce, and thus better sticks to the noodles.

Try reducing your sauce further, simmering it for a longer time.

  • How long do you typically let your sauce simmer? I had mine going for 5-6 hours this weekend. – cadrell0 Jul 3 '12 at 14:19
  • Hmmm... well, that's a long time, and depending on how much volume you had to start with, this might be quite reduced. I guess I'd have to see the recipe to understand the volumes better. – Jennifer S Jul 3 '12 at 20:31
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I suspect that the commercially made pasta sauces are adjusted to specifically give that look that we're used to as Americans.

I'm guessing that part of the issue may be ripeness of the tomatoes, as most available on the market are picked green ('vine ripened' translates to 'wasn't full green when picked'), so they can be handled and transported without significant loss. Another possibilitity is the type of tomatoes, as some are just more watery than others.

So, I'd recomemend trying one or all of the following:

  1. Roast your tomatoes first, to help to dry them out. (split them open, lay cut side up in a shallow dish or sheet tray, then bake at maybe 400F 'til they've lost some of the liquid.)

  2. Add tomato paste to help thicken the sauce.

  3. Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Take the pasta out of the water a couple minutes before it's done to your taste, and transfer it to the sauce to finish cooking. The starches from the pasta should help thicken it a little.

  4. Drain the pasta well before adding to the sauce. (taking it out a bit early in #3 means you're not going to have the massive sticking problem as if you fully cooked it and let it to sit)

  5. Change the pasta. Besides what Chris Steinbach mentioned about brass dies, you can also look for 'rigate' pastas, which are extruded with ridges (in part to make up for the lack of a brass die), but you can also go for completely different shapes of pasta. If it's a chunky sauce, try penne, shells or rotini; if it's really hearty try a rigatoni. If it's particularly light and thin, go with capellini / angel hair. I generally go with linguini or linguini fini for the sauces I make. (not as delicate as capellini, but better surface/mass ratio than spaghetti).

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I know exactly what you are talking about and I had some frustrating batches myself. I now make sauce from the skins and add it to the recipe.. The skins are very high in pectin and you need that pectin to coat the noodles.. I save all my skins and cores during the season and then at the end when I make my large batch of sauce, I simmer the skins for about 30 minutes, puree the skins in batches and then push it through a screen. It really makes the most beautiful sauce you've ever seen! I've also seen that you can dehydrate the skins and then blend them into a powder.

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    Skins and cores of what? Tomatoes? – Catija Aug 30 '16 at 10:57
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The pasta itself could be the problem. If you have a reasonable selection of pasta at your store, look closely and you will see that some makes have an almost polished surface and others have a kind of fine sandpaper look about them. Sauce will stick better to pasta that has a slightly rough surface texture.

I was once told by an Italian friend that the best pasta for keeping sauce is made with brass dies, so keep a look out for brass-extruded pasta.

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stir in a light dash of flour with your pasta after draining and the sauce will stick nicely and give a nice consistency. simple but works awesome.

  • This is a very interesting suggestion. Can you share more information? How did you learn about it? Does it work as well for white based sauces (like Alfredo) as it does with the red sauce in this question? – elbrant Mar 10 at 1:33
  • Interesting ... does it have the raw flour taste, or does the hot pasta take care of it? – Joe Mar 11 at 15:58

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