Here's what I'm using:

  • 16oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

I start by lightly cooking the garlic cloves in olive oil until they brown. Then I add the tomatoes, followed by the wine, oregano, salt, basil, and cheese. I then slow cook everything for about an hour.

The sauce is turning out kind of watery though. How I can thicken it into a proper hearty Italian pasta sauce?

  • Are you draining the tomatoes? How much cheese do you normally add? At what temperature are you cooking? Is it in a pot or do you mean you "slow cook" in a crock pot? Also, cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/28448/… might be helpful.
    – colejkeene
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 17:12
  • 1
    Tomato paste...
    – lemontwist
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 17:14
  • 2
    @lemontwist I think cooking it down longer than an hour would make for a better flavor than adding tomato paste, no? That stuff always taste so...bitter and plasticy to me.
    – colejkeene
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 17:15
  • 1
    You add an entire head of garlic to 16 oz of tomatoes, 1/2 cup wine and 1/4 cup olive oil? And here I thought I went heavy on garlic. Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 1:06
  • 2
    @CareyGregory I love garlic. Good for the heart ;-)
    – codeninja
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 4:55

7 Answers 7


The best way to thicken marinara sauce for me, without losing any taste is to cook it a little longer.

Cooking it longer is just keeping the sauce on simmer, uncovered and stirring it occasionally so its cooking consistently and taking it off the heat when you think it has reached desired thickness.

You can also try draining the tomatoes before you crush them.

You could even try adding little breadcrumbs, but it might change the taste.

  • Cooking down, definitely. Draining the tomatoes before cooking, absolutely. Breadcrumbs, that would be a little strange :-)
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 17:31
  • Water is the sauce killer. If you can somehow avoid putting it in in the first place, that'd be nice, but otherwise, a good long simmer is the best method. Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 17:36
  • 1
    I wouldn't drain - there is flavour in the liquid. Boil off the water to intensify the flavour and thicken the sauce.
    – slim
    Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 12:38
  • @SAJ14SAJ (plain) breadcrumbs work great for a quick and dirty thickening of pretty much anything. I've even used them for mashed potatoes with too much cream. But I'll deny to the grave that if you ever ask me to my face. Commented Jan 29, 2013 at 13:34
  • 1
    bread in gazpacho is pretty traditional actually. A lot of sauces and soups from Spain are thickened with breads.
    – Brendan
    Commented Jan 31, 2013 at 21:41

There are a number of ways to help thicken sauce, but I think your first problem is you're not cooking it down enough. You want to simmer uncovered (sometimes a couple of hours), stirring often, to get it to thicken the way it sounds you want.

I tend to prefer fresh tomatoes to canned and avoid tomato paste (personally) to avoid a somewhat bitter flavor (until you pan fry the bitterness out of it first).

  • There is absolutely no way I would use a slurry on marinara as recommended in the number 2 suggestion at the linked article. The texture would just be wrong. I endorse cooking down.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 17:31
  • 1
    @SAJ14SAJ I'm not sure it would make the best marinara, but then I don't think the breadcrumbs mentioned by user1190992 would be much better either. Cooking down is the best way, period, I was just offering time saving solutions if that was part of the issue.
    – colejkeene
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 17:33

If your sauce doesn't taste watery and is just simply too thin, I'd suggest undercooking the pasta by a few minutes and letting it finish in the sauce (a handful of parmesan cheese doesn't hurt either).

Here's an example of it being done

This is my favorite way to finish pasta, and I will actually dilute thicker sauces with pasta water to do this.


A suggestion I would contribute is to swap the red wine for a smaller portion of red wine vinegar. It gives it a nice acidic flavor (you can balance this with some white sugar which will help it thicken even more, but I prefer my red sauces with more tang). It will also have less fluid overall.


There are two ways.

Just like they are telling you. The water in the crushed tomatoes is killing it. Get whole tomatoes peeled, drain the water and blend them. Sauce should be perfect.

Or cook longer giving flavors a better chance to meld. I prefer cooking down.


If you don't mind a smoother sauce, like for pizza or the like, you can use an immersion or traditional blender to puree the sauce. This will make the sauce thicker and smoother. How thick, exactly, depends on how chunky the tomatoes are to begin with. If they are already fairly finely crushed, this won't help much. If they are more of a diced variety, this will help immensely. That being said, you are moving away from a traditional marinara if you puree too much. Maybe try removing some of the sauce, pureeing it, then stirring it back in. Old kitchen trick for thickening things without using cornstarch or a roux without necessarily compromising the original texture.


I cook my sauce for two days on and off it, always starts out watery and thickens with the simmer over that period. hope that helps

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