How to Make Thick Spaghetti Sauce

Published Date: February 9, 2022

Are you tired of making pasta only to end up with overly watery spaghetti? This thick spaghetti sauce recipe is the answer!  Using simple ingredients, it takes only 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish.  Follow along and learn how to make thick spaghetti sauce for the perfect plate of spaghetti each and every time!

Learning how to make a thick pasta sauce isn’t difficult.  There are a couple of different methods that can be used to make it, but I find that a simple slurry of cornstarch and water is all my marinara sauce needs to turn into a lush, thick sauce.

What makes a thicker sauce so amazing is that it really sticks to the pasta which means you get the perfect combination of spaghetti, meat and sauce in each bite.

Try Some of My Other Favorite Easy Dinner Recipes

If you like this recipe you might also like these other easy-to-make dinner recipes such as Hamburger Mac and Cheese, Frito Chili Pie and Oven Baked Chicken Thighs.

When you serve up this easy spaghetti sauce for dinner don’t forget the sides.  It pairs well with these Garlic Knots to soak up each and every little bit of the thick tomato sauce!

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • A hearty and satisfying thick meat sauce that takes only 30 minutes to cook.
  • It uses the quickest and easiest way to thicken spaghetti sauce and I’m sure it will be your preferred method for making homemade spaghetti sauce going forward.
  • An easy homemade spaghetti sauce recipe that everyone will love!
  • Perfect to make a double batch, or even a triple batch to use for meals in the future.  Just remember to multiply each of the ingredients. 

Ingredients

You will need the following ingredients to complete this recipe:

  • Olive oil: A healthy and flavorful oil for cooking up a thick sauce for pasta.
  • Ground beef:  I prefer to use lean ground beef so that I don’t need to worry about excess grease in the pan after cooking it.
  • Onion:  A fresh yellow onion works perfectly when making this type of sauce.
  • Pasta sauce:  Choose homemade or your favorite store bought jar of sauce.
  • Italian seasoning: A handy blend of spices you can easily find in the grocery store that’s perfect for making pasta sauce or pizza sauce recipes.
  • Garlic powder: A handy pantry staple spice for the best spaghetti sauce.
  • Sugar: Just a small amount to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes.
  • Cornstarch: The thickening agent to make this a thick spaghetti sauce.
  • Water: Just a touch to mix with the cornstarch to make a slurry to help thicken the sauce.
  • Salt 
  • Black pepper

*see recipe card for exact quantities.

Kitchen Supplies You’ll Need

  • Deep skillet
  • Sharp knife
  • Garlic press
  • Wooden spoon

How to Make Thick Spaghetti Sauce

Here’s a quick overview of the easy way to make thick tomato sauce with the perfect consistency. For the full instructions, see the recipe card.

Step 1: Use a deep skillet or pot to heat the oil over medium-high heat on your stove top.  Add the ground beef to the pot to cook.  As you brown ground beef, make sure to break up any pieces with a wooden spoon.  

Fry until fully cooked (no pink left). 

Step 2: Add the chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. 

Step 3: Add the pasta sauce, Italian seasoning, sugar, and garlic powder.  Bring this to a boil, then allow to simmer, uncovered, at medium heat for at least 5 minutes.  

Step 4: If you would like the sauce to be thicker, but don’t want to spend a long time simmering your sauce, a simple trick is to create a slurry (milky mixture) by using a fork to combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl.  

Step 5: Add the cornstarch mixture to the spaghetti sauce.  Continue to cook on low heat, stirring well.  Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is the desired thickness.  You may add more cornstarch slurry if you’d like to thicken the sauce even more – just a little at a time.  

Step 6: Salt to taste and serve.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

  • Be sure to drain the grease if you use a fatty meat that releases a lot of excess grease, when it cooks. If you use a lean ground beef, this won’t be necessary.
  • If desired, cook the onions longer so they start to caramelize and turn golden brown for more delicious, sweet flavors layered into the sauce.
  • When mixing the cornstarch slurry it should be smooth with no lumps before you add it to the spaghetti sauce.  Add more water if needed but only as much as you need to achieve a smooth texture to the slurry.
  • If storing in the freezer, allow the sauce to cool completely and then transfer it to freezer safe bags. Seal well, trying to get as much of the excess air out as possible sothe bag flattens out and takes up less room in the freezer.

Substitutions and Variations

  • Use canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes in place of the pasta sauce when making this homemade spaghetti sauce recipe.   When using canned tomatoes, be sure to drain them well, or your sauce may have excess water.  To make thick spaghetti sauce from scratch with fresh tomatoes, you will want to peel and quarter tomatoes before adding them to the sauce.  Using fresh tomatoes will take longer to cook.  Both of these ingredients make a chunkier thick spaghetti sauce so if you prefer it to be less chunky, let the sauce cool slightly and then place it in the blender, food processor or use an immersion blender.  You may also need to add a little more of the cornstarch slurry.  Just mix 2 parts cornstarch with 1 part water and then add it to your sauce.  Allow this to cook for a few minutes before adding more.  It takes a few minutes to thicken up the sauce.  (Only add a small amount at a time, or you may thicken the sauce too much.)
  • If you prefer a more intense tomato flavor in your sauce you can add a little tomato paste or tomato puree.  Tomato paste will also help to thicken your sauce, but it also adds additional sweetness so you might want to adjust the amount of sugar you add to the sauce.
  • Swap out the ground beef for one pound of Italian sausage, ground turkey, ground pork or even a combination of ground meat.
  • Add vegetables to the sauce on their own or in combination with the meat for added nutrition and flavor. I like to add chopped green peppers, zucchini, carrots, celery, or mushrooms.  This is another way to make the texture of the sauce chunkier.  
  • For a spicy sauce, add some crushed red pepper flakes.
  • For extra flavor, add any one of a variety of cheeses to the top of your bowl of spaghetti.  Parmesan is a common favorite, but you could also add cheddar, asiago cheese for a nutty flavor or mozzarella.

Storage Notes

This easy homemade spaghetti sauce may be kept refrigerated for 3-4 days.  The best way to freeze it is in a freezer bag for up to 6 months.

FAQs

I don’t like using cornstarch – is there another thickening agent that I could use in this easy spaghetti sauce?

My preferred method is using corn starch because I find it is the easiest way to create a thicker sauce without changing the taste of the sauce.  But another easy way to create a thick sauce is by adding mashed potatoes or even mashed sweet potatoes. Another of my favorite things to add for a thick consistency is grated cheese or cream cheese. Some other easy methods are to mix in a little bit of pasta water, all purpose flour, or egg yolk.  

I prefer not to add sugar to savory dishes – can I leave that out?

Yes, you can.  The sugar is added because it helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes a little. The best way to achieve this naturally would be to add some diced carrots (their natural sugars will do the work).  Another great way to enhance the flavor is to add a squeeze of lemon juice.

What’s the best way to reheat this type of sauce?

It is best reheated on the stove or in a microwave-safe container.  

I prefer a simple red sauce to a meat sauce – are there big changes I need to make?

No, feel free to leave out the meat and keep the other ingredients the same. 

Help – I’ve gone overboard and made the sauce too thick- what can I do?

You can thin the sauce by adding a small amount of liquid, water, or even chicken broth until you’ve reached the perfect consistency.  But don’t add a lot of water all at once, just a little at a time.  Nobody wants a watery spaghetti sauce.  Continue cooking the sauce and remember that the longer you let the sauce simmer, the thicker it will get. 

Would I have to change the recipe to make it in the slow cooker?

One of my favorite things about this recipe is how versatile it is.  You will still want to brown the meat and fry the onions.  But then just put everything into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or on high power for 4 hours. 

Why is my spaghetti sauce watery?

If you followed all the instructions to make a thick spaghetti sauce but you still ended up with a plate of watery noodles, the likely cause is the pasta. It’s important to drain all the water from the pasta before plating it up and topping it with sauce. Any excess water on the pasta will cause a perfectly thick spaghetti sauce to be too watery.

Should I cover spaghetti sauce while it’s simmering?

In this recipe for thick spaghetti sauce, it should cook uncovered. Cooking without a lid allows the water to evaporate as the pasta sauce cooks and works to also thicken the sauce.

If you’ve made this recipe or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how they turned out. We love hearing from you! You can also follow along with me on FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM to see more colorful recipes!

Thick spaghetti sauce and noodles on a teal plate with parmesan and parsley.

How to Make Thick Spaghetti Sauce

An easy recipe to make the perfect thick spaghetti sauce in just 30 minutes for a delicious bowl of pasta.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: thick marinara sauce, thick pasta sauce, thick spaghetti sauce, thick spaghetti sauce recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 258kcal

Equipment

  • Deep skillet
  • Sharp knife
  • Garlic press
  • Wooden spoon

Ingredients

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 23 ounce pasta sauce canned
  • 1 Tablespoon italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons cool water

Instructions

  • Use a deep skill to heat the oil over medium-high heat on your stove top. Add the ground beef and scramble fry it. As you brown ground beef, make sure to break up any pieces with a wooden spoon. Fry until fully cooked (no pink left). Drain grease if you have fatty meat with a lot of excess grease, if lean, it’s fine not to drain.
  • Add the chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. (Or, if you cook them a little longer they will start to caramelize and turn golden brown – this is delicious as well.)
  • Add the pasta sauce, Italian seasoning, sugar, and garlic powder. Bring this to a boil, then allow to simmer, uncovered, at medium heat for at least 5 minutes.
  • If you would like the sauce to be thicker, but don’t want to spend a long time simmering your sauce, a simple trick is to create a slurry (milky mixture) by using a fork to combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. (It should be smooth with no lumps, add more water if needed but only as much as you need to achieve a smooth texture.) Add this to the spaghetti sauce. As you heat this through, on low heat, stir well. Continue to simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is the desired thickness. You may add more cornstarch slurry if you’d like to thicken the sauce – just a little at a time.
  • Salt to taste and serve.

Notes

Storage Notes

This easy homemade spaghetti sauce may be kept refrigerated for 3-4 days.  The best way to freeze it is in a freezer bag for up to 6 months.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

  • Be sure to drain the grease if you use a fatty meat that releases a lot of excess grease, when it cooks. If you use a lean ground beef, this won’t be necessary.
  • If desired, cook the onions longer so they start to caramelize and turn golden brown for more delicious, sweet flavors layered into the sauce.
  • When mixing the cornstarch slurry it should be smooth with no lumps before you add it to the spaghetti sauce.  Add more water if needed but only as much as you need to achieve a smooth texture to the slurry.
  • If storing in the freezer, allow the sauce to cool completely and then transfer it to freezer safe bags. Seal well, trying to get as much of the excess air out as possible sothe bag flattens out and takes up less room in the freezer.

Nutrition

Calories: 258kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 815mg | Potassium: 608mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 486IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @sweettea_and_sprinkles or tag #sweetteaandsprinkles
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  1. 5 stars
    I’ve had many spaghetti sauces, but this one is the best. I love the thickness of it, and the intense flavor. Delicious!

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