Can you simmer spaghetti sauce too long? (Answered)

Homemade spaghetti sauce will taste better the longer it has cooked but it is possible to cook it for too long without adding extra ingredients. The sauce will reduce and can become too thick over time if you don’t add extra liquid. If you want to simmer your spaghetti sauce for a long time without losing too much moisture use a slow cooker.

This article will give you some tips about the best amount of time to simmer spaghetti sauce, what to do if you reduce the sauce too much and how to avoid drying it out.

How long to simmer spaghetti sauce

Homemade spaghetti sauce generally tastes better the longer you simmer it. This will concentrate the flavor, help the ingredients to combine and break down the tomatoes. Most homemade tomato sauces will need to simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Many traditional spaghetti sauces will need to simmer for 3-6 hours or even longer. Home cooks will start the sauce in the morning and let it simmer gently on the stove all day. The key to stop it from over-reducing is to keep the heat low, stir often and add more liquid if needed.

What happens when you simmer spaghetti sauce for too long

Check the top 3 things that can happen when you simmer spaghetti sauce for too long.

1. The bottom can burn

Spaghetti sauce left in a pan to cook for too long can cause the sauce to burn, particularly on the bottom. The sugars can over caramelize as they break down too much and burn. This can also happen if the sauce is not stirred down to the bottom.

2. The spaghetti sauce can become too thick

Simmering spaghetti sauce for too long can remove too much of the water content and cause the sauce to become too thick. This can make the flavours too intense and the sauce can become too thick to nicely mix with your pasta.

3. Whole pieces of meat can become too soft

Spaghetti sauce made with diced meat pieces instead of ground meat can become too soft and break down too much. Chunks of beef or lamb will break down into much and will not taste great if you cook it for 8 hours or more.

If you want to cook your spaghetti sauce for a long time without affecting the texture fo the meat use ground or minced meat instead.

How to simmer spaghetti sauce without making it too thick

Check out my easy hacks to simmer your spaghetti sauce without making it too thick.

1. Use a slow cooker

An easy way to simmer your spaghetti sauce for a long time to develop the flavor without drying it out is to use a slow cooker. Start your sauce on the stove, cook down your onions, carrot and celery and brown the meat. Add your tomatoes, herbs and other flavors and cook the sauce for 10-15 minutes.

You can then transfer the sauce to a slow cooker, set it on low and let it simmer all day. Do this in the morning and you will have a rich sauce by dinner time.

Slow cookers can cook all day with minimal loss of moisture because they have a lid. As the sauce simmers, the moisture will be trapped on the lid and will drip back down into the sauce. This will stop your sauce from becoming too thick.

Just remember to keep the lid on and avoid lifting it too often.

2. Use a lid on your pot

Another great way to keep your spaghetti sauce cooking without becoming too thick is to pop the lid on your pot. Once the sauce has come together, turn the heat down to low on your stove top and pop a lid on the sauce.

if your lid has adequate steam holes, you can pop the lid on completely. If your lid does not have steam escape holes, pop the lid on a slight angle so a small amount of steam can escape.

Check the sauce and give it a stir to avoid the sauce sticking to the bottom of the pot or pan.

3. Add liquid

If your sauce is starting to become too thick the easy solution is to add more liquid. Adding a few tablespoons of extra liquid will help the sauce to loosen up without reducing the flavor.

Here are a few great liquid options you can add to your sauce to stop it from becoming over-reduced.

  1. Wine
  2. Stock
  3. Water
  4. Balsamic vinegar
  5. Pasta water

Start by adding a few tablespoons at a time. Wine and stock are great if you want to loosen your sauce and add flavor at the same time. Water will work to make the sauce thinner without affecting the flavor.

Balsamic vinegar will help to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes and pasta water will help a separated tomato sauce to come back together.

For more on how to fix a separated tomato sauce, check out my previous article here: 7 Reasons spaghetti sauce separates | Plus easy solutions

Can you simmer spaghetti sauce too long? | Summary

It is tricky to do but you can simmer spaghetti sauce for too long. It can loose too much moisture, it could burn or you could make your diced meat break down too far. If you want a rich sauce without loosing too much moisture, put your sauce in a slow cooker to finish the cooking process. This will keep the moisture in and stop it from burning on the bottom.

Happy cooking.