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QUESTION: My fresh tomato sauce leaves a watery puddle under the pasta.

I am making my own spaghetti sauce from garden tomatoes, and my sauce of long simmered diced tomatoes separates when I put it on pasta, leaving a watery puddle under the pasta. Very unappetizing. Any suggestions? Add paste?

ANSWER:

It is a common occurrence for the water to separate in a tomato-based sauce when ladled atop pasta, especially when fresh tomatoes are used. A little tomato paste can help prevent it, but not always. Some cooks actually add a slurry of water and flour (or cornstarch) to the sauce to help thicken the sauce and prevent the effect known as a "watery halo".

Another suggestion is that pasta should never be rinsed unless it is intended to be used in a pasta salad. It is desirable for the stickiness of the starch to remain on the pasta because it helps the sauce to adhere better to it. Italian cooks will even add a little of the pasta water to the sauce because the starch in the water helps the sauce stick better to pasta as well.

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