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Vodka sauce too thin

  1. Jun 14, 2007 #1
    I started living on my own a few years ago, but I never cooked real meals for myself. I've lived mostly off of sandwiches and microwaveable dinners.

    I've decided to use this summer to learn how to cook. Currently, I am screwing up pasta. I'm able to cook meats just fine, but pasta is a problem. Specifically, the sauce.

    Here is my dilemma:

    Whenever I make the sauce, it turns out to be WAY too thin. It barely tastes like anything on the pasta, and basically all but disappears. My pasta turns out tasteless. Today I used vodka sauce and I could barely taste it. It was pretty terrible.

    I don't think I'm doing anything wrong when I'm cooking the pasta. My algorithm is:

    1) Boil water, add garlic salt and a little olive oil.
    2) Add pasta when the water starts to boil.
    3) Once I notice my pasta starting to become finished (85%), I start cooking the sauce. I put a little olive oil in the pan and pour the sauce in. I've been using a lot of sauce, so the portion isn't the problem.
    4) I drain the pasta and put some cold water on it so it doesn't stick. The pasta itself turns out well.

    What do I have to do to keep the sauce thick? Is there anything I can add to the sauce? Or do I have to buy special sauce that stays thick? I would keep experimenting, but the sauce is pretty expensive so I don't want to keep screwing it up.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 14, 2007 #2

    turbo

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    Buy some canned crushed tomatoes and a few small cans of tomato paste to speed things up. Saute onions, garlic, chopped green pepper (other vegetables to taste) in olive oil and add hamburg. Keep sauteing until the hamburg is browned. Add the tomatoes until you've got enough in there to balance the other ingredients, add salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste - fresh is great, dried is OK. Depending on your tolerance for heat, you can add crushed red peppers, cayenne, etc, but if you really love the flavor of jalapenos, it's better to mince up some fresh jalapenos and saute in the original step with the other fresh vegetables. At this point, you can gently simmer the sauce until it reduces to the thickness you want or you can help the thickening along by adding tomato paste. This is definitely cheaper and tastier than any sauce that you can buy in a store. Spaghetti sauce is very easy to make. We've all got our own tastes in that regard, and you can adjust the sauce on-the-fly until it more closely resembles grandma's or whomever's. Along with (or instead of) the hamburg, you could saute sliced hot sausages, pepperoni, or even chicken or another type of meat. Get a little shredder and buy a block of nice Romano cheese to shred over your meal. To make it more special, get loaf of fresh Italian or French bread, slice it in half lengthwise and spread it with butter. Sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, dried oregano and a little salt on that and broil until the tops are nicely browned. A tasty bread to mop up extra sauce with.
     
  4. Jun 14, 2007 #3
    sauces are the hardest thing a chef can do
     
  5. Jun 14, 2007 #4

    Evo

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    Is the pasta wet when you add the sauce? Make sure the pasta is very well drained and most of the liquid has evaporated off the pasta to prevent additional thinning of the sauce.

    If that's not the problem, you can thicken the sauce by simmering it in a saucepan for awhile before cooking the pasta.

    Myself, I've had to increase the amount of sauce lately, it seems to be disappearing, I'm glad that I'm not the only one experiencing this. :uhh:
     
  6. Jun 14, 2007 #5

    Kurdt

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    Firstly I'd say start the sauce first then do the pasta while you reduce the sauce slightly. Pasta only takes 10 minutes or so.
     
  7. Jun 14, 2007 #6

    turbo

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    That's why when my wife comes home with the groceries, she'll show me stuff and say can you make up a sauce with this (or to go with this)? I've got a good feel for what will work. I made up a marinade/basting sauce for grilling fresh shrimp in about 5 minutes in such a "command performance" and under spousal decree, I can NEVER deviate from that recipe.

    Seriously, it's pretty hard to make a bad spaghetti sauce as long as you don't over-do the spices or scorch the sauce.

    Evo's right that the noodles must be well-drained. Even a little sheen of water on them dilutes your sauce and prevents it from adhering to the noodles. I do not bother to wash the noodles - I simply wait until they are "almost" al dente and drain them in a colander. The starchy water adhering to the noodles will make the noodles a bit stickier as it steams off and the sauce seems to adhere better.
     
  8. Jun 14, 2007 #7
    You know what, it was most definitely caused by my leaving the pasta wet. I used my hands to take it right out of the cold water in the pot. I didn't dry it at all. I'm not sure why I didn't think of that.

    Thanks for the other advice, everyone. I'm going to try to make the bread that you suggested, Turbo.
     
  9. Jun 14, 2007 #8

    turbo

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    Hey, Maxwell, try making your own sauce. Make a little batch at first with maybe 1/2# of hamburg, a medium onion, a green pepper, etc. You'll get hooked on the scent, the taste and the textures. I taught myself (remembering what I had seen my mother do) and was making great sauces almost immediately. I invited a couple of cute kitchen-challenged neighbors up for a weeknight supper, and they brought the wine and skeptical attitudes. After demolishing the spaghetti and the seasoned garlic bread, we hung out listening to music and talking, and from that night on, I was always invited to their parties or just to drop in at their apartment, and I cooked for them often, and got to meet all their cute friends, too. Food really does function as a critical part of interaction.
     
  10. Jun 14, 2007 #9

    Astronuc

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    That's the best way to socialize - cook something good and have some friends bring over wine and/or side dishes, or desert.

    Anyway, after boiling pasta, I drain it well and then add some olive oil and stir.

    I then pour sauce (with or without meatballs) into the pasta and let it sit. One can also sprinkle the pasta with parmesan cheese. - grated or dried and powdered.

    What kind of sauce is one using - I am not familiar with Vodka sauce, but perhaps one is adding too much liquid to the sauce.
     
  11. Jun 14, 2007 #10

    turbo

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    I wondered about that myself. The thickening power of vodka is probably confined to mental processes. :rofl:
     
  12. Jun 14, 2007 #11

    Astronuc

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    Also, alcohol has poor adhesion properties - after all, it is an organic solvent.

    Also, one could use Prego spaghetti sauce if one does not wish to make sauce from scratch. I prefer Prego to Ragu.
     
  13. Jun 14, 2007 #12

    Evo

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    Vodka sauce is my favorite sauce for pasta. I can't find my favoritye brand anymore but "Emeril" sells a vodka sauce. Although he can't boil water with a staff of 20 to do everything for him.. Who was it that referred to him as the most famous chef that can't cook? He was always more of a smoosher than a cook.
     
  14. Jun 14, 2007 #13

    JasonRox

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    I prefer to use things in glass jars over cans.

    I'd recommend crushing your own tomatoes as much as possible and buy a jar of Ragu sauce or two (plain). Mix it up and put in some spices you like for example garlic and oregano.
     
  15. Jun 14, 2007 #14

    JasonRox

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    Oh, and Parmeson cheese helps make it thicker.

    The trick to getting it thicker is to just cook it much longer. Let all the water evaporate out of it.
     
  16. Jun 14, 2007 #15

    Astronuc

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    So what is Vodka sauce?
     
  17. Jun 14, 2007 #16

    Evo

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  18. Jun 14, 2007 #17

    turbo

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    Sounds like lame commercial push. Make some real sauce!
     
  19. Jun 14, 2007 #18

    Evo

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    Oh, no, try it!! There is nothing that I like better.
     
  20. Jun 14, 2007 #19
    Turbo, I will try making my own sauce. I'm basically up for trying anything in the kitchen at this point.

    Parmesan cheese is something I keep forgetting to buy, I'm going to have to start writing specific items I need down, instead of just winging it at the grocery store.

    And it's a good point about using food as a socialization piece. However, I'll wait until the probability of my killing someone with food goes down.
     
  21. Jun 14, 2007 #20
    Oh, and about the Vodka sauce, haven't you guys ever had Penne a la Vodka? It's one of my favorite Italian dishes.
     
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