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Aug 28, 2010 09:50 PM

Does a bone really thicken up a spaghetti sauce

I am making a huge pot of long-simmered sauce tomorrow, and have read that you need to put a bone into it or it won't thicken. The last two and only two times that I have made from scratch, it was so tasty but lacked the stick to the noodles consistancy of bought sauce. Can you help?

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  1. Hi beekeroc, AAHHH yes I can help, was excited to read your post as I have been experimenting myself. I have found that to make a stock, ( THE BASE FOR YOUR SAUCE OR JUS) authentically needs to use bones, the marrow will give it the jelly like consistency to thicken.....not just a bone either, if you are making a huge pot, use quite a few big beef bones, this will give depth to your sauce ( flavour) and let reduce....yummm, hope all goes well for you!

    1. Reduce the sauce more, it's not necessary to add a bone.
      Also make sure you're not rinsing your pasta or adding oil to the water, those will both lead to the sauce not sticking as well as it should.

      1 Reply
      1. re: AndrewK512

        I totally agree with Andrew512. A bone and/or meat is added to a tomato sauce for flavor not to thicken it. Also, along with what he said about rinsing and adding oil make sure you're using very good quality tinned tomatoes, whether they're whole or "Kitchen Ready". If you're using fresh from the garden tomatoes if you don't core and seed them before chopping then you absolutely must let the sauce reduce. However, for Italians it's all about the pasta, the sauce being merely a flavor element. Most people over sauce their macaroni.

      2. Why would you add a bone? Conventional wisdom? Not needed, and kind of silly if you ask me. It will leach out the marrow and thicken the sauce, yes, but so will reducing the sauce and cooking out the liquid. I guess if you want to add that beefy flavor, then go for it, but I wouldn't add a bone just for that.

        1. All the replies, so far, are correct. Adding some bones would release collagen into the sauce and thicken it. You would need more than one bone.

          You could add a cup of very gelatinous chicken stock to it. You wouldn't be able to taste it but it would help thicken it. You could throw some chicken feet in there too. They really make a chicken stock gelatinous. BTW, pure chicken stock based on bones or feet would not taste very strongly of chicken so it wouldn't add significantly to the flavor of your sauce.

          You could reduce it down until it thickened.

          I doubt that these last ones are very traditional but they would almost certainly work.

          You could add any of the following to make it thicken: a flour roux, cornstarch slurry, gelatin, instant mashed potatoes or potato buds.

          Pureed mushrooms might even tend to thicken. You could puree any veggies that you are adding that are starchy.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Hank Hanover

            Commercial pasta sauces often have flour or other starchy thickeners. Many years back an ad campaign was built around the fact that one of them (can't recall which) did NOT because there was enough reduced tomato to make it naturally thick.

          2. Yes it does thicken it, and I would never make without. It will thicken by evaporation too, but the flavor of the marrow changes everything, and adds an gorgeous unctuous thickness to the pot. A nice osso buco type bone is good, but lately I like to use something with lots of meat on it, like country ribs, so I have an extra meat for the platter. You need more than one bone, by the way. Ribs I use at least four, and the big bones at least 2.

            2 Replies
            1. re: coll

              coll, besides just liking the word "unctuous", I think this to be the perfect topic for that adjective. I don't often cook with beef bones (except steak), but agree whole heartedly with your assessment!

              I wouldn't use this method for spaghetti, but when I make my own stock for soup, I like to roast the bones (cleaned of any meat) for additional flavor. 400 degree oven for 3-1/2 to 4 hours. You want them browned, not burned. Be certain to deglaze the pan to pick up any of the marrow that may have seeped out.

              Tell the butcher you want soup or rendering bones. If roasting, they should be clean of any meat. In my area, the bones are not free, but less than $1/lb.

              1. re: CocoaNut

                I forgot to mention, thanks! A chef taught me to roast the bones first, with a little olive oil and some herbs sprinkled on top, maybe for 20 or 30 minutes on very low, like 300 max. Do this while getting the rest of the meat together (sausage, braciole or meatballs, all of which I partially precook). Then start the sauce and dump all into pot. You have to try it to see, but the richness of the sauce could not be achieved by just reducing.