Okay, you’ve gone through the trouble to make perfect rice or pasta. But when you put the sauce on top it runs onto the plate. This is not a way to impress your friends. But there are several simple ways to thicken the sauce to make it heavy enough to stick and add more texture.
This is important stuff. Students in any cooking school spend a lot of time learning to make delicious sauces. But in our cooking 101 series were going to give you the short course on improving texture and you can experiment with spices later.
# 1. Cook it down. Ever noticed on TV cooking shows how they mix the tomato sauce with other veggies then put it on the stove and simmer it until the sauce gets thicker? They are doing this for two reasons. First is to bring out the flavor of the seasonings. The second reason is to let some of the water evaporate which makes the sauce thicker. This is easy to do but make sure you watch it and control the temperature so that it bubbles slightly yet does not scorch the bottom of the pan.
#2. Add a thickener. You can make a roux with flour and butter, Mix cornstarch, arrowroot, kudzu or agar with water. Slowly add this to your sauce while stirring and bringing it to a low boil. Your sauce will begin to thicken. When it is just the right texture turn the heat off and let it set for a few minutes. It will even get thicker which is nice for rice, potatoes and pasta. You will want to experiment with this method is worth the practice.
#3. Add instant potatoes, mashed peas or garbanzo beans. Whip until the texture is what you want. Instant potatoes are often used in restaurants because it does not compete with the flavor of the sauce.
#4. Use an Immersion Blender. When you add ingredients for your sauce, include chunks of veggies like potatoes, legumes, and grains. After the sauce has simmered for a while, place an immersion blender into this sauce to cut the big chunks into a nice thick sauce. Immersion blenders cost about $50 new or $10 in a thrift shop. It worth the investment.
# 5. The type of, pasta, and potatoes makes a difference. Use unrinsed rice, large ornate pasta like shells and bows, and soft potatoes like red and Yukon gold, so the sauce will stick to it easier. Avoid cheap die-cut pasta which has a smooth surface. Once everything cooked, drain the liquid and fold the rice or pasta into the sauce and let it rest for a moment to blend the flavors. Now it is ready to serve.
Keep practicing, take notes, and your sauces will improve every time you try. Now about spices? That’s another story and possibly our next topic.