Why You Should Be Adding Sugar to Your Spaghetti and Meatballs

If you're an avid pasta lover, here's one tip you can't miss!

If you’ve ever whipped up a homemade tomato sauce only to find it’s searingly acidic, you’re not alone. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix. Sugar in spaghetti sauce is the secret ingredient that will transform a classic dish like spaghetti and meatballs into absolute perfection. This clever cooking hack can be used in a variety of homemade pasta sauce recipes, and it’s not much different from seasoning with a touch of salt.

Why You Should Add Sugar to Your Spaghetti Sauce

The reason for sprinkling a pinch of sugar into a simmering saucepan of tomatoes is simple: sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and creates an overall more balanced sauce. The exact acid levels in tomatoes can vary quite a bit depending on whether they’re fresh or canned, the tomato variety, and the time of year. Sure, if you’re tending to a sauce made from beautifully ripe tomatoes picked in the height of summer, you can skip the sugar. This is the reason why you should start saving pasta water.

How to Add Sugar to Your Spaghetti Sauce

That secret pinch of sugar is one of the last steps I take before letting the sauce simmer away on the stovetop to thicken up. You can use either white or brown sugar. Personally, I prefer packed brown sugar, but experiment to see which gives you the best results. I also make sure to add a dollop of butter to my pasta sauce. Like sugar, butter mellows out some of the biting acidity and gives the sauce a slightly richer texture thanks to its high-fat content. How much sugar should you add to your spaghetti sauce? “You could add a pinch of sugar and keep tasting and adding until the flavor really starts to brighten and become more well-rounded,” says Taste of Home Deputy Editor James Schend.

When I’m making spaghetti from scratch, I start small with ¼ teaspoon and adjust as needed. The key is to give the sauce’s components time to come together, just the same as you would if you were adding salt. Buon appetito!

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Originally Published on Taste of Home

Camille Berry
Camille Berry is a food and drinks writer who divides her time between her native San Francisco and the UK. Her work has appeared on Wine Folly, Vinepair, The Back Label, in Spirited Virginia Magazine, and many other websites and publications.

Part of the third generation in a family of restaurateurs, Camille was practically born with a passion for cooking and food. She embarked on a career in hospitality where she excelled as a sommelier and wine director at several of San Francisco's most well-loved restaurants. This hospitality experience has endowed her with a wealth of first-hand knowledge of various cuisines, how to pair all manner of drinks with food, and entertaining – plus some serious kitchen skills. She is both a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and a Certified Wine Specialist through the Society of Wine Educators.