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Home Canned Marinara Sauce

For most of the year, I am a staunch advocate of the small batch. I make jam in skillets, put up pickles one pint at a time, and simmer my chutneys in a miniature Dutch oven. However, come tomato season, I change my tune and go big. Very big.

Over the last five years, I’ve gotten into the habit of buying at least 100 pounds of tomatoes in the first or second week of September and spending a few very messy days painting my kitchen red.

bowls of tomatoes

I peel tomatoes, pack them into jars, and can them whole. I make tomato jam. I roast trays of tomato puree until they thicken into brick-red paste. And I cook up vast vats of basic marinara sauce that becomes the base for batches of meat sauce and soups all year long.

Having homemade marinara sauce on your pantry shelf is a dinnertime lifesaver because it means that you’re never more than 20 minutes away from a meal that you can feel really good about.

chopped and cored tomatoes

Some nights, I heat it up, serve it over pasta with a little parmesan cheese and call my work done. Other times, I brown up some sausage or ground turkey, add the marinara and simmer it down into a thick meat sauce. I’ve also been known to open a jar, add a little milk and call it tomato soup (always with a slice of cheesy toast on the side).

One of the things you’ll notice about this recipe is that it’s lightly seasoned. It’s like that by design, in order to keep the acidity levels high enough for boiling water bath canning. Please do resist the urge to add a little more onion, garlic, or olive oil. More can always be added when you open the jars.

tomato press

The only piece of specialized equipment you need to make this sauce is a food mill. However, if that’s not a tool you have, there are a couple other ways to go. You can peel your tomatoes using the score and blanch method, puree them in a blender and then add that puree directly to the cooked onions, garlic, and oil (you won’t get the seeds out using that method, but they won’t do any real harm).

Alternately, if you have a snazzy tomato press that separates out the skins and seeds for you, you can run your tomatoes through that and again, add the puree directly to the pot. As you can see in these pictures, that’s my preferred method these days.

cooking sauce

If you find that pints would be more useful to you than quarts, feel free to can this sauce up in smaller jars. Just reduce the processing time by five minutes. And finally, if you live at higher elevations, do make sure to increase your processing time accordingly.

lemon juice in jars

Home Canned Marinara Sauce
4.3 from 3 reviews
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Recipe type: Preserving
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: 4 quarts
Ingredients
  • 18 pounds paste or roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup bottled lemon juice
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, sauté the onion, garlic, and salt in the olive oil until they are transparent.
  2. While the onions and garlic cook, core and chop the tomatoes. Once the alliums are transparent, add the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down.
  3. Position a sieve or food mill over a large bowl and begin to press your hot tomatoes, onions and garlic through it. Once the tomato sauce has been separated from the seeds and skins, return it to the pot and stir in the basil and parsley. Simmer sauce until it is reduced by 1/3 to 1/2.
  4. When you’re about half an hour out from being ready to can, prepare a boiling water bath and 4 quart jars. Place lids in a small saucepan over very low heat to simmer while you prepare the tomatoes.
  5. Take your prepared jars and add 3 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to the bottom of each jar. Pour the hot tomato sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  6. Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes.

 

What’s your favorite way to preserve tomatoes?

About Marisa

Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated small batch canner who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first book, titled Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.

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Comments

  1. Great way to use up the summer tomatoes!
    Maria’s last post: This and That

  2. I had to laugh when I read “painting my kitchen red”! I did less than 20 lbs of tomatoes earlier this summer and definitely had tomato EVERYWHERE. :) I do not have a food mill or tomato press, but it looks like if I wanted to get into putting up most of our tomato products I’d need to get one. I froze them and peeled them under warm running water, but it took forever.

    Do you know approximately how many quarts do you get out of the 100 lbs? I only got about 8 pints from my 20 lbs. I guess they lose a lot of water weight as you process them.
    Diana’s last post: Homemade Flour Tortillas

  3. This is a great way to preserve some of summers bounty for use later on!
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking’s last post: Chocolate Chip Zucchini Greek Yogurt Banana Bread

  4. I need to do this before tomatoes leave my farmers market!
    Gaby’s last post: Breakfast Burritos

  5. If I’m canning in pints instead of quarts, how much lemon juice should be added to each jar? Thanks!

  6. Our Community Kitchen does around 700 pounds a year, of which there are 200 pints of salsa and the rest goes into canned tomatoes. With a dozen of us working at it this takes about 8 hours and we do it over the Saturday and Sunday of the Labour Day weekend. It makes the prettiest jars in the pantry and ensures wonderful meals through out the year.
    We use 2.3 pounds per quart for the plain tomatoes. This includes running the skins and cores through a Champion juicer and mixing the resulting paste back into the mix. You could can the paste separately if you choose.
    Extra juice is reduced as we go and mixed back in as well so that the jars are particularly rich in tomato and need very little reducing when used in cooking.

  7. Great Post! I’m excited to can my first tomatoes soon! One quick question…
    How many pints or quarts does this recipe yield?
    Thanks!

  8. Do you have any recommendations or tips for canning whole Roma tomatoes?

  9. This recipe looks delicious, such a great use of my tomatoes!

  10. I have ALWAYS wanted to do this!! I wish I had beautiful tomatoes growing in my garden!!

  11. i love your site… and today i am ready to process a whole bunch of tomatoes from my garden. but i only have citric acid.. not enough lemon juice.. would the old 1/2 tsp per quart jar work for this?
    thanks again.

  12. I have done 3 bushel so far, 1 bushel salsa, 1 bushel sauce, 1 bushel italian sauce. Monday I am doing my last bushel and I will do chopped tomatoes. That should do us for a year. I can this much not only because I want better quality but because we are on a low sodium diet and I do not add salt. Everything in a can at the grocery store with out salt costs a lot more. I rarely buy anything in a can or a box anymore. My freezers are full and there are a lot of jars of veggies and fruits in my pantry.

  13. I have a pressure canner. How long/what weight would I need to process this at for safety?

  14. Love this idea! Fresh marinara sauce year round is fine by me :)
    Julie @ Table for Two’s last post: Stitch Fix Review September 2013

  15. Love this post so much! I made a big batch of canned marinara sauce that got me through all winter and loved it. Definitely doing it again this year!
    Annalise @ Completely Delicious’s last post: Completely Different: Backpacking through the Enchantments

  16. Marisa,
    Terrific post–but now you’ve got me intrigued about baking tomato paste. I’ve put up 20 qts of crushed tomatoes, and the plants are still heavily laden, so this post comes at a good time for me, as I’ve been debating between canning pizza sauce, or marinara sauce, or what with the next go ’round. Thanks, Aimée!
    Kirsten@FarmFreshFeasts’s last post: Chopped Vegetable Pizza

  17. Oh yum, this is so perfect, I love homemade sauce

  18. Curious…how long does it take everyones sauce to reduce down?

  19. Thanks for this recipe for home canned marinara sauce. It sounds like a wonderful sauce.

  20. Lovely, thanks for sharing!

    I have one question – pardon me if I am missing the obvious – what is the lemon juice at the bottom of the jar for?
    Nancy’s last post: This Makes Me Happy | Flannelette Sheets

  21. Thanks so much for sharing this. We bought a tomato press and 50 pounds of san marzano tomatoes are being delivered today from our CSA. So, do you press and then cook and just have pieces of onion in the sauce or do you do as the recipe says and cook and then press? The write up and the recipe seem a bit different.
    marcella’s last post: Summer Embroidery Finish!

    • What I was trying to do was offer options. I wrote the recipe in the way I did because I find that most people don’t have a tomato press and so that standard food mill method works best. Since you have a tomato press, I recommend pureeing the tomatoes first and then adding the pulp to the pan with the olive oil, onions and garlic. You will have small pieces of onion in the sauce, but as long as you mince it fairly finely, it should break down readily during cooking. The rest of the process should be the same.
      Marisa’s last post: Small Batch Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

  22. I just made from scratch marinara sauce. It was so good I gave it all away. I want to make another batch and was searching the web for ways to canning as this will be my first time. My question is why do I need to use lemon juice in the bottom of the jar? I am fearful that it will mess up the flavor. Can I leave it out?

  23. Alisa Ellis says:

    I have a lot of bell peppers. Can I add bell peppers to this recipe and still can using the same amount of lemon juice? I’ve never canned before.

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