Home canned marinara sauce is easier than you think to make and it will give you fresh, preservative-free sauce to use all-year long!
Last summer was an epic year for our garden tomatoes. And I do mean EPIC.
We winter-sowed heirloom seeds in February and started planting itty bitty seedlings in late June. Do you know what happens when you don’t plant itty bitty seedlings until late June and then have an unexpectedly long summer?
You’re picking garden tomatoes at Halloween…in Connecticut. It was both amazing and a bit tiring at the same time.
I mean, by October 1st, I’m all pumpkin-all-the-things but when you come back from a chilly fall week in Maine on October 11th to your canning tomatoes that have only just fully ripened, it’s kind of a shock.
The Best Tomatoes for Canning Marinara Sauce
All in all, we harvested from 8 plants last year which we grew solely for canning tomatoes in addition to 10 Brandywine plants for “eating” tomatoes.
We ended up taking the weekend after our vacation to can about 60 pounds of our Bonny Best variety tomatoes which yielded approximately 6 quarts of whole tomatoes, 2 quarts of crushed tomatoes, and 2 quarts + 5 12-oz jars of marinara sauce.
I have to say that the Bonny Best tomatoes we made this sauce with probably weren’t the best variety to use. While they were really delicious tomatoes, they were also watery. It took 4 hours for the sauce to cook down to a consistency I was happy with. I could have probably let the sauce cook for another hour and it would have been even better.
So, tomatoes with a denser flesh would work better for this sauce. Roma or San Marzano would be perfect. Sometimes you can find “paste” tomatoes and these would be fine to use too. Romas typically are easier to find than San Marzano tomatoes in the farmer’s markets and farm stands in the summer.
If you’re going to grow own tomatoes with the intention of canning them, do some research before you purchase plants or seeds. My seed supplier (and most really good suppliers or catalogues) has extensive information available about all of the varieties of seeds they sell (i.e. which tomatoes are better for eating vs. canning), as well as information about how to grow them.
How to Make Marinara for Canning
Anyway! Since we’re still eating through our stash from last fall, we’re still reaping the benefits of that crazy October canning weekend.
Thanks to a safe and effective canning method, this sauce is still just as fresh as the day we canned it. Gotta love canning!
This home canned marinara sauce was super simple to make after you make it through the slightly annoying part of chopping, par-boiling, and skinning the tomatoes.
If you can grab a few extra pairs of hands to help you through that process, it’s smooth sailing after that.
After you skin the tomatoes, you’ll chop them up. Then you’ll saute some onions and garlic on olive oil in a large stock pot. When the onions have softened, add the tomatoes, bring a boil and cook until the tomatoes have also softened.
You’ll then puree the mixture, return it to the pot, and let it cook for at least 4 hours. There’s a lot of liquid you’ll want to cook out of the sauce to help thicken it. Towards the end of the cooking time, you’ll add some chopped basil and parsley.
Add a few glasses of wine to your canning party and you’re ALL SET!
How to Store Homemade Canned Marinara Sauce
You’re going to want to store your jars in a cool, dark place. A pantry or cabinet will be fine as long as the temperature can be kept less than 95° F. Exposure to light may cause the food to spoil faster.
Back in the day, many canners used to keep their jarred food on shelves in the basement if they didn’t have pantry space in the kitchen. In some older houses (like, pre-1950), even today you may still come across these spaces and see the dusty shadows of the jars on the storage shelves. It’s pretty cool!
Properly canned sauce will keep for about 1 year.
How to Freeze Marinara Sauce
You can definitely freeze this tomato basil sauce if you don’t want to can it! Canning does take a bit of commitment so if you’re not up to tackling this job or not into canning at all, you can still make this sauce. (Or, I can also highly recommend my other very favorite homemade spaghetti sauce!)
To freeze marinara sauce:
- Proceed with making the recipe below through Step 4.
- Allow the sauce cool down until it’s still warm to the touch but not hot or cold.
- Transfer the sauce to freezer-safe containers or sturdy zip-top bags. Be sure you leave about ½-inch of room at the top of the containers or bags to allow the sauce to expand when it freezes.
- Freeze for up to 6 months.
Recipes To Use Canned Marinara
If you’re looking for some ways you can use up this sauce, other than just pouring it over spaghetti, let me suggest 5 of my favorite easy Italian meals to you:
- chicken parm baked pasta
- one-pot creamy sausage pasta
- penne alla vodka pizza
- one-pot cheesy baked penne
- garlic bread spicy meatball parm subs
- 18 pounds paste or roma tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- ¾ cup bottled lemon juice
- Core and roughly chop the tomatoes.
- In a large pot heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, and salt until transparent, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down.
- Position a food mill or sieve over a large bowl and begin to press the hot tomatoes, onions and garlic through it, stopping to clear out the skins and seeds as needed (discard or compost the skins and seeds). Alternatively, you can run the vegetables through the food processor but this won't remove the skins and seeds.
- Return the pressed tomatoes to the pot and simmer the sauce until it is reduced by one-third to one-half. The time for this will vary based on how juicy your tomatoes are - it took 4 hours for our sauce to cook down properly because our tomatoes were very juicy. About half an hour before you're ready to can, stir in the basil and parsley.
- At the same time that you add the herbs, prepare a water bath and submerge 4 quart jars in the water and boil for 10 minutes. Place lids in a small saucepan over very low heat to gently simmer while you prepare the tomatoes.
- Take your prepared jars from the boiling water (of course, dumping the water back into the canning pot before proceeding) and add 3 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to the bottom of each jar. Using a large ladle, transfer the hot tomato sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace between the top of the sauce and the rim of the jar.
- Wipe the rims with a clean kitchen towel, add lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes. For smaller jars, reduce the processing time by 5 minutes.
- Transfer the processed jars to a clean towel and allow the jars to sit untouched at room temperature for 24 hours before checking the lids for a seal and storing for up to 1 year. If any lids have not sealed, as evidenced by that characteristic "pop", put the unsealed jars in the refrigerator immediately and use the sauce within 1 week.
adapted from Simple Bites