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!

Home Canned Marinara Sauce

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.

Home Canned 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!

Home Canned Marinara Sauce

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:

  1. Proceed with making the recipe below through Step 4.
  2. Allow the sauce cool down until it’s still warm to the touch but not hot or cold.
  3. 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.
  4. Freeze for up to 6 months.

home canned marinara sauce

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:

Home Canned Marinara Sauce

Home Canned Marinara Sauce

Yield: 4 quarts
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 5 hours
Can Processing Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 7 hours 10 minutes

Home canned marinara sauce is easier than you think to make! Using only fresh summer tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, and basil, this is a fun project that will give you fresh sauce to use all-year long! The only preservative used in this canning process is some bottled lemon juice so the ingredients are kept to a minimum.


  • 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


  1. Core and roughly chop the tomatoes.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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

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Leave a Comment

  • Kayle (The Cooking Actress)
    August 21, 2014 at 9:42 PM

    whoa! that is a lot of tomatoes! amazing-such a great idea to use ’em to make marinara and then can it!

    • August 22, 2014 at 9:49 AM

      Oh yeah – it was like a never-ending supply!

  • September 11, 2014 at 9:44 AM

    It depends on what tools you have. I used a food mill to separate the tomato from the peel but if you don’t have this tool, yes, peel them first before cooking down.

  • Rebekah
    August 2, 2017 at 12:11 PM

    I love this recipe! I have made several batches this summer and last summer. Each one turns out perfectly! Thank you for sharing

    • Tara
      September 9, 2017 at 10:24 AM

      So awesome to hear! Thank you so much for coming back to let me know, Rebekah!!

  • Valeriane
    September 16, 2017 at 5:36 PM

    Hi Tara! I do not see lemon juice in your recipe. Was that left out? I would love to use your recipe but wanted to be sure it was correct for acidity/ avoiding botulism purposes.

    • Tara
      September 17, 2017 at 6:35 PM

      Hi Valeriane! I’m so sorry for this oversight! I just updated the recipe. You’ll need 3 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice for each quart jar you use. So the full recipe would need 3/4 cup bottled lemon juice. Thanks for bringing this up!!

  • Jessica
    August 6, 2018 at 7:17 PM

    My sauce came out a little thin in the end. What can I do to thicken it up for recipies?

    • Tara
      August 10, 2018 at 10:00 AM

      Yep, this sauce is a little thin. You can cook it down a little in a saute pan to allow some of the water to cook out when you need it for a recipe.

  • Nancy
    September 2, 2018 at 6:48 PM

    I don’t have that many roma tomatoes, can I use regular ones and let the sauce cook down?

    • Tara
      September 7, 2018 at 9:06 AM

      Tomatoes are a tricky thing. Some varieties are really juicy and others are a little “meatier.” Roma tomatoes are a little “meatier” which is why they are great for sauces. There are other varieties that work well in sauces too and I would advise against using regular tomatoes for this sauce. Even with the Roma tomatoes, this sauce turns out a little thin.

  • Kelly
    September 25, 2018 at 7:40 PM

    Great tasting sauce, exactly like the sauce I had in Italy. I did cook my sauce down about half way which was close to the Italian sauce that I had. Unfortunately I ended up with only 2 1/2 quarts. It took most of the day for those who are wondering. I will definitely have to make homemade pasta to go along with it.

    • Tara
      October 9, 2018 at 8:34 AM

      Glad you like the sauce so much, Kelly! And yes, it is a bit watery so cooking it down is necessary.

  • Mary Whaley
    September 25, 2019 at 10:00 AM

    I Roast my Tomatoes in the oven on a sheet pan with chopped onion and garlic. Roast on 250 until the skin is krinkled 2 hrs at least, let cool, the skins pull right off. Add your herbs, blend and put in freezer Jars. So easy no boiling or cooking down

    • Tara
      September 25, 2019 at 10:26 AM

      Yes! Roasted tomato sauce is delicious too! I have a recipe similar to yours on the site already and it’s always a big hit when I make it. 🙂

  • Heather
    October 1, 2019 at 2:29 PM

    Can I cut the recipe in 1/2 if I don’t have enough tomatoes?

    • Tara
      October 4, 2019 at 8:21 AM

      Yes, that should work fine.

  • Dee Ann
    October 6, 2019 at 10:41 PM

    Could these be processed in quart jars in a on stove pressure cooker rather than a boiling water bath? and if so for how long? Also how much lemon juice for quart jars? Thanks

    • Tara
      October 12, 2019 at 12:43 PM

      Hi Dee Ann! I’ve never used a stove top pressure cooker so I’m sorry but I can’t answer your question about this. I wrote the recipe using 4 quart jars so you’ll divide the lemon juice amount listed in the recipe by 4.

  • Dianne Senko
    July 15, 2020 at 1:29 AM

    Can I use canned San Marzano tomatoes from Italy rather than fresh tomatoes?

    • Tara
      July 15, 2020 at 9:22 AM

      Hi Dianne, I’m not entirely sure. Canning is a fussy process and this recipe is designed as a safe recipe around the right acidity level from fresh tomatoes and the addition of lemon juice. I would think that canned tomatoes have a different acidity level than fresh ones do (because they have been canned already) and I wouldn’t want to run the risk of altering the acidic balance when re-canning canned tomatoes. I would strongly suggest you check out the Ball Canning website for more information to help you with your question.

  • Suzanne
    July 21, 2020 at 7:54 AM

    Thank you for this recipe! I plan on making it today for the first time. For canning, do you know the reason why you need to process it that long? Normally if I just want the jars to seal I process for only 10 minutes but maybe the sauce needs that extra cooking time?

    • Tara
      July 21, 2020 at 9:04 AM

      Hi Suzanne! Processing time varies by the type of food you can. Foods with less acid need longer to process and some, like meat and seafood, require pressuring canning because they require a hotter environment to safely preserve. Foods like jams, where you can add lemon juice or citric acid without altering the flavor of the food, take less time to process because you can add enough acid for safe canning with a shorter processing time. The high heat during processing kills off any bacteria in the food, making the jars shelf-stable, and pulls the air from the jar, which vacuum seals the jar. I hope this helps!

  • Judith Jackson
    July 31, 2020 at 10:29 AM

    Normally when using onions in a tomato recipe it requires pressure.cooking. Although I cooked it 4 hours. I’m just concerned about what I’ve read and done in the past.

  • Heather
    August 9, 2020 at 7:02 PM

    I’m making this for the first time today! I’m very new to canning and am excited to give this recipe a try! Thanks for sharing!

    • Tara
      September 28, 2020 at 10:43 AM

      Hope you enjoyed it!

  • Johanna Rodoni
    November 21, 2020 at 5:17 PM

    I forgot to add lemon juice to my first batch of jars. Should I re can them or will they be okay? I know the lemon juice is mainly added to make sure the acid content is high enough for safety reasons so want to make sure my sauce will be safe to eat in a few months.

    • Tara
      November 21, 2020 at 5:58 PM

      Hi Johanna! You definitely need the lemon juice for shelf stable safety so I would stick that batch in the freezer. The sauce without the lemon juice will be perfectly safe to freeze and eat at a later time. I wouldn’t re-can that batch after adding lemon juice because the acidity of the tomatoes has already been affected by the canning process. I hope this helps!

  • Caren barnes
    December 5, 2020 at 10:13 AM

    Hello your recipe sounds great. Why do u use lemon juice instead of citrus aid powder or grandules ?

    • Tara
      December 11, 2020 at 6:23 PM

      I used lemon juice because that’s what was called for in the recipe I used.

  • cheryl
    August 1, 2021 at 8:07 AM

    are you adding 3 Tb of lemon juice to each 1 quart jar or to each 4 quart jar?

    • Tara
      August 1, 2021 at 11:13 AM

      Hi Cheryl, To each 1 quart jar.

  • Allison
    September 3, 2021 at 1:08 PM

    Can I use vinegar instead of lemon juice? And how much? I don’t have lemons juice

    • Tara
      September 10, 2021 at 3:19 PM

      Hi Allison, I really don’t know if you can swap the lemon juice for vinegar in a canning recipe like this one. The recipe can be safely canned with lemon juice because of the specific acidity level of the lemon juice. I don’t know if vinegar has the same level of acidity as lemon juice does. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help with your question!

  • Kirsten
    September 22, 2021 at 2:24 PM

    Can I add the 3/4 cup lemon juice to the whole batch instead of in each jar? I’m canning it in 1-2 cup jars.

  • Dipa
    January 11, 2022 at 11:52 AM

    Hello! I really want to make this recipe but I live in a tropical climate and I’m not sure if it will be safe to store them in my kitchen cupboard because of really high humidity and upto 40°c temperature during the summer, I’m really worried about it spoiling. Can I pop it in the fridge if instead of leaving in a cupboard? I really want to make a lot to use later but I’m unsure about storing it and I definitely do not want to freeze it.

    • Tara
      January 15, 2022 at 10:06 PM

      Hi Dipa, Yes, you can refrigerate this sauce but I would skip the lemon juice if you do so. It will last longer in the freezer, however, and with absolutely no difference in taste when you thaw it.

  • Julie
    April 21, 2022 at 12:06 PM

    Hi does the water have to cover the jars completely? The recipes I have done say Water should cover jars by one inch

    • Tara
      July 5, 2022 at 9:31 AM

      Hi Julie, Yes, the water should cover the jars completely. You should have about 1 inch of water covering the top of the jars while you boil them.

  • Beverly Lucia
    July 27, 2022 at 3:10 PM

    Can I cook down in instant pot instead of stove top?

    • Tara
      August 4, 2022 at 8:29 AM

      Hi Beverly, I think that should be ok, although I’ve never tried this sauce that way. Let me know how it turns out for you!

  • Trudy
    August 17, 2022 at 10:38 AM

    Hello Tara! Is the processing time listed for sea level? I’m at 6,100′ so i want to make sure I add the right amount of time but don’t want to process for too long if that makes sense, toddler needs chasing lol. Thank you.

    • Tara
      August 17, 2022 at 11:38 AM

      Hi Trudy! Yes, the recipe is written for sea level processing. Great question!

  • Victoria
    August 27, 2022 at 12:39 PM

    Hi Tara, can I use citric acid instead of the lemon juice? If so how much citric acid?

    • Tara
      October 13, 2022 at 10:16 AM

      I’m pretty sure you could use citric acid in place of fresh lemon juice, though I don’t know how much you would need. A quick google will easily give you that info though!

  • Joni
    September 7, 2022 at 6:23 PM

    I was wondering if I could pressure cook it in stead of the water bath method?

    • Tara
      October 13, 2022 at 10:14 AM

      I’m sure you could use a pressure cooker for this recipe. I have never used one for canning recipes but if you know how, I’d say go for it.

    September 22, 2022 at 3:48 PM

    Can I substitutedried basil and parsley for fresh? What about bay leaf?

    • Tara
      October 13, 2022 at 10:12 AM

      Hi Sharon, Yes, you can sub the fresh herbs for dried – just reduce the amounts in half. And you can use a dried bay leaf too. Be sure to remove it from the sauce before you can or freeze the sauce.