This is the time of year where you see all the Italians sitting in their garage making homemade tomato sauce. Ever wonder what their secrets are? I’m about to give you a step by step guide, with photos. The secret is out! 🙂
End of August, or early September is always tomato sauce season for my family. Growing up in an Italian household means being spoiled with the most amazing homemade tomato sauce all year round.
The process to make homemade tomato sauce is a tradition that I remember doing every single year around the end of summer. For us, this is a regular part of the year, no different than celebrating birthdays or Thanksgiving!
We always try to make enough to last us the entire year, until we make another batch the following year. That means, the entire family gets together so we can have all hands on deck.
This time we made 8 bushels, which is actually a little light for us compared to most years. We may have to make more soon!
I’ve broken down the steps with photos below. Feel free to make as much, or as little as you’d like. The recipe at the very bottom is for half a bushel of tomatoes, approx 25 lbs which is just a faction of what I made and photographed, so don’t be intimidated. 🙂
The recipe below is simple enough for a beginner if that’s where you’re at.
Before you start
Get everything ready!!!
Prepare your onions, garlic and basil as well. Peel and cut them so they are ready to go.
Prepare your tomatoes
Start by washing your tomatoes.
We use a giant tub to wash ours since we make large quantities, but of course, you can also do this in your kitchen sink!
Once you’ve washed all your tomatoes, you will need to cut each one in half.
The reason for this is to check for any spoiled ones, or rotten spots.
Although the tomatoes may feel firm on the outside, it’s possible to have a few spoiled ones, so always check.
You don’t want ANY rotten tomatoes in your sauce, as it may ruin the entire batch.
Cooking your tomatoes
Bring a large pot of water to boil. We use industrial sized pots with propane burners outside.
You may also do this with a large stock pot on the stove top if you’re making a smaller amount. Or you may work in batches.
Add the tomatoes to the boiling water and give them a stir. (Yup, that’s me below stirring the cauldron.)
The cold tomatoes will likely cause the water to stop boiling.
However, once it returns to a boil, that is usually when it’s time to remove the tomatoes, and drain them.
You should look for the water to appear foamy on top with an orange film from the tomatoes, as shown in the pic below.
DO NOT overcook the tomatoes, or you will be wasting and losing precious sauce when you drain them.
Draining the tomatoes
Next, you will drain the tomatoes until mostly drained.
Don’t over drain since the water will have absorbed a lot of the tomato goodness!
Transfer the cooked tomatoes to a basket or anything large enough to hold them.
Time to make homemade tomato sauce!
Crushing the tomatoes
We use an industrial, motorized Italian tomato press that separates the skin and seeds from the tomato.
It discards the skin and seeds and pours the sauce out. You will need two separate containers/buckets. One to collect the delicious sauce, and another to collect the seeds and skins to be disposed.
If you’re making a smaller batch, a food mill will work just as well!
Let’s get cooking!
Once all the tomatoes have been crushed into sauce, heat the oil, with the chopped onions, garlic and bay leaves in a large sauce pot.
NOTE: If you’re avoiding oil, you may sauté with water or broth instead. Just be mindful, stir often and add more as needed to prevent sticking.
Once golden, pour your tomato sauce into the pot and start cooking.
Make sure to stir often.
Filling the jars
Once the sauce is fully cooked, you will fill your mason jars and seal tightly.
We use NEW Bernardin snap lids each year to ensure proper sealing.
NOTE: You may reuse the jars, just wash and dry them. But use new snap lids each time to make sure you get a proper seal.
EXPERT TIP: Use gloves to handle the jars and seal tightly. They will be very hot to handle when filling with the hot sauce.
Preserving the jars
Next, we boil the jars in order to get a proper seal that will help them keep for the year.
Add the jars to a large enough pot and cover them completely with water and boil for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and DO NOT touch the jars for at least 12 hours or overnight.
Once cooled down enough to touch, store your delicious tomato sauce in a cool dark place and have homemade tomato sauce ready to use all year long!
The reward after a hard day’s work!
My favourite part of the tradition is enjoying a fresh plate of pasta with the newly homemade tomato sauce! YUM.
How to use with your homemade tomato sauce
- Vegan Sloppy Joes Instant Pot (Soup or Sandwich!)
- Oil Free Polenta Pizza Crust or Lentil Pizza Crust – Gluten Free or ANY PIZZA!
- Vegetable Bolognese Zucchini Noodles
- Seriously the BEST Vegan Lasagna
- Italian Stuffed Peppers with Tomato Sauce
- Easy Vegan Bolognese Spaghetti
If you tried this recipe, please let me know about it in the comments below. I always love hearing from you! Don’t forget to Subscribe to This Healthy Kitchen to be among the first to get my new recipes! You can also FOLLOW ME on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter to see more delicious food and get all the latest updates.
32 Quart Jars
32 Bernardin Snap Lids
- 1/2 bushel roma tomatoes (approx 25 lbs) washed
- 1/4 cup olive oil see notes for oil free
- 1 yellow onion peeled & cut in half
- 1 red onion peeled & cut in half
- 6-8 cloves garlic peeled
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp sea salt or to taste
- 8-10 fresh basil leaves
- 16 tsp citric acid or lemon juice or vinegar, see notes*
- Using a food processor, process your onions and garlic until finely chopped, but not pureed. Set aside.
- Slice each tomato in half, looking for any bad spots as you cut into them. (You do not want to use any rotten tomatoes, as this may ruin the batch of sauce.)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the cut tomatoes. The cold tomatoes will likely cause the water to stop boiling. Once it returns to a low boil, drain the tomatoes immediately. Do NOT overcook the tomatoes in this step. Drain them once the water starts boiling, and/or once you see that the water is foaming orange on top. (See pic for reference.)
- Use a food mill to crush your tomatoes which will separate the skins and seeds and leave you with only the tomato sauce.
- Heat the oil with the onions, garlic and bay leaves and cook for about 5 minutes, until onions and garlic are slightly golden. Watch carefully not to burn. Add the sauce to the pot and bring to a low boil. Cook for 1 hour, adding the basil for the last 25-30 minutes. Stir very often! You do not want any sauce to burn at the bottom of the pot, or you may spoil the entire batch. Taste for salt, and adjust if desired.
- Now depending on the size of jars you're using, add the citric acid to the bottom of each jar. *see notes
- Carefully fill and tightly seal your mason jars using Bernardin snap lids.
- Heat a couple inches of water in a large pot and place the sealed jars into your pot once heated. Do not add the jars to cold water! The jars are very hot, and adding them to a pot of cold water may cause them to explode. Once the jars have all been placed in the pot, slowly fill with enough water to cover all the jars and bring to a boil for at least 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit for 12 hours or overnight. Once the water and jars are cooled enough to handle, remove from the pot and store in a cold dark place for up to one year.