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 normal 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 one sixteenth of what I made and photographed, so don’t get intimidated by my quantities. 🙂 The recipe below is simple enough for a beginner if that’s where you’re at.
Before beginning, get everything prepared.
Then of course, wash 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 rotten ones, or bad spots. Although the tomatoes may feel firm on the outside, it’s possible to have a few bad ones. You don’t want to throw even one bad tomato into your sauce, as it may ruin the entire batch.
While you’re cutting the 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, haha.)
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 start foaming on top with an orange film from the tomatoes, as shown in the pic below. You do NOT want to overcook the tomatoes, or you will be wasting/losing precious sauce.
Next, you will drain the tomatoes until mostly drained. You do not need to over drain since the water will have absorbed a lot of the tomato goodness!
Now it’s time to turn your tomatoes into sauce!
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 saucy goodness, and another to collect the seeds/skins to be disposed. If you’re making a smaller batch, a food mill will work just as well!
Once all the tomatoes have been crushed into sauce, heat the olive oil, with the chopped onions, garlic and bay leaves in a large sauce pot. If you’re avoiding oil, you may sauté with water instead. Just be mindful, stir often and add more water as needed to prevent sticking.
Then pour your sauce into the pot to get it cooked. Make sure to stir often.
Once the sauce is fully cooked, you will fill your mason jars and seal tightly. We use Bernardin snap lids, and buy new lids each year to ensure proper sealing. (You may reuse the jars, but use new snap lids each time to make sure you get a proper seal.) TIP: Use gloves to handle the jars and seal tightly. They will be very hot to handle when filling with the hot sauce.
Next, we boil the jars in order to get a proper seal that will help them keep for the year. Cover the jars with water and boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. 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.
Need more ideas on how to use this homemade tomato sauce? Try these!
- Vegan Sloppy Joes Instant Pot (Soup or Sandwich!)
- Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Tomato Sauce
- Oil Free Polenta Pizza Crust [V+GF]
- Lentil Pizza Crust – Gluten Free
- ANY PIZZA
- Vegetable Bolognese Zucchini Noodles
- Seriously the BEST Vegan Lasagna
- Italian Stuffed Peppers with Tomato Sauce
- Easy Vegan Bolognese Spaghetti
- Food Mill
- 1/2 bushel roma tomatoes (approx 25 lbs) washed
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 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
- 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.
- 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.