Menu Close

How To Make Homemade Tomato Sauce – Oil Free Option

pasta with homemade tomato sauce

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.

Any baskets, bushels, mason jars and lids, food mill or Italian tomato press, etc. Prepare your onions, garlic and basil as well. Peel and cut them so they are ready to go.

onions, garlic, basil prep for homemade tomato sauce

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!

washing tomatos in large tub

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.

slicing tomatoes

bushels and baskets of tomatoes

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.)

stirring large pot of tomatos

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.

cooking tomatoes for homemade tomato 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!

draining tomatoes for homemade tomato sauce

draining tomatoes

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!

making homemade tomato sauce

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.

homeade tomato sauce prep

Then pour your sauce into the pot to get it cooked. Make sure to stir often.

homemade tomato sauce cooking

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.

pouring homemade tomato sauce into mason jars

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.

homemade tomato sauce jarred

homemade tomato sauce jarred

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.

pasta plated with homemade tomato sauce, cheese, basil and hot peppers

Need more ideas on how to use this homemade tomato sauce? Try these!

pasta with homemade tomato sauce

How To Make Homemade Tomato Sauce

Course: How To
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: gluten free, nut free, Oil Free Option, vegan
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Servings: 32 Litres
Have you ever wondered about the Italian secrets to making homemade tomato sauce? The secret with step by step photo instructions is out!
Pin Recipe Print Recipe


  • 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 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.)
    cooking tomatoes
  • 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.


If you're avoiding oil, you may sauté the veggies in water instead. Just watch carefully to ensure nothing gets stuck to the bottom of the pot. You do not want anything to burn, or you risk spoiling the entire batch of sauce.
Serving: 1Cup | Calories: 45kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 226mg | Potassium: 357mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1216IU | Vitamin C: 21mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg
DID YOU TRY THIS RECIPE?Mention on IG and tag #thishealthykitchen!
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.

Last Updated on


    • rosa

      Hi Linda, no I don’t. I use a food mill to separate the seeds and skins. You may also do this by hand if you have a smaller batch of tomatoes but a food mill will definitely be faster. 🙂

  1. Alexandra @ It’s Not Complicated Recipes

    5 stars
    I love this! A great family tradition – and a delicious one too. I would love to try this 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.