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! 🙂
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I have been wanting to make my own sauce for years, but have always felt very intimidated since I had no one to actually show me. I finally did it this past weekend!! Rosa’s step by step instructions and pictures made me feel like I was right there with her learning! I followed her recipe and method and on my own was finally able to make my own! The sauce was amazing and exactly what I had been missing! Thank you soo so much for sharing this! Absolutely wonderful! – Michelle
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 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.
The photos below is a batch of 8 bushels of roma tomatoes. (This was actually a light year for us.) But not to worry, I’ve broken down the steps below so you can make as much or as little as you’d like.
The recipe at the bottom is scaled down to ONE bushel of tomatoes, approx. 52 pounds. So don’t be intimidated. 🙂
This is simple enough for a beginner if that’s where you’re at. 😉
How to make tomato sauce
(This is a summary with step by step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Before you begin
Get everything ready!!!
Grab baskets, bushels, clean and dry mason jars and lids, your 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. Then set them aside.
Prepare your tomatoes
Start by thoroughly 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.
Cook your tomatoes
Bring a large pot of water to boil. We use industrial size pots with propane burners outside, given the amount of sauce we make.
You may 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 stirring the cauldron.)
The cold tomatoes will likely cause the water to stop boiling.
However, once it returns to a boil, that is about when it’s time to remove the tomatoes, and drain them.
Look for the water to appear foamy on top with an orange film from the tomatoes, as shown in the image below.
NOTE: DO NOT overcook the tomatoes, or you will be wasting and losing sauce when you drain them.
Drain 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.
Crush 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 works well!
Cook your tomato sauce
Once all the tomatoes have gone through your mill and have been crushed into sauce, you will begin the cooking process.
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 and salt into the pot and bring to a low boil.
Make sure to stir often! Continue cooking and stirring and add the basil around the halfway point. Taste for salt and adjust if needed.
Fill the jars
Once the sauce is fully cooked, you will fill your mason jars and seal tightly. Use a pitcher or ladle to fill your jars. Then seal each jar with its lid.
We use NEW Bernardin snap lids each year to ensure proper sealing.
NOTE: You may reuse the jars, as long as they are thoroughly washed and dried. But do not reuse the snap lids. New snap lids each time will ensure 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.
Preserve the jars
To preserve the jars, you will boil them in order to get a proper seal that will help them keep until next season.
Add the jars to a pot large enough to hold them. (Or use multiple pots.) Then cover them completely with water and boil for at least 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and DO NOT touch the jars as they will be very hot. Leave them for 8-12 hours or overnight.
Once cool enough to touch, remove the jars from the pot and store your in a cool dark place.
Now you 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 delicious plate of pasta with the freshly made homemade tomato sauce! YUM.
Recipes with homemade tomato sauce
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.
- 1 bushel Roma or San Marzano tomatoes (approx. 52 pounds) washed
- ½ cup olive oil see notes for oil free
- 2 yellow onions peeled & cut in quarters
- 1 red onion peeled & cut in quarters
- 12 cloves garlic peeled
- 4-5 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoon sea salt or to taste
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves loosely packed
- 10 teaspoons 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 and salt to the pot and bring to a low boil. Cook for 1 hour, adding the basil in the last 20 minutes or so. Stir 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 your jars leaving ¼" space from rim of the jar. Then tightly seal your mason jars using Bernardin lids and rings.
- 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 crack. 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 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit for 12 hours or overnight. (So call it a day.) Once the water and jars are cooled enough to handle, remove from the pot and store in a cold dark place for up to 12 months.
Fantastic recipe, thank you so much!!! I did a bushel, the taste is amazing. My kids gave it 5 stars on taste and consistency. Question thought, my sauce really doesn’t apply to the pasta, is that normal?
Thanks again, tummy yummy 🙂
Thrilled you and your family enjoyed Heather. Thanks for taking the time to leave a review. 🙂
There could be various reasons for the sauce not sticking, so it’s hard to say for sure without knowing your full process.
Some examples: don’t add oil to the boiling pasta water if you are doing so. Make sure to heat the sauce before mixing with the pasta and mix immediately once drained, don’t let it cool down first. Also, you could reserve a few tablespoons of the starchy pasta water when draining to mix with the sauce to help it stick better. Hope that helps!
May I ask why you would add the cut tomatoes in boiling water. In our tradition we cook the tomatoes without cooking it water.
Hi Maria, we slice them in half to make sure there are no brown spots or rotten tomatoes. Sometimes they can look perfect on the outside, but they’re rotten in the center, so we take this extra step to make sure we don’t spoil our batch of sauce. We then do a quick boil to make them easier to process through the food mill. When the tomatoes are slightly softened, they’re easier to process.
I did it Rosa! We made 2 bushels of tomatoes this weekend and your step by step directions really helped us not feel overwhelmed!! Thank you SO much for doing this! Appreciate you.
Yay!! Absolutely thrilled you made some sauce and that you found my guide helpful. Thanks so much for the review. 🙂
I have been wanting to make my own sauce for years, but have always felt very intimidated since I had no one to actually show me. I finally did it this past weekend!! Rosa’s step by step instructions and pictures made me feel like I was right there with her learning! I followed her recipe and method and on my own was finally able to make my own! The sauce was amazing and exactly what I had been missing! Thank you soo so much for sharing this! Absolutely wonderful!
Aww thanks so much Michelle! I’m so glad you found it helpful. 🙂
Love it, it was simple to do and enjoyed the family time. question why the lemon?
Glad you enjoyed Carol. The lemon juice, OR citric acid is to preserve the tomato sauce so it doesn’t spoil.
This is great, i have learned a lot from here.
Glad to hear it!
Do you leave the skins on the tomatoes?
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. 🙂
Alexandra @ It’s Not Complicated Recipes
I love this! A great family tradition – and a delicious one too. I would love to try this 🙂
Thanks so much Alexandra! It’s a great excuse to get the family together. All hands on deck for this one! 🙂