Weekend Project: Simplest Tomato Sauce

Agrarian, Canning & Preserving, Cook, Healthy Eating, In Season, Make, Preserving, Summer, Try This at Home, Weekend Project


While tomatoes are at their peak, set aside a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to make and put up this delicious, all-purpose tomato sauce from Canal House Cooking. Come winter, you’ll be glad you did–its fresh, sun-ripened flavor will brighten up everything from hearty stuffed pastas to simple spaghetti with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.



Simplest Tomato Sauce



  • 15 lb. ripe Italian plum tomatoes, halved
  • 4 yellow onions, halved through the root end
  • 4 branches fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil or other herb of choice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 to 8 fresh basil sprigs



Put the tomatoes, along with their juice, in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onions and herb branches, and season with salt and pepper. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the tomato flesh is completely soft, 2 to 3 hours.


Let the tomatoes cool for about 1 hour. Discard the onions and herb branches. Pass the tomatoes through a food mill into another large clean pot, discarding the solids. Add the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil, set over medium heat and heat, stirring, until hot.


Meanwhile, wash 6 to 8 pint canning jars with their lids and rings in hot soapy water and rinse them, then place in a large pan or bowl and cover with boiling water. Keep them in the hot water until ready to use. Remove the jars from the water and pour out any water. Arrange the jars together for easy filling. Put a basil sprig in each jar. At the same time, fill a large pot (large enough to hold the jars in a single layer) with warm water to a depth of 4 inches. A canning kettle with a rack is ideal.


To process the tomato sauce, use a sterilized glass measuring cup and a funnel to pour about 1 cup of the hot sauce into each jar, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Using a paper towel dipped in hot water, wipe the rims clean. Place the lid on each jar, then screw on the rings. Arrange the jars in the water in the pot (the water should cover the jars by 2 inches) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 35 minutes.


Using tongs, remove the jars from the water and place on a tray lined with a kitchen towel. Let the jars cool undisturbed for 12 hours. If the jars have sealed properly, the lids will be slightly indented and not springy to the touch. If a jar did not seal properly, either repeat the water bath process or refrigerate and use the sauce. Makes 6 to 8 pints.


Want to learn more about canning and preserving? Check out our expert guide.

20 comments about “Weekend Project: Simplest Tomato Sauce

    1. Michele

      I have not used this particular recipe yet, but generally if you are swapping out regular slicing tomatoes for roma, you will want to remove all of the seeds/gelatinous material first. It still may be a bit watery in the end though. For some things I can just put it in a wide pot and let it simmer, reducing the liquids. Again, I don’t know if that will work with this recipe.

  1. Manny Otero

    I would love it if their were a printer friendly page or option for this and other things.

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  4. Antonia Richmond

    @julie: You can definitely use the recipe with tomatoes other than plum tomatoes.There may be slight adjustments to cook time to adjust for thickness/consistency due to different seed/pulp ratios.

  5. Brannon

    This is a terrible recipe. I just wasted a ton of tomatoes, THAT I GREW MYSELF. I should have just used my regular stewed tomatoes. And the number one thing that should be added to this “recipe” is PEEL the tomatoes. All I have now is a pot full of onion, garlic and tomatoes with chewy skin. Avoid this recipe.

  6. Antonia Richmond

    @Brannon We’re so sorry that this recipe didn’t work out for you. Did you try putting the tomatoes through a food mill, as the recipe indicates? This should have taken care of the peels and other tomato solids.

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  8. Martha

    @Brannon, you can also use an immersion blender. That way you dont have to worry about pulling out the stems or anything. It all gets pureed together.

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  11. Barbcooks

    Need to read recipies fully before making, It clearly states to put tomatoes through a food mill and that will remove all skins and 99% of the seeds. You can also use a great blender and pruree the whole thing. What I want to know is WHERE DID YOU GET THOSE FANTASTIC BOTTLES???? I want some 🙂 Thanks

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