A simple and flavorful sauce made of fresh tomatoes, basil, and other herbs.
Just a few years ago, any canning apart from a small batch of jam was completely beyond me. Extremely intimidating, and pretty much impossible. But thanks in part to the encouragement and inspiration from my Canning Week buddies, Becky and Kelley, I’ve overcome my fear and discovered how doable the whole process is.
Canned marinara sauce was one of those projects that at one time scared the bejeezus out of me, and now it’s one of my favorite things to put up each fall. The process is a little long, though not difficult, and at the end you’re left with several jars of homemade marinara that will brighten even the darkest winter day.
A few notes about this recipe:
>> Romas are my favorite tomato to use when making marinara sauce because they are a little easier to work with, have more flesh, with fewer seeds. Look for big boxes at your farmer’s market.
>> Give yourself a good block of time at home to dedicate to this big batch of marinara. It will take quite some time to peel and chop the tomatoes, cook it down, and process.
>> Wear an apron!
>> Lemon juice is required to bring the pH of the marinara to a safe place for shelf storage. It’s best to use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh as it has a more consistent acidity.
>> This marinara sauce freezes well if you would like to skip the canning portion of this recipe. Store in heavy duty tupperware in the freezer with 1 1/2-inch headspace.
>> This sauce has many uses— spoon over pasta, use it as a pizza sauce, and it would make a killer dip for garlic bread.
>> The total cost per jar is about $5. Considering what you would pay for a high-quality marinara sauce at the grocery store, this homemade version is well worth the effort.
Tomato-Basil Marinara Sauce
- 12 lbs (5.5 kg) tomatoes, preferably Roma
- 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1 cup packed assorted fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme and rosemary, chopped
- 6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl with ice and water.
- With a paring knife, score a small "x" in the bottom of each tomato. Working in small batches, dip the tomatoes in boiling water for about 30 seconds, or until the flesh at the corners of the "x" appears to loosen. Immediately plunge tomatoes in the ice water.
- Beginning with the loose flesh at the "x", peel each tomato. Then cut tomatoes into quarters and squeeze out seeds and juice. Reserve skins and juice with seeds, set aside. Use a food processor to chop tomatoes as desired, leave them chunky or pulse until almost smooth.
- Place chopped tomatoes in a large heavy-bottomed pot, and add the brown sugar, salt, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, and then cook for 70-90 minutes until reduced and thickened.
- (Optional step) Bring tomato skins and juice with seeds to a boil in a large saucepan. Simmer for about 30 minutes until juices have thickened. Pass mixture through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on solids to remove all liquid. Then pour strained mixture into the large pot with the rest of the sauce as it simmers and proceed. If you prefer to skip this step, simply discard the peels and seeds.
- Remove from heat and add chopped basil and other herbs. Put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in each of 6 sterilized pint jars, and then ladle in marinara sauce, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe rims clean and then add sterilized lids and rings.
- Process in a water bath for 35 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool to room temperature. Ensure lids are sealed (the center of each lid should not bounce back when pressed) and store in a cool dark place like a pantry for up to 1 year. Once opened, store in the fridge and use within 1 week.
- For help with canning basics, check out my post on home canning tips and resources.
- If desired, you can instead freeze the sauce in sturdy tupperware, leaving 1 1/2-inch headspace.