Tomato Sauce

tomato-sauceAfter a family dinner last summer my daughter, Megan Anna, told me I should write down my tomato sauce recipe.  I’d been making sauce that afternoon and we used it in supper to top our polenta with sauteed broccoli and tromboncini squash.

My sauce is always a bit of this and a bit of that so I found writing instructions down a bit of a challenge–but here is my best attempt.   It is good enough to eat straight out of the jar, though I try to resist the urge and at least use it to make Garden Tomato Soup–which is essentially my sauce warmed up with some added evaporated milk, 2% or a dash of half-n-half.  

This recipe made 18 pints.  Adjust according to how many tomatoes you have available. You’ll likely want to measure it again after draining so you have a good idea of your tomato to Everything Else ratio.

Tomato Sauce Directions:

Blanch, then cool in an ice bath, about 4 gallons (16 quarts) of tomatoes (which, if you care to know, is about 1/2 a bushel).  If you have choices in your tomatoes, look for Paste tomatoes, like Roma or Juliette. These varieties are meatier and have less water in them.  Let the tomatoes drain in a colander after peeling them.  Draining the juice before cooking shortens cooking time and gives you some Really Tasty tomato juice besides.  Pour the juice into a quart of 1/2 gallon jar and refrigerate it a while to separate the water and juice further.  Pour off the water and wa-laa, you have a marvelous fresh tomato juice.  I drink a glass and offer Mark one, and then, because we are not big tomato juice drinkers, I freeze the rest in cubes to use as stock later on.juice

You’ll have about 12 quarts of tomatoes after discarding skins and draining off juice. In a large soup kettle begin to cook down the tomatoes on medium heat, being sure not to scorch the bottom.  Turn down and simmer once tomatoes start bubbling.  Cook uncovered for about an hour.  Meanwhile, chop a bunch of garlic (maybe 10-12 cloves) and 4-5 large onions.  Saute these in about 3/4 c. oil.  Once onions are translucent, add to tomatoes, along with about 3 c. of red wine, 5 Tbsp. salt, 1 Tbsp. pepper, 1-2 Tbsp. sugar, a chopped up jalepeno or cayenne pepper including the seeds (amount depends on how spicy you like tomato sauce–you could omit this entirely) and a bunch of chopped up oregano and/or basil and thyme (approx. 1/2 c. fresh). Cook for another hour or so until you have the consistency you desire.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. That means, salt and pepper on the light side the first time, because making it saltier is decidedly easier than making it less salty!

Eat some that night with dinner, even if you are eating it out of a custard cups as an appetizer.

Pressure can the rest.  Use clean jars free of nicks, and new lids.  Put jars, rings and lids in a sink of hot water to warm up before filling with the hot tomato sauce.  Wipe rim, screw on lids, and pressure can pints for 15 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure.


  • very nice. I’ll add in a few tidbits of southern italian wisdom that we’ve distilled from my grandmother over the years.

    * Add tomato paste to the translucent onions and cook a few minutes to rust the oil. Caramelizing some tomato is a depth of flavor thing.
    * Add fennel if that’s your sort of thing
    * Its best with lots of olive oil. You can skin it from the top of the finished sauce if you think its too much. Now you have delicious oil to season cooked vegetables.

    • I used to add tomato paste but it felt like cheating–the short-cut to thicker sauce. But you make it sound more purposeful–and I can definitely imagine how caramelizing some tomato would add depth of flavor. Thanks for adding these pieces, Chris. I love keeping our grandmother’s wisdom circulating.

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