Canned Tomato Sauce Recipe (+Waterbath & Pressure Canning Tutorials)

Canned Tomato Sauce Recipe (+ Water-bath & Pressure Canning)

By Melissa Norris | Canning Recipes

Aug 18

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Home-canned tomato sauce from vine-ripened tomatoes may as well be an entirely new product as there is no comparison to store-bought. It’s incredibly easy to make and you can water bath or pressure can it for long-term food storage.

Follow this easy step-by-step tutorial for my favorite canned tomato sauce recipe and enjoy it spiced up as pizza or spaghetti sauce, use it in chili, for tomato soup, barbeque sauce, cabbage rolls, and so much more.Vertical view of an open jar of tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes on the counter and a teaspoon of dried basil.

Learning how to can tomato sauce is life-changing. No, seriously, with a single jar you can create pretty much anything your heart desires with tomato sauce as the base.

Using my principles for growing a year’s worth of tomatoes (and then saving the seeds for the following year’s garden), I am able to can our entire years worth of tomato sauce. Never having to purchase tomato, pizza, or spaghetti sauce from the store is pretty amazing. In fact, I dare say this may be the most versatile item in my home food storage.

And let me tell ya, if you’ve never had homemade tomato sauce before made from vine-ripened tomatoes, then you’ve never had tomato sauce before. All else is an imitation, my friend.

If you’re struggling to grow enough tomatoes to put up for sauce, you can always buy them from the farmer’s market. But you may also be interested in how to prune tomatoes for a better harvest, or even my 10 tomato growing tips for a disease-free harvest.

Be sure to also check out these 129+ canning recipes to put up this year!

How Do You Can Tomato Sauce?

The best part about canning homemade tomato sauce is that you’ve got options! (A girl can never have too many options for canning recipes, right?)

You can use both water bath and pressure canning methods for this canned tomato sauce recipe. So keep reading below to see which option best suits your needs.

If you feel like you could use a bit more hand-holding for canning tomato sauce, you may be interested in my Tomato Canning eCourse(It’s only $19 and includes how to can salsa and other sauces as well!)

What Tomatoes Make the Best Sauce?

First off, you can use any tomato, but truly, paste tomatoes are the best for making sauces.

Why you ask? (I love it when you ask questions, I truly do!)

Paste tomatoes have less water inside and are fleshier. This results in a thicker sauce without so much reduction time.

I’m all about saving time in the kitchen!

Some good paste tomato options are Roma tomatoes and, of course, the mother of all paste tomatoes (and possibly, quite possibly, the best paste tomato of the bunch) is the heirloom San Marzano Lungo No. 2.

This also happens to be one of the varieties I grew this year and ripened first. We liked the flavor diced and tossed onto pizza, but it really shines in sauces and pastes.A white colander filled with fresh tomatoes. How Many Tomatoes Do I Need To Make Tomato Sauce?

You need a lot of tomatoes at once to make tomato sauce. This may be difficult if you don’t have a large number of tomato plants and your tomatoes are ripening over a long span of time.

I’ve heard some folks blanch and freeze their tomatoes until they get enough for a big batch. While others will just buy a flat or two at the local farmer’s market. It’s up to you how you source them, but for this canned tomato sauce recipe, you’ll want at least 20 pounds of tomatoes to make about 7 pints of sauce.

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes (about 20 pounds makes 7 pints of sauce), I recommend San Marzano, Roma or another paste tomato, but remember, any tomato will do!
  • Bottled lemon juice (1 Tablespoon per pint jar and 2 Tablespoons per quart jar). 
  • Salt (1/4 teaspoon per pint jar and 1/2 teaspoon per quart jar)
  • Dried basil, optional (1/2 teaspoon per pint jar, 1 teaspoon per quart jar)
  • Canning jars, lids, and bands
  • Either a water bath or pressure canner

Making This Tomato Sauce Recipe

1. The first step, pick yourself some tomatoes! I don’t have a food scale so I harvested what was ripe. I had about 45 ripe tomatoes which I’m guessing was about 10 pounds of tomatoes, it yielded three pint jars in the end. Sliced tomatoes on a blue cutting board with a knife.

2. Take out a big old stockpot and chop up 6 tomatoes. I chopped mine into thirds.

Tomatoes on the bottom of a large stockpot and a potato masher mashing the tomatoes.

3. Cover the bottom of the stockpot with one layer of chopped tomatoes. Take a potato masher and squish them to get their juices running. Turn the pot on medium-high.

4. Once the tomatoes begin to boil, add 6 more chopped tomatoes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, but also make sure the tomatoes continue to boil.

~ It was kind of like a square dance in my kitchen… chop tomatoes, turn to the pot, dip and dump tomatoes, stir, and twirl back to the island, repeat. (Can you tell I just love canning?)

A stockpot filled with boiling tomato sauce.

5. Continue adding chopped tomatoes, one layer at a time, until you’ve added all your tomatoes or you’re in danger of overflowing your pot. If you’re working with a larger batch, you can use two large pots.

6. Mash each layer well as you continue to stir and allow tomatoes to boil.

7. Continue to boil for approximately 10 minutes. You want all the tomatoes cooked and mushy, with their glorious juices released.

Tomatoes being pureed through a fine mesh sieve.

8. Remove cooked tomatoes from heat. Put mixture through a fine sieve (which is my preference) or a food mill positioned over a large mixing bowl, preferably with measurements so you know how many cups of sauce you end up with.

9. Now that you know how many cups of sauce you have, you can gather the appropriate number and size jars for canning.

By the way, do you see that sieve? It was my great-grandmother’s! I hope one day it will be my daughter’s.

I get a little bit sentimental every time I use it. Yes, kitchen gadgets can do that to a girl. (Here’s a similar canning sieve on Amazon.)

TIP: You can dehydrate the leftover skins for a tomato powder (or feed them to the pigs as I did!).

10. Put the strained tomato mixture back into the stockpot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow it to reduce down to the desired thickness. I reduced mine for about 40 minutes and let about an inch of the liquid evaporate.

Empty pint jars with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of salt sitting on the counter.

11. Meanwhile, prepare your jars, gather your lids, and either your water bath canner or your pressure canner.

12. Add bottled lemon juice, salt, and optional herbs into each jar (see ingredients above for amounts).

NOTE: Lemon juice, salt, and herbs should be added to each individual jar, not the pot of tomato sauce. And you must add the bottled lemon juice for safe shelf stability.

A pint jar filled with tomato sauce and a canning tool measuring 1/2 inch head-space in the jar.

13. Fill jars with tomato sauce up to a 1/2-inch headspace for water bath canning and 1-inch headspace for pressure canning. I did a water bath due to the smaller size of the run…. only 3 jars.

14. Run a spatula around the jar circumference to remove air bubbles. Add more tomato sauce if needed to keep 1/2-inch or 1-inch headspace depending upon your method of canning.

15. With a damp clean cloth, wipe the rim of the jar clean. Place on lids and screw down the bands until resistance is met, then to fingertip tight.

Water Bath Canning Instructions

1. Place jars on a rack inside your water bath canner.

2. Make sure at least 1 inch of water is covering the tops of the jars.

3. Once you’ve got rolling boiling water, process pint jars for 35 minutes or quart jars for 40 minutes.

NOTE: See recipe notes for altitude adjustments above 1,000 feet in elevation.

4. Turn off heat and remove the lid from the canner. Allow jars to rest inside the water bath for 5 minutes.

NOTE: If you remove jars immediately, you run the risk of cracking the jars or the siphoning of liquid, which can inhibit a proper seal.

5. Using a jar lifter, carefully lift jars out of the canner and place them in a draft-free area on a kitchen towel folded in thirds. Never place hot jars on a cold countertop.

6. Allow jars to rest, untouched for at least 12 hours, 24 hours if you have the counter space.

7. Remove bands and check seals then move to the pantry for storage. (If any jars didn’t seal, store them in the refrigerator and use within a day or two.)

Pressure Canning Instructions

1. Add water to pressure canner, put in the rack, and load jars.

2. Lock the lid, bring to a boil, and allow the pressure canner to vent steam for 10 minutes.

3. Put the weight on and allow the canner to come up to 10 pounds of pressure (or use a weighted gauge, depending on your pressure canner).

NOTE: See recipe notes for altitude adjustments above 1,000 feet in elevation.

4. Start processing time after weight begins rocking and hissing, or dial gauge reads 10 pounds of pressure.

5. Process both pint and quart-size jars for 15 minutes.

6. Allow pressure canner to cool down naturally and for pressure to return to normal.

7. Carefully remove the hot lid and wait another 10 minutes before taking jars out of canner.

NOTE: If you remove jars immediately, you run the risk of cracking the jars or the siphoning of liquid, which can inhibit a proper seal.

8. Using a jar lifter, carefully lift jars out of the canner and place them in a draft-free area on a kitchen towel folded in thirds. Never place hot jars on a cold countertop.

9. Allow jars to rest, untouched for at least 12 hours, 24 hours if you have the counter space.

10. Remove bands and check seals then move to the pantry for storage. (If any jars didn’t seal, store them in the refrigerator and use within a day or two.)

NOTE: If you have enough tomato sauce to fill all the jars needed for a run in the pressure canner, I’d use the pressure canner. Food may reach a hotter temperature in the pressure canner, but because it’s processed for less time, it retains more of the nutrients. But, if you don’t have enough jars or don’t have a pressure canner, the water bath is completely safe with this recipe.

Vertical view of an open jar of tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes on the counter and a teaspoon of dried basil.

Now stand back and look at those gorgeous scarlet jars, just begging to be simmered all day for spaghetti, in chili, or in these slow cooker cabbage rolls. 

Seriously, does anyone else like to sit and stare at the rows of home-canned food, or am I the only one weird that way? I’m hoping now that you know how to can tomato sauce, you’ll be staring at them, too.

Want to learn how to pressure can?

I have a FREE pressure canning video series here walking you through how to:

  • safely pressure can without fear of blowing it up or exploding
  • how to make sure you stay SAFE and avoid botulism
  • the science of canning so you always stay safe
  • what foods CANNOT be canned at home, even in a pressure canner
  • and more

It’s completely free and I’ve taught hundreds of people how to pressure can, you’re in good hands! Click here to snag your seat and get started pressure canning today.

Click here for Tomato Acid Canning Chart
Jars of canned tomato sauce on a countertop.

Canned Tomato Sauce

Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Canning Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 14 cups
Calories: 119kcal
Author: Melissa Norris
Learn how to can tomato sauce at home with this easy recipe, safe for both water bath or pressure canning!
Print Recipe

Equipment

  • Pressure Canner or Water Bath Canner
  • Canning Jars and Lids

Ingredients

  • 20 pounds tomatoes 20 pounds makes about 7 pints of sauce
  • 7 tbsp bottled lemon juice
  • 1.75 tsp salt
  • 3.5 tsp dried basil optional

Instructions

  • Pick your fresh tomatoes.
  • Take out a big old stockpot and chop up 6 tomatoes. I chopped mine into thirds.
  • Cover the bottom of the stockpot with one layer of chopped tomatoes. Take a potato masher and squish them to get their juices running. Turn the pot on medium-high.
  • Once the tomatoes begin to boil, add 6 more chopped tomatoes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, but also make sure the tomatoes continue to boil.
  • Continue adding chopped tomatoes, one layer at a time, until you’ve added all your tomatoes or you’re in danger of overflowing your pot. If you’re working with a larger batch, you can use two large pots.
  • Mash each layer well as you continue to stir and allow tomatoes to boil.
  • Continue to boil for approximately 10 minutes. You want all the tomatoes cooked and mushy, with their glorious juices released.
  • Remove cooked tomatoes from heat. Put mixture through a fine sieve (which is my preference) or a food mill positioned over a large mixing bowl, preferably with measurements so you know how many cups of sauce you end up with.
  • Now that you know how many cups of sauce you have, you can gather the appropriate number and size jars for canning.
  • Put the strained tomato mixture back into the stockpot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow it to reduce down to the desired thickness. I reduced mine for about 40 minutes and let about an inch of liquid evaporate.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your jars, gather your lids, and either your water bath canner or your pressure canner.
  • Add 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice to each quart jar.
  • Add 1/4 teaspoon salt to each pint jar, 1/2 teaspoon salt to each quart jar.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon dried basil to each pint jar, 1 teaspoon dried basil to each quart jar.
  • Fill jars with tomato sauce up to a 1/2-inch headspace for water bath canning and 1-inch headspace for pressure canning.
  • Run a spatula around the jar circumference to remove air bubbles. Add more tomato sauce if needed to keep 1/2-inch or 1-inch headspace depending upon your method of canning.
  • With a damp clean cloth, wipe the rim of the jar clean. Place on lids and screw down the bands until resistance is met, then to fingertip tight.

Water Bath Canning Instructions

  • Place jars on a rack inside your water bath canner.
  • Make sure at least 1 inch of water is covering the tops of the jars.
  • Once you’ve got rolling boiling water, process pint jars for 35 minutes or quart jars for 40 minutes. (See notes for high altitude canning instructions.)
  • Turn off heat and remove the lid from the canner. Allow jars to rest inside the water bath for 5 minutes.
  • Using a jar lifter, carefully lift jars out of the canner and place them in a draft-free area on a kitchen towel folded in thirds. Never place hot jars on a cold countertop.
  • Allow jars to rest, untouched for at least 12 hours, 24 hours if you have the counter space.
  • Remove bands and check seals then move to the pantry for storage. (If any jars didn’t seal, store them in the refrigerator and use within a day or two.)

Pressure Canning Instructions

  • Add water to pressure canner, put in the rack, and load jars.
  • Lock the lid, bring to a boil, and allow the pressure canner to vent steam for 10 minutes.
  • Put the weight on and allow the canner to come up to 10 pounds of pressure (or use a weighted gauge, depending on your pressure canner). See notes for high-altitude canning instructions.
  • Start processing time after weight begins rocking and hissing, or dial gauge reads 10 pounds of pressure.
  • Process both pint and quart-size jars for 15 minutes.
  • Allow pressure canner to cool down naturally and for pressure to return to normal.
  • Carefully remove the hot lid and wait another 10 minutes before taking jars out of canner.
  • Using a jar lifter, carefully lift jars out of the canner and place them in a draft-free area on a kitchen towel folded in thirds. Never place hot jars on a cold countertop.
  • Allow jars to rest, untouched for at least 12 hours, 24 hours if you have the counter space.
  • Remove bands and check seals then move to the pantry for storage. (If any jars didn’t seal, store them in the refrigerator and use within a day or two.)

Notes

  • If you have enough tomato sauce to fill all the jars needed for a run in the pressure canner, I'd use the pressure canner. Food may reach a hotter temperature in the pressure canner, but because it's processed for less time, it retains more of the nutrients.
  • If you don't have enough jars to fill a pressure canner, or you don't have one, the water bath is completely fine with this recipe.
  • Even if you are pressure canning the tomato sauce, you still need to use the bottled lemon juice.
If you're 1,001 feet above sea level, you must make processing adjustments.
  • For water bath canning 1,001 to 3,000 feet is 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts, 3,0001 to 6,000 is 45 minutes for pints and 50 minutes for quarts. For altitudes above 6,001 feet increase by an additional 5 minutes.  
  • For pressure canning, 1,001 + feet use 15 pounds of pressure.

Nutrition

Calories: 119kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 323mg | Potassium: 1550mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 5398IU | Vitamin C: 92mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 2mg
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About the Author

Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.

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