How to Can Homemade Italian Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce waiting to happen

I totally lucked out and got 15 pounds of end-of-season organic tomatoes last week.  My daughter was thrilled when she saw them because she knew exactly what that meant….homemade marinara sauce.

A note: end-of-season tomatoes don’t look as smooth and lovely as mid-season tomatoes. This is because they expand and contract due to the cold night time temperatures and the warmer day time temperatures.  Don’t be put off by the wrinkly skin – what’s inside is rich and delicious.  See the picture below:

end of season tomatoes

Here is the step by step, with photos, for making and canning your own Italian marinara sauce.  It’s easy, healthy, and delicious, and a great way to make use of a bounty of tomatoes.  Homemade marinara sauce is a world away from the stuff you buy in the grocery store. It’s loaded with vitamins and nutrients, and not tainted by BPA, additives, and high fructose corn syrup.  Don’t be put off by the hands-on time needed to make this.  Consider that if you made 14 from-scratch spaghetti dinners, it would take you far more time than the six hours that these two batches of sauce took.

To speed up the process, use a high quality blender or food processor. I’ve done this with both my Vitamix and my Ninja food processor.

Approximately 1 pound of tomatoes makes 1 quart jar of sauce.  The following instructions are for a canner load full of sauce or 7 quarts.

Prep the tomatoes

First, you have to peel your tomatoes.  My tomatoes are organic, so I didn’t have to worry about any nasty pesticide residue.  The easiest way to peel tomatoes is to take them from boiling water to an ice bath and then squeeze the guts out of them, as follows.

First, put water on to boil in a large non-reactive stock pot. (I prefer stainless steel.) You don’t need to wash or cut the tomatoes before blanching them.  In batches, place the tomatoes into the boiling water for about 3 minutes.  (This time is not engraved in stone – don’t panic if you go over the time by a little bit.)

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water

After you scoop the tomatoes out of the boiling water, place them directly into an ice bath and leave them there for at least 3 minutes. I like to use long tongs for this because you transfer less of the hot water into your ice bath.

Drop the tomatoes in an ice bath

Once the tomatoes are cool enough to easily handle, use your fingers to dig the stem end out of the tomato and discard it.  Then, squeeze the tomato over your blender – the skin should slide right off and leave you with a blender full of pulp.  You don’t need to remove the seeds. Pulse in the blender for about 30 seconds, resulting in a nice slightly chunky puree.

Puree the tomatoes

Meanwhile, using either a food processor or your blender, puree 2 bell peppers (any color), 2 large onions, and 1 or 2 heads of garlic.

chop your veggies in a food processor

Add the tomatoes and veggies to a large stockpot.  Then add the following seasonings – the first amount is per pound of tomatoes, and the second amount is for a 7 quart batch of sauce.

1 tbsp - sugar – 1/3 cup
1 tsp - sea salt – 2 and 1/2 tbsp
1 tsp - thyme – 2 and 1/2 tbsp
1 tbsp – oregano – 1/3 cup
1 tbsp - basil – 1/3 cup
1 pinch – powdered clove (trust me!) – 1 tbsp
black pepper to taste
1 pinch – paprika (smoked Hungarian if you can find it) – 1 tbsp
2 tbsp - extra virgin olive oil – 2/3 cup
Simmer the sauce
With the lid on, bring the sauce to a simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.  Then, remove the lid, drop the heat and simmer gently for 3 more hours.  The lid being off will allow the liquid to evaporate so that the sauce can cook down and thicken.
When it’s time to can the sauce, don’t worry if the consistency is still a little bit watery.  Over its time on the shelf, it will thicken somewhat.  If at serving time it is still runnier than you prefer, simply stir in a small tin of tomato paste to thicken it.
  1. Fill sanitized quart jars with sauce, allowing 1 inch of headspace.
  2. Wipe the lip of your jars with a cloth dipped in white vinegar and then place the lids on.
  3. Process the sauce in your pressure canner for 25 minutes at 7 pounds of pressure, adjusting for altitude.
  4. Allow the jars to cool undisturbed for at least 12 hours or until cooled.  Test the seals before putting them away.

Allow the jars to cool


Now you have many quarts of delicious, authentic Italian marinara sauce to serve at many meals to come.  You can use this to make spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan, as the base of an Italian vegetable soup, or you can thicken it to use as a pizza sauce.

Mangia bene!

(Eat well!)

jars of marinara sauce


Excelsteel 16 Quart Stainless Steel Stockpot With Encapsulated Base

Ninja Mega Kitchen System (BL770)

Vitamix 5200 Series Blender, Black

Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker

How to Pressure Can Food

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Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at

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23 Comments  to  How to Can Homemade Italian Marinara Sauce

  1. G! says:

    Your sauce looks lovely! Here on the east coast, in *that* state (that everyone loves to hate..and for much of it, good reason), we had *a lot* of rain. Compared to your photo of tomatoes, ours had craters on top! We basically lost the top half of the tomato. We did process as much as we could, but we lost a lot of product! I also purchased paste tomatoes and processed them. Alas, only ours were organic.

    Our first frost does not permit tomatoes this time of year. You have made a good move. Alas, moving is out of the question for us. :-(

    I purchased a Victorio strainer (I set aside for this over one year in advance) this year. What a blessing! Not only did we make maranara sauce, but also (wild on property) raspberry jelly. No need to remove skins on the tomatoes. The skins and seeds went to the chickens.

    • Ann says:

      Had an overflow of romas with my 14 plants. This recipe is so awesome as I had to taste after an hour on the stove. Added some canned tomato paste that I made last year and it thickened up nicely, also added 1 cup of red wine to it. Thanks for posting this recipe

  2. Shantelle says:

    Can you add meat to this but cook at different specifications

  3. Haely says:

    Your recipe looks delicious! I’m completely new to canning. After looking around online, I noticed that other recipes seem to omit (for the most part) the bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Or call for lemon juice to be placed in the jar before processing. I saw a lot of conversation about pH/acidity and preventing botulism. I assume that you have canned this recipe without incident? I’d rather not add any lemon juice to the jars, as I don’t want it to affect the flavor too much once canned. Is there any reason why I would need to pressure can this marinara sauce over water bath canning?

    • Daisy Luther says:

      Hi Haely! I think you’ll really like it. I prefer to use a pressure canner for this recipe because of the risks involved with canning garlic and olive oil. I realize that there are some people who water bath can marinara, but I beleive that the inclusions in this sauce make the pH too risky for waterbath canning. Another option would be to allow the sauce to cool, then fill large ziplock bags, lay them flat, and freeze them.

      I hope you enjoy the sauce~


      • Whitney says:

        Could we freeze them in the mason jars instead of ziplocs?

        • Daisy Luther says:

          Hi, Whitney. I’m actually not sure about freezing in mason jars. I guess you could, as long as you left room for expansion.

          • Whitney says:

            Thanks for getting back to me! I freeze lots of stuff in mason jars, and it works well. Never had a problem, but never tried anything like this. I don’t have a PC, so canning is out :(

      • Kris says:

        I have safely water-bath canned marinara using a tsp of bottle lemon juice per quart jar. but only use bottled lemon juice. the pH of fresh is too varied to be safe. And no need to mix it. I prep my sanitized jars by just plopping a tsp of lemon juice in the bottom of each and then filling with sauce. Also, no-one has ever detected the juice in the finished product, so no worries about altering the taste of the sauce. Hope this helps.

  4. Ashley says:

    I LOVE this recipe! I do have a question though I have a pressure canner, it doesn’t give me the option of doing 7 lbs it gives me 5,10 and 15 which one would you do? TIA!

    • Daisy Luther says:

      Hi Ashley! If you have a pressure canner that only uses the increments of 5, always go for the higher pressure to be safe. So in this case, use 10 lbs of pressure. :)

      I hope you enjoy the marinara as much as we do!

  5. Danielle says:

    I was wondering what is the best tomato to use in this recipe.

    • Daisy Luther says:

      I like Romas the best, but last year I ended up with a mixture of 4 different types of tomatoes to make the sauce from. :)

  6. Catherine says:

    Can I use fresh herbs with this recipe? Also, did you add lemon juice to this recipe? I canned tomatoes many years ago and never really used lemon juice. At 10 lbs. what time table is used for quart jars in a pressure cooker? Thanks.

    • Daisy Luther says:

      I didn’t use lemon juice – just what is listed. That is added in water bath canning to assure that your acidity level is high enough. It is not a concern in pressure canning, because the temperature is elevated much higher.

      You can use fresh herbs – you’ll need more fresh than you would dry, and be sure to chop them very finely. I’d still process this for 25 minutes, even if you use a higher pressure.

      ~ D

  7. Catherine says:

    Can I just tomatoes in blender and add basil then can without cooking with the ingredients?

  8. Brittany says:

    Do these products need to be refrigerated? I’m new to canning but was hoping to share my marinara with family for Christmas!
    Thank you!

  9. Deborah N. says:

    Hi – your sauce looks great! I am wondering if you can answer a question regarding marinara and canning. I love my marinara sauce but always freeze it. It calls for wine and I am wondering if I do can it – will that wine flavor intensify and take over the sauce, and second – would I need to add the 2TB of lemon juice to it. . Thanks for your help!

    • Daisy Luther says:

      Hi Deborah!

      Because you’re pressure canning, you will be fine to add alcohol instead of lemon juice. It should be delicious with the red wine – I don’t think you’ll have any issues with it intensifying to an unpleasant degree.

      Happy canning!


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