Home Canned Marinara Sauce

For most of the year, I am a staunch advocate of the small batch. I make jam in skillets, put up pickles one pint at a time, and simmer my chutneys in a miniature Dutch oven. However, come tomato season, I change my tune and go big. Very big.

Over the last five years, I’ve gotten into the habit of buying at least 100 pounds of tomatoes in the first or second week of September and spending a few very messy days painting my kitchen red.

bowls of tomatoes

I peel tomatoes, pack them into jars, and can them whole. I make tomato jam. I roast trays of tomato puree until they thicken into brick-red paste. And I cook up vast vats of basic marinara sauce that becomes the base for batches of meat sauce and soups all year long.

Having homemade marinara sauce on your pantry shelf is a dinnertime lifesaver because it means that you’re never more than 20 minutes away from a meal that you can feel really good about.

chopped and cored tomatoes

Some nights, I heat it up, serve it over pasta with a little parmesan cheese and call my work done. Other times, I brown up some sausage or ground turkey, add the marinara and simmer it down into a thick meat sauce. I’ve also been known to open a jar, add a little milk and call it tomato soup (always with a slice of cheesy toast on the side).

One of the things you’ll notice about this recipe is that it’s lightly seasoned. It’s like that by design, in order to keep the acidity levels high enough for boiling water bath canning. Please do resist the urge to add a little more onion, garlic, or olive oil. More can always be added when you open the jars.

tomato press

The only piece of specialized equipment you need to make this sauce is a food mill. However, if that’s not a tool you have, there are a couple other ways to go. You can peel your tomatoes using the score and blanch method, puree them in a blender and then add that puree directly to the cooked onions, garlic, and oil (you won’t get the seeds out using that method, but they won’t do any real harm).

Alternately, if you have a snazzy tomato press that separates out the skins and seeds for you, you can run your tomatoes through that and again, add the puree directly to the pot. As you can see in these pictures, that’s my preferred method these days.

cooking sauce

If you find that pints would be more useful to you than quarts, feel free to can this sauce up in smaller jars. Just reduce the processing time by five minutes. And finally, if you live at higher elevations, do make sure to increase your processing time accordingly.

lemon juice in jars

Home Canned Marinara Sauce

4.6 from 5 votes
Print Pin
Course: Preserves
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 4 quarts
Calories: 418kcal
Author: Marisa


  • 18 pounds paste tomatoes or roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup bottled lemon juice


  • In a large pot, sauté the onion, garlic, and salt in the olive oil until they are transparent.
  • While the onions and garlic cook, core and chop the tomatoes. Once the alliums are transparent, add the chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes have broken down.
  • Position a sieve or food mill over a large bowl and begin to press your hot tomatoes, onions and garlic through it. Once the tomato sauce has been separated from the seeds and skins, return it to the pot and stir in the basil and parsley. Simmer sauce until it is reduced by 1/3 to 1/2.
  • When you’re about half an hour out from being ready to can, prepare a boiling water bath and 4 quart jars. Place lids in a small saucepan over very low heat to simmer while you prepare the tomatoes.
  • Take your prepared jars and add 3 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to the bottom of each jar. Pour the hot tomato sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  • Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes.


Calories: 418kcal | Carbohydrates: 87g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 6g | Sodium: 1851mg | Potassium: 4978mg | Fiber: 25g | Sugar: 56g | Vitamin A: 17400IU | Vitamin C: 306.7mg | Calcium: 231mg | Iron: 5.9mg


What’s your favorite way to preserve tomatoes?

About Marisa

Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated small batch canner who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first book, titled Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.

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  1. Great way to use up the summer tomatoes!

  2. I had to laugh when I read “painting my kitchen red”! I did less than 20 lbs of tomatoes earlier this summer and definitely had tomato EVERYWHERE. 🙂 I do not have a food mill or tomato press, but it looks like if I wanted to get into putting up most of our tomato products I’d need to get one. I froze them and peeled them under warm running water, but it took forever.

    Do you know approximately how many quarts do you get out of the 100 lbs? I only got about 8 pints from my 20 lbs. I guess they lose a lot of water weight as you process them.

    • Yields vary depending on the variety of tomatoes you’re using, their water content, and how long you cook it down. You should get 4-5 quarts of sauce from 20 pounds of tomatoes, though.

      • Well, I don’t think it was quite 20 lbs and I lost one jar. But 8 pints does equal 4 quarts, so I guess it’s about right. Thanks for the reply!

        And what? You’re giving away one of those gadgets! How awesome!

  3. This is a great way to preserve some of summers bounty for use later on!

  4. I need to do this before tomatoes leave my farmers market!

  5. If I’m canning in pints instead of quarts, how much lemon juice should be added to each jar? Thanks!

  6. 4 stars
    Our Community Kitchen does around 700 pounds a year, of which there are 200 pints of salsa and the rest goes into canned tomatoes. With a dozen of us working at it this takes about 8 hours and we do it over the Saturday and Sunday of the Labour Day weekend. It makes the prettiest jars in the pantry and ensures wonderful meals through out the year.
    We use 2.3 pounds per quart for the plain tomatoes. This includes running the skins and cores through a Champion juicer and mixing the resulting paste back into the mix. You could can the paste separately if you choose.
    Extra juice is reduced as we go and mixed back in as well so that the jars are particularly rich in tomato and need very little reducing when used in cooking.

  7. Great Post! I’m excited to can my first tomatoes soon! One quick question…
    How many pints or quarts does this recipe yield?

    • It makes four quarts or eight pints. The yield is sort of hidden in the recipe instructions, where it tells you how many jars to prepare.

      • Would this recipe work with a variety of heirloom tomatoes instead of paste tomatoes? I have Brandywines, Aunt Ruby’s Green Tomatoes, Russian 117, and would like to combine them all into a sauce. Thanks.

        • Heirloom tomatoes aren’t as good for sauce as meatier ones like roma, san marzano, or plum. You’ll end up cooking your sauce for far longer and your yields will be lower if you use watery heirlooms. However, if that’s what you have to work with, it is perfectly safe to use them.

      • Would the processing time for pints be different?

  8. Do you have any recommendations or tips for canning whole Roma tomatoes?

  9. This recipe looks delicious, such a great use of my tomatoes!

  10. I have ALWAYS wanted to do this!! I wish I had beautiful tomatoes growing in my garden!!

  11. 5 stars
    i love your site… and today i am ready to process a whole bunch of tomatoes from my garden. but i only have citric acid.. not enough lemon juice.. would the old 1/2 tsp per quart jar work for this?
    thanks again.

    • Gail, you can use citric acid to acidify this product, but you’d need to use 3/4 teaspoon per quart. Because I’ve added onions, garlic, parsley and basil, it needs a touch more acid for safety.

  12. I have done 3 bushel so far, 1 bushel salsa, 1 bushel sauce, 1 bushel italian sauce. Monday I am doing my last bushel and I will do chopped tomatoes. That should do us for a year. I can this much not only because I want better quality but because we are on a low sodium diet and I do not add salt. Everything in a can at the grocery store with out salt costs a lot more. I rarely buy anything in a can or a box anymore. My freezers are full and there are a lot of jars of veggies and fruits in my pantry.

  13. I have a pressure canner. How long/what weight would I need to process this at for safety?

    • There is truly no need to process this sauce in a pressure canner. The acid levels make it perfectly safe for boiling water bath canning. However, if you must pressure can it, consult the National Center for Home Food Preservation for times and pressure levels.

  14. Love this idea! Fresh marinara sauce year round is fine by me 🙂

  15. Love this post so much! I made a big batch of canned marinara sauce that got me through all winter and loved it. Definitely doing it again this year!

  16. Marisa,
    Terrific post–but now you’ve got me intrigued about baking tomato paste. I’ve put up 20 qts of crushed tomatoes, and the plants are still heavily laden, so this post comes at a good time for me, as I’ve been debating between canning pizza sauce, or marinara sauce, or what with the next go ’round. Thanks, Aimée!

  17. Oh yum, this is so perfect, I love homemade sauce

  18. Curious…how long does it take everyones sauce to reduce down?

  19. 4 stars
    Thanks for this recipe for home canned marinara sauce. It sounds like a wonderful sauce.

  20. Lovely, thanks for sharing!

    I have one question – pardon me if I am missing the obvious – what is the lemon juice at the bottom of the jar for?

  21. Thanks so much for sharing this. We bought a tomato press and 50 pounds of san marzano tomatoes are being delivered today from our CSA. So, do you press and then cook and just have pieces of onion in the sauce or do you do as the recipe says and cook and then press? The write up and the recipe seem a bit different.

    • What I was trying to do was offer options. I wrote the recipe in the way I did because I find that most people don’t have a tomato press and so that standard food mill method works best. Since you have a tomato press, I recommend pureeing the tomatoes first and then adding the pulp to the pan with the olive oil, onions and garlic. You will have small pieces of onion in the sauce, but as long as you mince it fairly finely, it should break down readily during cooking. The rest of the process should be the same.

  22. I just made from scratch marinara sauce. It was so good I gave it all away. I want to make another batch and was searching the web for ways to canning as this will be my first time. My question is why do I need to use lemon juice in the bottom of the jar? I am fearful that it will mess up the flavor. Can I leave it out?

  23. Alisa Ellis says

    I have a lot of bell peppers. Can I add bell peppers to this recipe and still can using the same amount of lemon juice? I’ve never canned before.

  24. shauna carson says

    5 stars
    I found this so helpful. I usually freeze my marinara and it’s great. I planted so many tomatoes this year because I ran out of my sauce quickly and wanted to have plenty to use through the winter and spring months. Does the lemon juice change the taste significantly of the sauce? I am canning my first batch today

    • It does add a tart note, but it is what makes the finished preserve safe for boiling water bath canning, so it’s not an optional ingredient.

  25. Can I use dried herbs?? I would rather do that.

  26. Was making this with my sister in law when she said “now I just freeze it?” I was like no but now I’m wondering?

  27. Can I use canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomtoes? Would I still need to add lemon juice?

  28. Can I double the ingredients for a 2x batch size?

    Ever used powdered citric acid rather than lemon juice to get pH to “safe canning levels?” Supposed to have much less flavor altering to sauce while still accomplishing pH goal

    • Yes, you can double the recipe. And I’ve absolutely used citric acid in place of the lemon juice. The exchange is 1/4 teaspoon citric acid has the same acidifying power as 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

  29. This weekend I ran a few boxes through a food grinder and have the pulp refrigerated until I have time to simmer for hours. Can I measure out 18 pounds of pulp for this recipe or would that be too much difference from 18 pounds raw tomatoes?

    Btw I have your lovely book! My sister gifted it to me a few years ago for my birthday.

    • Eighteen pounds of pulp is going to be considerably more than 18 pounds of tomatoes. I’d probably assume a reduction of at least 1/4. So maybe start with 13-14 pounds of pulp?

  30. Angela Roman says

    I’m in the process of turning 30 pounds of tomatoes into your marinara, and my husband and I are having a discussion. I don’t trust the lids that come packaged with the Ball jars because they partially seal to the jars before they’re even out of the packaging, and I feel like they’re not going to seal properly when I need them to. My husband shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t think the pre-sealing was a big enough deal to warrant not using the lids that come on the jars. What do you think?

  31. Long story short, if I didn’t add enough lemon juice, what’s the worst that would happen? Would I be able to tell things weren’t safe to eat?

    • You could experience serious repercussions if you didn’t add enough lemon juice. Acid content is what keeps botulism spores from germinating into an active toxin. Because it is anaerobic, there’s no way to tell if botulism has developed in your sauce. If you didn’t add enough, you should consider discarding your sauce.