Preserving Autumn: Tomato Herb Sauce for Freezing

Written by Elizabeth of Guilty Kitchen.

When fall hits and you know you’ve got more tomatoes than anyone could ever eat fresh, no matter how many tomato and bocconcini salads, or BLTs, or tomato soup you serve, you know it’s time to think about canning or freezing. There is just always going to be an abundance of tomatoes when you grow your own.

Another thing in abundance at the end of the warmer weather is fresh herbs, waiting to be used up before the weather turns bleak and gray. What better way to combine tomatoes and herbs than making your own tomato sauce to freeze for later use in the doldrums of winter when you could really use that fresh, vibrant taste of homegrown?

This recipe has specifically been developed for freezing only, as tomato sauce with oil should not be canned using the boiling water method. No matter what you may have read elsewhere, the boiling water method does not reach a high enough temperature to safely can tomato sauce with oil, and a pressure canner should be used instead.

Yes, you can safely can tomatoes using this method with the addition of an acid such as lemon juice, as Marisa has done in this home canned tomatoes tutorial. Many varieties of tomatoes these days are low in acid and the addition of oils, other vegetables and garlic, can lower the acid content even more, which is where the lemon juice comes in.

So if you’ve never canned before, this recipe is for you! Yes, you can still use up those tomatoes and enjoy homemade tomato sauce year round – just from the freezer instead of the pantry. Let’s get started!

Photo by Elizabeth Nyland

What I want to create with my tomatoes is a lovely, full bodied tomato sauce. More of a recreation of the store bought variety of ready-made sauces than plain ol’ tomatoes. What could be better than popping open a can of your own homemade tomato sauce, heating it up and having a fully cooked, spiced and seasoned sauce ready to go on those busy winter weeknights?

This sauce is easy to make, freezes beautifully and will be ready for dinner in less time than you can say “spaghetti sauce.”

Tomato Sauce for Freezing

Yield: Approximately 3 1/2 quarts
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 1-2 hours

  • 15 lb. Roma tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh herbs or 1/3 cup dried herbs (such as marjoram, basil, oregano, etc.)
  • 1 Large sweet onion
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup red wine

Photo by Elizabeth Nyland

1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and keep at a simmer.
2. Create an ice bath either in a sink or in a large bowl.
3. Score the bottom of each tomato with a small “X”, careful not to cut in too deep.
4. Throw four or five tomatoes into the pot at the same time, allow to cook for 30-60 seconds and remove to ice bath. Continue until all tomatoes are cooked and then cooled.
5. Peel the skin off each tomato and discard.
6. Remove the seeds from all the tomatoes and chop roughly. Add the flesh to a large bowl and set aside.
7. In another large pot, pour in olive oil and heat on medium. When hot, add in garlic and onions and stir for about five minutes.
8. Pour in all tomatoes and herbs and bring back up to a simmer. Lower the heat to low and allow to cook down for one or two hours, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes should reduce by 2/3 before they are done.
9. When tomatoes have reduced by half, add in the red wine and continue to cook until completely reduced.
10. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

11. Prep jars or containers to freeze in by washing with hot soapy water (or running through a dishwasher) and drying them.
12. Pour sauce into jars, filling about 3/4 of the way up for jars with a mouth smaller than the jar. For jars with straight sides, fill to with a 1/2″ of the top.
13. Allow to cool to room temperature with lids off on the counter. Transfer to the freezer and place lids on once completely frozen.

Photo by Elizabeth Nyland

What is your favorite way to use up all those tomatoes?

About Elizabeth

On her blog, Guilty Kitchen, Elizabeth writes about the joys of local food, buying sustainable and feeling much too guilty after indulging in too many rich desserts.

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  1. Amazing! Just yesterday I came here wondering if I could freeze my tomatoes somehow rather than can them! I will do this today- Thanks! LOVE this site btw!

    • This sauce recipe looks delicious, but another suggestion for *quick* freezing is from Mark Bittman: “If you have ripe tomatoes, core, quarter, and throw them in a bag; as they thaw the skins will slip off, a bonus.” I wouldn’t keep for a whole year or use them for anything where they need to hold their shape, but I tried it this summer and used some of the tomatoes for sauce later – it worked fine and I was pleased!

  2. Trudy Garvey says

    Is there a No. 9 step missing?

  3. I like to use tomatoes is so many ways: on BLT’s, in salads, in pastas tossed with spinach, even as a snack on their own. However, when I need to use up many before they spoil, I make a sauce to freeze. At some point, I’d really like to try other methods for storing them, but since I’m so new to preserving anything, I don’t like to get too far a head of my capabilities. This post is definitely making me crave some spaghetti too! I hope to try out your recipe soon!

  4. Looks great! It’s nice having fresh tomato sauce all year long 🙂

  5. How important is the wine in this recipe? Never have it in the house and would prefer not to use it. Can I just leave it out?

    • The wine is for a more full bodied flavour. It’s not crucial to the recipe, it’s just there for flavour. Feel free to leave it out!

    • Debbie Hudgns says

      You could probably use cooking wine. The wine cooks out. We are not drinkers but I use wine to cook with jusst gves it that extra little zing. You will not get drunk on it.

  6. This is a sure winner, love preserving of any type & like it even better if the recipe is simple as.. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Great recipe.I will try on cooking now

  8. Would I use this just as described in the recipe for spaghetti sauce or do I need to add something to it after thawing it out & before using it? Thanks!

  9. Is the wine necessary? I have red wine vinegar. Can it replace the wine?

  10. No the wine is an optional flavour enhancer, the vinegar will not work very well. I would just leave it out entirely.

  11. Will other kinds of tomatoes work? In our area, we get lots of heirloom tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes from our CSA, but not the Roma variety.

  12. Hi Amy! Yes, other varieties will work just fine, I chose to use Roma’s because of their rich flavour and inexpensive price (usually), especially when in season. Heirloom are beautiful and rich in flavour and will work just fine (beefsteak too).

  13. hey i found your site seems interesting.. i d like to know can i use freezer bags for frezing my tomatoe sauces .. this is my first attemp at vegie garden.. i might of over did it in tomatoes i have 26 tomato plants and have froze some after washing them but now have roma ones to freze n like ur idea.. i like my cabernat franc wine )red( can i use this for sauce.. so you can email i will try a couple large freezer bags for first part of sauce tys again … from fred the newbie gardener n storing veggies lol

    • Hi Fred! Thank you for your kind words.

      Yes freezer bags will work fins and might make it easier to store. Any red wine will work fine for the sauce as well. Good luck with all those tomatoes!

  14. You have provided the clearest instructions for preping the tomatos to date. Now that I know the instructions for “getting the skins off” how do you remove the seeds? I seems like a daunting task. I am newly retired and I have my first batch of OVERSTOCKED tomatos and just learing how to freeze fresh veggies.


  15. I have a batch of tomatos that are ripe, but I also have some green tomatos I had to pick because of a freeze….can I add these to the batch to make the sauce?

  16. Thanks for the recipe! It was easy to follow for a first-time sauce maker. However, I found my sauce took much longer to reduce (five to six hours) compared to the one to two hours listed in the recipe.

  17. It is better to leave out the salt and pepper until the recipe has fully reduced. The salt ended up being too strong, so I will have to add some canned tomato sauce when I use this to mitigate the salt. Also, I like to at least place a paper towel over the exposed liquid in the jars. An explanation as to why, for instance, you place the liquid in the freezer without the lids would be helpful. I’m also wondering how long these will keep using this method. Thanks for your recipe.

  18. Save the skins to make a tomato powder. Dry on dehydrator tray or in oven lowest temp, once dry grind into a powder store in glass jar.
    Use in recipes calling for tomatoes, births, stew.
    Can also make a paste with 1 tsp powder and 1 Tbsp water

  19. I was wondering if I could make this recipe and use my food saver with the mason jars to store.

  20. Instead of freezing the sauce.

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