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Canning Marinara Sauce (Garlic-Herb Recipe)
Tomato season can be overwhelming, but with all the incredible ways to preserve your harvest, it is certainly the most exciting. One of the easiest things to have on hand for a quick weeknight meal is marinara sauce. And why rely on store-bought when you can use the freshest and ripest fruit from your garden or the market? If you can find the time to spend a day or two making and canning marinara sauce, you’ll have a batch of delicious, herbaceous sauce at your fingertips.
I followed an approved Ball Canning Recipe here, but I added a few more fresh herbs….because, I’ll take any chance I can to spruce up my food with garden herbs. If you ask me, it really rounds out the flavor and adds that extra *oomph*. This is a recipe using the water bath canning method for preservation.
Fleshier tomatoes are going to be your rockstars for this recipe. Plum tomatoes or “paste” tomatoes are my recommendation. The most common varieties you’ll come across are Roma and San Marzano.
*Disclaimer: there are many thoughts around leaving or removing the skins for marinara sauce and leaving or removing the seeds for marinara sauce. You can choose to prepare this differently, but I like a sauce without skins and with seeds, so that’s how it is explained here! Feel free to skip removing the skins and just blend it all together, or to use a food mill/sieve before the final simmering down of the sauce to remove both the seeds and skins.
- Prepare Your Tomatoes- You can easily remove the skins from your tomatoes by blanching them. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, wash your tomatoes, core them, and cut a small “X” into the tip of each. In batches, use a slotted spoon to insert tomatoes into the boiling pot. Look for the skin to show signs of peeling away from the tomato. This will only take around a minute. Remove the tomatoes with your same slotted spoon and cool them quickly in a bowl of ice water. When they are cool enough to touch, continue the prep by cutting them into quarters.
- Sauté Ingredients- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and sauté your onions and garlic until translucent. This will take around 10 minutes. Add the quartered tomatoes, bring everything to a boil, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Your tomatoes should be broken down at this point.
- Purée Sauce- Purée the mixture in a blender, in a food processor, or with an immersion blender. You’ll have to work in batches if using a blender or food processor. My go-to is the immersion blender because you can blend it all in the pot. If you want to remove the seeds, you can run the mixture through a food mill or press it through a sieve at this point, but I think the seeds just help to add more bulk to the sauce.
- Final Simmer- Add salt, parsley, basil, oregano, and bay leaves to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the volume is reduced by about half or until the consistency is thickened to your liking. Stir regularly to prevent sticking. This should take somewhere between 2 and 4 hours.
What’s The Deal With Canning?
If this is your first introduction to canning, there are some helpful resources to read before attempting this recipe. There is a lot of important information to set yourself up for success (and to stay safe).
There are two main methods of canning: water bath canning and pressure canning. For lower-acid foods, you must use the pressure canning method, but for food like jams, tomatoes, pickles, relishes, and salsas the water bath method is perfect!
Canning can preserve your food without the added cost of refrigeration for over a year! Guidelines state that for the highest quality, you will want to use canned goods within a year. But, most food will last even longer. Just check for any change in coloration, change in viscosity of the liquid, off smell, or visible mold before consuming.
Once again, always use an approved recipe. As I said before, canning is scientific. There are ways to modify approved recipes, but you should have a thorough understanding of what you are modifying before doing so.
Sterilization and cleanliness are key when canning. We don’t want any bacteria thriving inside our jars. Learn the process of cleaning and sterilizing your jars and workspace.
Pay attention to how to ladle and fill your jars. They need a certain amount of headspace to seal properly. Removing any bubbles before sealing will also help ensure a successful process.
Don’t forget to adjust your processing time based on the altitude you live at! You can find this information with a quick search for your city’s altitude on Google Maps. We’re at 5,000 feet here, so we add 10 minutes to the base processing time for water bath canning. Here is a helpful chart for that information.
I can my sauce in pint jars because that’s the size I regularly use for a meal. If you’re feeding a bigger crowd on a regular basis, take that into consideration.
Prepare your water bath canner and jars when you have about 1 hour of cooking down your sauce left. Submerge the jars in the water and bring it to a simmer. When you are ready to can, ladle some of the hot water over a small bowl containing your lids.
Leaving the pot on the heat, remove jars and…
- If using pint jars, add 1 TBSP bottled lemon juice to each jar before ladling in your sauce.
- If using quart jars, add 2 TBSP bottled lemon juice to each jar before lading in your sauce.
**Don’t leave this part out. Adding acidity to your sauce ensures that the pH will be at a safe level for canning.
Continue filling up jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace in each. Remove air bubbles, wipe the rim clean, and gently place and adjust the lids and bands to a fingertip tightness. Return your jars to the water bath.
Process pint jars for 35 minutes and quart jars for 40 minutes in boiling water with the lid on. Don’t forget to take into account elevation adjustments. Remove your pot’s lid, turn off the heat, and allow the jars to sit in the water for another 5 minutes. Carefully remove the jars and check them for a proper seal after 24 hours. The center shouldn’t flex up and down when pressed.
You’ll want to store your jars in a cool, dark location for the longest shelf life. If stored properly, they will keep for around a year.
If you prefer not to can or don’t have the equipment right now, you can still cook up this awesome recipe and preserve it in your freezer! Use your jars, ice cube trays to make ice cubes for later placement into a freezer bag, or another airtight container. You can skip adding the lemon juice to your jars (or other containers) and be sure to leave headspace for its expansion during freezing. A 1-inch space in jars will be enough. Allow the sauce to cool to room temperature before placing it in the freezer. It will keep for around 4-6 months.
I’m sure you’re brimming with ideas already, but cooking with your marinara sauce will come naturally either way.
Use it on pasta (zoodles included), as a pizza sauce, for dipping breadsticks, in your meat or vegetable lasagna, over meatballs, or as a marinade for chicken or fish.
Garlic-Herb Marinara Sauce
- 8 pint-sized glass jars, lids, & bands or 4 quart-sized
- medium stainless steel pot
- slotted spoon
- large stainless steel pot
- immersion or regular blender
- metal or wooden spoon & ladle
- water bath canner & included supplies
- 20 lb plum tomatoes (about 60)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 c chopped onion (about 1 large)
- 8 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ c minced fresh parsley
- ¼ c minced fresh basil
- 2 tbsp minced fresh oregano
- bottled lemon juice
- Wash & drain whole tomatoes. Remove cores. Cut a small "X" on the end of each tomato.
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
- Bring a medium stainless steel pot of water to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, place tomatoes (in batches) into the boiling water. Allow them to remain for 60 seconds or until you can see the skin beginning to peel away. Transfer them using the slotted spoon to the bowl of ice water.
- Once cool enough to handle, cut your tomatoes into quarters.
- Heat olive oil in the large stainless steel pot. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until they're transparent (about 10 minutes).
- Add quartered tomatoes to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes are broken down (20-30 minutes).
- Use your immersion blender to blend the contents of the pot. (If you don't own an immersion blender you can blend the mixture in batches using your blender here).
- Add salt, bay leaves, parsley, basil, and oregano to the pot of sauce. Simmer until the volume is reduced by half or it is the consistency you desire (2-4 hours).
- In the last hour of cooking time, prepare your water bath canner. Sterilize your jars and lids.
- When the tomato sauce is ready, remove your clean jars from the simmering water of the canning pot and put 1 TBSP of bottled lemon juice into the bottom of each pint jar or 2 TBSP of bottled lemon juice into the bottom of each quart jar.
- Ladle the hot marinara sauce into the hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe the rims, and apply lids and bands at a fingertip tightness.
- Place your filled jars back in the water bath, close the lid, and process the jars. Pint jars should be processed for 35 minutes and quart jars should be processed for 40 minutes. *
- Remove the lid to your pot, turn off the heat, and let the jars sit for 5 minutes in the water. Carefully remove the jars to cool and check them for a proper seal after 24 hours. The center of the lid should not flex up and down when pressed.
- Store your marinara sauce in a cool, dark location for up to a year.