Basic Tomato Sauce

By National Gardening Association Editors

1 peck (12-15 pounds) fresh tomatoes
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green peppers
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cloves, garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons parsley, minced
2 tablespoons basil
2 tablespoons oregano
2 teaspoons plain salt (optional)
1 teaspoon pepper

Wash ripe tomatoes well, peel them and remove cores and green spots. To reduce cooking time, chop tomatoes. Put in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Simmer the tomatoes two hours, stirring frequently, or until sauce has reduced by half. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until just soft.

You can also cook the tomato sauce down in the oven. Fill a large roasting pan with prepared tomatoes, set in the oven at 250F, and let it cook until it's as thick as you want it. Stir occasionally as it cooks. When sauce has reduced, add other vegetables. With this method there's no danger of burning the sauce and it doesn't take up space on the top of the stove.

For a smooth sauce (or if you haven't peeled the tomatoes), puree it in a blender or food processor.

Pour boiling hot sauce into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Add 1/4 teaspoon citric acid (or one tablespoon lemon juice) to each jar. Adjust lids. Process in a pressure canner with 10 pounds pressure, for 35 minutes.

Makes 8 pints.


If you don't have a pressure canner you can still make tomato sauce, but you'll need to make some changes. The above recipe contains low-acid vegetables (onions, peppers and celery) that make it unsafe to process except in a pressure canner. If you omit the low-acid vegetables, however, using only the tomatoes, sugar, garlic, herbs and spices in the above recipe, you can safely process the sauce in a boiling-water bath for 45 minutes.

Alternatively, include the low-acid vegetables when making the sauce, but freeze it instead of canning it.

You can change this basic sauce to create different flavors. The proportions noted below are based on one quart of sauce. Add the ingredients when preparing the sauce for a meal - not prior to canning. Some of the additions would necessitate pressure canning and/or drastically lengthen the processing time if added prior to canning.

  • If the sauce is too thick prior to serving, add beef consomme, stock or red or white wine to thin it to the consistency you like.
  • Add three slices of bacon, sauteed and crumbled; 1/2 pound browned, lean ground beef or turkey; one pound sliced, sauteed mushrooms; 1/4 cup grated cheese (cheddar, Parmesan or whatever you have on hand).
  • Add 1/2 pound ground, browned lamb; 3 bay leaves; 1/2 cup dry white or red wine.
  • Add tiny meatballs made of one cup soft breadcrumbs, one tablespoon milk, 1/2 pound ground beef (or turkey), parsley and one egg. Brown them well under the broiler or in a skillet before adding them to the basic sauce.
  • Add saffron, coriander, fennel and basil and a one-inch piece of dried orange peel.

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