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The Best Marinara Sauce

Total Time

Prep: 1 hour + simmering Process: 40 min

Makes

9 cups

Updated: Dec. 21, 2022
I developed this marinara sauce recipe with a friend to make the most of a bumper crop of tomatoes. Now we like to make huge batches—we’re talking 220-pounds-of- tomatoes huge—and then give jars along with a pound of pasta as gifts around the holidays. Knowing this sauce is made from the heart with the best possible ingredients makes me feel good about giving it to my family and friends. —Shannon Norris, Cudahy, Wisconsin

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic, divided
  • 12 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-1/4 cups minced fresh basil, divided
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoons bottled lemon juice

Directions

  1. In a stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add tomatoes, water and 1/2 cup basil; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until tomatoes are completely broken down and soft, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  2. Press tomato mixture through a food mill into a large bowl; discard skins and seeds. Return tomato mixture to stockpot; add 1/2 cup of remaining basil, oregano and remaining garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until thickened, 3-1/2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and remaining 1/4 cup of basil; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice to each of 3 hot 1-1/2-pint jars. Ladle hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 40 minutes. Remove jars and cool.
Best Marinara Sauce Tips

Can you use other kinds of tomatoes to make marinara sauce?

Plum tomatoes really are the best variety for marinara sauce because they are meaty, have minimal seeds and create a rich red sauce that isn't too acidic. Be sure to start off with fresh whole tomatoes—seeds, skin and all. Not only does this save you the step of peeling and deseeding but it also adds a lot of flavor to the sauce. Follow our tomato guide to learn how to cook with different types.

How can you make marinara sauce your own?

If you're just starting to learn the basics of canning, it's important to know that you shouldn't alter a canned recipe from how it was written because you could change the acidity, which impacts the food safety of the final product.

For this recipe, you could increase or decrease the fresh herbs, or swap in another fresh herb, such as thyme. If you like a spicier sauce, add a bit of crushed red pepper. If you really want to alter the recipe, make additions when you use the canned sauce on your pasta. Try adding Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers.
These recipes for old-world Italian dishes are a great place to find inspiration for your canned marinara sauce.

Can you use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled?

This is one of the few times that bottled lemon juice is a must. Bottled lemon juice has a standard acidity that is more reliable when canning. Having the right acidity is imperative for food safety when canning.

How should you can this marinara sauce recipe?

If you have another method for canning, feel free to use it with this recipe. We prefer steam canning over water-bath canning, especially when working with a large volume. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions and double-check that your method results in a food-safe seal.

Peggy Woodward, Taste of Home Senior Food Editor

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 131 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 348mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (13g sugars, 6g fiber), 5g protein.