How to Make and Can Spaghetti Sauce

The more I learn about canning and preserving, the more I realize I know very little about canning, preserving and cooking in general.  I’ve always considered myself a pro in the kitchen.  I love to cook, and, at the risk of sounding arrogant, 🙂  I’m AWESOME at comfort food meals like Thanksgiving dinners and meat and potatoes stuff.

The other day, however, I spent the day with a BFFs cousin, as she lovingly and patiently taught us how to make her Italian family’s famous spaghetti sauce recipe and to can it as well.  This woman cans and preserves like no one I’ve ever seen.  Her house is filled with jams, sauces and canned goods of all kinds, and her freezer is stocked full with breads and meals ready to give away at a moment’s notice.

After spending the day with a true expert, I realized just how little I know about cooking and preserving food.  For instance, did you know that the heartburn associated with spaghetti sauce can be eliminated by simply cooking your homemade sauce longer?  My friend’s cousin starts her homemade sauce on Friday morning and doesn’t serve it till late Sunday after noon.  The three-day cooking process helps cook out the acid in the tomatoes, leaving the sauce hearty and heartburn free.  I have long been looking for a solution to make our spaghetti sauces and chilis taste not so acid and “vinegary” and now I’ve got my answer!!

So,  BFF and I have been talking for years about learning how to make and can spaghetti sauce, but we were always overwhelmed by the thought of it.  Turns out that making homemade tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce, although it is time-consuming, is really quite simple.  Here’s how it’s done.

How to Make and Can Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Step 1: Clean the tomatoes, take out the cores, chop the tomatoes up and put them into a large pan.  We used a bushel of tomatoes and got 13 qt sized jars of sauce.  We bought our tomatoes from a local farmer.  A tip: If you want to use your own, but are finding only a few are ripe at a time, take your ripe ones, rinse them, core them, and store them in a zipper freezer bag until you’ve gathered enough to make sauce.

canning spaghetti 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Cook the tomatoes on medium until they are soft enough that the skins would be easy to peel off.  They’ll be mushy at this point, but not too mushy.

Step 3: Pour the cooked tomatoes into a large collander so that the juice drains out of the tomatoes.  Might be a good idea to save 2 cups or so of the juice in case your sauce turns out too thick for your liking, at which point you can add the juice back in to thin it out.  We didn’t need to do this.

Step 4: When the tomatoes are pretty well drained (a little liquid is okay, but most should be drained out), it’s time to separate the sauce from the seeds and skin.  My friend bought an attachment for her KitchenAid Mixer that did the job wonderfully.  Sauce comes out in one bowl, seeds and skin in the next.    The attachment looks like this:

kitchen aid tomato de-seeder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would highly recommend this gadget, but I’m sure there are other options too.

Step 5: Once you’ve got your sauce, put it into a large pot.  At this point, we added in our “base” seasonings to taste: fresh chopped basil, fresh chopped oregano, fresh-pressed garlic and salt.  You could just leave it as is too and have tomato sauce instead of spaghetti sauce. Now it’s time to cook the sauce.  You want to have it fairly hot, making sure you are seeing at least a couple of big bubbles.  Stir often, and don’t have the heat too high – medium-high at the most.  It’s vital to make sure it doesn’t heat up too quickly or it will burn.

canning spaghetti 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6.  Prepare your cleaned jars/lids by placing them in a pot of water and bringing them to a strong simmer for several minutes.  Sterilization is key.   And remember to never let the hot jars touch each other, either during the sterilization process or after, as there is risk of glass explosion.According to my friend’s cousin, she’s had this happen, and it’s not pretty, so be careful.

Step 7: After the jars are sterile (leave them in the sterilization pot until you’re ready to use) and the sauce is at a mild boil, pull one jar out of the water at a time (using your canning tool kit)  and fill it, leaving a one and a half inch headspace.  Wipe the rim clean with a damp, clean cloth, place the lid on top.

Put the ring on to fingertip tight, and process according to your canning book directions.  Let sit on a counter until cooled, then store.

As with all home-canned foods, this can last easily up to a  year.  Before using, make sure that appearance, smell, etc., show no signs of spoilage.

And here is our finished product:

canning spaghetti 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When BFF’s cousin is ready to use her sauce, here’s her secret to great tasting sauce.  She starts with a meat base in a large pot, either neck bones from beef or pork, or pork sausage.  She fries them up so there’s a nice meat-flavored base, adds in the sauce, and cooks on low all day, stirring regularly, adding in more fresh garlic, basil, oregano and salt as she sees fit.  Then at night it’s covered and put in the fridge to “marinate.”  Saturday morning it’s back on the stove to cook on low all day, Saturday night it’s in the fridge again.  Sunday it cooks all day and she serves it Sunday afternoon.  According to BFF’s family, it’s awesome. 🙂  Cousin said it would probably work fine to do it in the crockpot as well, provided you cooked it on low/keep warm.

PS.  This is not going to necessarily be cheaper than buying spaghetti sauce, unless you grow your own tomatoes, but the taste and quality of the sauce far exceeds what you’ll find on supermarket shelves.

 

Have you ever canned tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce before?  Do you have a great homemade spaghetti sauce recipe to share?

 

 

25 comments

  1. I was considering this until I saw “three day process” haha =) How many jars do you make in one batch and do you have to refrigerate them afterwards? I would imagine it tastes better and is better for you than store bought spaghetti sauce, but those are so convenient!

    • Laurie says:

      Andrew, the three day process is only for the cooking and serving of the sauce, the canning process only took us a few hours. 🙂 No, no refrigeration: just store them in a cool, dry place. I agree about the convenience and cheap price of the store bought stuff, but can’t wait to taste the “real” stuff, LOL.

  2. Will L. says:

    If we lived closer, I think I’d be over a lot! I’m a 24 y/o male but I find this stuff fascinating. My uncle thinks I would greatly enjoy the site he calls pin-interest.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, my friend calls it that too!! If you ever move up here, Rick and I will be your pseudo-parents until you go home. But I think you should move back to or near the farm. 🙂 It truly is the good life.

  3. FB Hubby makes his grandfather’s marinara sauce and after 12 years, I can’t eat anything else. I love it. He uses jarred tomatoes, though, versus the fresh ones, but I bet fresh grown tomatoes would be amazing. Every year we give the red sauce and hubby’s pesto to close friends for Christmas. Sauce is a great inexpensive gift when you spread it out over a few people.

    • Laurie says:

      That’s awesome, Shannon!! Yes, we will be giving some of this away as gifts. We gave away some jam this summer, and everyone loved it. That homemade stuff is SO much better than the store bought stuff, isn’t it?

  4. Brit says:

    I made my own recently and now I can’t seem to eat the store bought sauce. The three day process seems interesting.
    Thank you for sharing, Laurie.

    • Laurie says:

      Good for you, Brit, for making your own! Yes, I can’t wait to try the three day spaghetti dinner. I’m quite sure it’s fabulous. 🙂

  5. This is interesting! My mom and grandma have always used the cans of tomato puree in the store. My mom adds sugar to it (among basil, oregano, garlic, parsley, and Parmesan cheese) to cut down on the acidity. She does let it simmer on the stove for most of the day. I am really picky about any other sauce as a result. Nothing is better =).

    • Laurie says:

      I’ll bet it’s delicious! BFF’s cousin says if you let it cook for the three days, you don’t have to add the sugar, although sometimes they’ll put carrots in the food processor and add that if they don’t want to wait the three days. Love hearing about how people make their sauce -thanks, Erin!

  6. Kathy says:

    Laurie, I was never able to perfect tomato sauce either. I tried ketchup but couldn’t get it right. So I stuck to making juice. If you don’t have the Kitchenaide mixer with the attachment, there is a manual device called a Foley food mill that gives you an arm workout while extracting juice. You can usually find them in farm and home stores but I think that William-Sonoma even has a more upscale version.

    • Laurie says:

      Thanks, Kath!! Good to know there’s an alternative. We don’t have a Kitchen Aid mixer but would LOVE to have one some day. 🙂

  7. Mackenzie says:

    I’d love to learn how to can sauces and jams, but it scares me a bit! You did a fantastic job Laurie! All those sauces will come in handy, especially in the winter 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      You know, Mackenzie, I did jam this year too, and it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I imagined and would be. And the taste? Yummalicious!!! Yes, can’t wait to use the sauce. BFF and I are going to do more sauce and some salsa in a couple of weeks. 🙂

  8. Kipp says:

    Sounds very yummy but a bit of a process. Maybe I could start by getting tomato sauce and seasoning it and go from there? I already do that for pizza sauce, just get the tomato sauce and season…. the thing is pasta sauce is usually fairly inexpensive. Granted there would be no taste comparison to this I am sure!

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, cost wise, it’s likely not a savings, unless you’re growing your own tomatoes, but the taste and quality of food cannot be matched. Plus, the skill itself is invaluable. 🙂

  9. Looks and sounds delicious. I just love spaghetti sauce and pasta. I did not know that about cooking sauce for 3 days gets the acid out (I have no Italian heritage, despite loving Italian food). This was the one new thing I learned today!

    • Laurie says:

      Me too, Deb! Isn’t that a great tip?? I feel so much more knowledgeable simply because I know how to make great spaghetti sauce. 🙂

  10. Alexis says:

    I love making spaghetti and I have been getting quite bored with my recipe. Thanks for sharing! I am going to try it out tonight and hopefully my roommates enjoy it as well.

  11. I have never canned spaghetti sauce, but my mom used to can tomatoes when I was kid. I admit that the sterilization process scares me and I don’t have the equipment to do it myself. Last Christmas, my Mom canned some apple butter and I helped her. It wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be, but I’m still a bit paranoid about the process! 🙂 I do make big batches of spaghetti sauce and freeze the extras. It is really nice to pull out some sauce and it does take infinitely better, although like you noted – it’s not always cheaper. Sadly, I don’t have homegrown tomatoes. My apartment gets weird sunlight. A couple hours of direct but then plenty of shade, which is good at keeping my apartment a bit cooler, but it makes it really hard for a known plant killer to grow anything on her patio. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, I get it about the canning process. It freaks me a bit too. I did learn recently though that if you heat anything to at least 140 degrees, it’ll kill of all botulism. So that’s my plan for the sauce, just in case. 😉

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