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  • Writer's pictureBeth Parkhill

Simple Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce (No Sugar Added!) Using Waterbath Canning Method

I have been craving all of the tomatoes! Fresh tomatoes, salsa, Italian food with tomato sauce, grilled cheese and tomato soup...! Everything! It is a good time of year to be craving them, too! My tomato plants are currently struggling a bit, but I have been fortunate to get plenty of tomatoes off of them!

My friends that live right across the street have a basil plant that had grown big and beautiful. When she offered me some basil, I knew it was a sign that I should take on learning how to can tomato sauce!

I planted San Marzano tomatoes this year! San Marzano's originated in Italy, and are a type of elongated plum tomato with a balanced flavor that combines sweetness, tomatoey intensity and just the right amount of acid. These are the type of tomatoes that make the perfect for sauce! I also used a few of my big hybrid tomatoes (heirloom + big boy) as well, just so I had enough tomatoes to make this sauce. I still was a little short of the original recipe, but just adjusted my portions based on how many tomatoes I had. Another easy to find option would be using Roma tomatoes!

As with any time you are using the water bath canning method, it is important to sanitize your jars and lids using hot water (not quite boiling, just simmering). This is such an important step! Without doing this step, you increase your risk of botulism! You really do not want to risk this.

Make sure you wash the tomatoes, vegetables and herbs. Cut up the tomatoes into manageable chunks. Quartering should be good - but if some tomatoes are larger than others, you may want to try to keep the sizes of the chunks about the same. No need to remove the skins, seeds and insides! We will do that later...!

This is when your house starts to smell amazing! Sauté the onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil. If you wanted to add in some red bell peppers or mushrooms or something - now would be a good time. Just let the sauté with the other veggies. I think next time I will try adding both red bells and some Cremini mushrooms.

Add the tomatoes to the pan. Crush them a bit using a potato masher or a wooden spoon, so that there are some juices surrounding the tomatoes. If you do not get a ton of juice out, don't worry. It will naturally be released as you cook the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil and then down to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Using a blender or a food processor, puree the tomato mixture. Really puree it good! The better job you do in this step, makes the next step easier. You have to push the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to separate the delicious tomatoey goodness from the seeds and skins. I am not going to lie, this step kind of sucked. But I promise, it was worth it! Keep your eyes on the prize!

I know I have said this about garlic before, but is there really any smell more delicious than freshly chopped basil?! If they made basil candles, I would 100% get one. Combine the chopped basil and the strained tomato sauce and place in a sauce pot. It will take a bit, but you have to simmer this until it reduces by about half. Think, normal pasta sauce thickness, but maybe a little thinner. You will warm it up again when you are ready to eat it and it will thicken a bit more then.

I love water bath canning, but I cannot wait until I can get an outdoor setup! It always makes kitchen so steamy (and not in a Ryan-Reynolds-with-his-shirt-off kind of steamy, more like sweat-dripping-down-your-face-and-burning-your-eyes kind of steamy). The good news is even though your house is now super hot, it smells like a freaking Italian restaurant! Yum! While your jars are processing, have some Italian ice in front of the fan and enjoy!

I had a little extra sauce left over that would not fit in my jars, so I placed it in a small jar in my fridge until the next day and had some sauce with my lunch the next day! It was DELIGHTFUL. It was so fresh, sweet, tangy, and tomatoey. The basil was subtle but present, kind of like an undertone to the tomato. I warmed up a bit of Parmesan cheese and leftover (breakfast) sausage from my fridge to my bowl and it really stepped it up a notch. It is easy really to add any kind of meat to this sauce after the fact! As long as you eat any leftover sauce within a week, you should be good.

This sauce is free of preservatives (unless you count lemon juice, which I guess kind of counts...) and no sugar is added. It's just all natural goodness and the flavor really reflects that!


You will need

  • 20 lb tomatoes (about 60 medium) 

  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1 large)

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1/4 cup finely minced, fresh basil

  • ¼ tsp Ball® Citric Acid or 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice per hot jar

  • 7 (16 oz) pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands or 3 (32 oz) quart glass preserving jars


  1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.

  2. Wash tomatoes; drain. Remove core and blossom ends. Cut into quarters. Set aside.

  3. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until transparent. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  4. Puree tomato mixture in a food processor or blender, working in batches. Strain puree to remove seeds and peel.

  5. Combine tomato puree and basil in large saucepot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until volume is reduced by half, stirring to prevent sticking.

  6. Add ¼ tsp Ball® Citric Acid or 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar; Add 1/2 tsp.Ball® Citric Acid or 2 Tbsp. bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight. Place jar in boiling water canner.  Repeat until all jars are filled.

  7. Process pint jars for 35 minutes and quart jars for 40 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars and cool. check lids for seal after 24 hours; they should not flex up and down when center is pressed. 

Find the original recipe here!

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Sep 08, 2020

That is true! That really is the best part!!


Sep 07, 2020

You forgot a step! When your jars make the PING sound, you have to say, “Thank you!”

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