Home Canned Spaghetti Sauce – So Delicious!

Home Canned Spaghetti Sauce - So Delicious!

Last Friday we made a batch of home canned spaghetti sauce using my favorite recipe, adapted from The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery I try to can up several batches of this every season, because many commercial sauces use ingredients like propylene glycol and ethyl alcohol – not things we normally eat.

Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (Without Meat) for Canning


  • 30 pounds tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup chopped celery or green pepper (I used celery)
  • 1 pound sliced mushrooms (optional, I skipped these)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oregano (flakes, not powder)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar or unrefined cane sugar (rapadura or sucanat)

NOTE:  It is not safe to increase the proportion of onions, peppers, celery or mushrooms in this recipe if you are planning to can the sauce.  (This will change the acidity of the product and increase the potential for spoilage.  See The Natural Canning Resource Book for a full explanation or safe canning practices.)

Start with 30 pounds of tomatoes.  (Here’s what I had to work with this time around – some red, some purple, some yellow – they all cook down, and mine weren’t too juicy this year because of the lack of rain.  This is around 50 pounds of tomatoes that I used to make a batch of sauce and a batch of salsa.)

tomatoes for sauce

Wash 30 pounds of tomatoes.  Remove cores and quarter tomatoes.  Boil 20 minutes, uncovered, in large pan.  I cook mine at a strong simmer in an assortment of heavy bottom stainless steel pans.  Thick bottom pans prevent accidental scorching, frequent stirring is recommended.  Don’t use aluminum, folks, it will react with the acid in the tomatoes.  We started out with four pots.

cooking tomatoes

Put through large food mill or sieve.  I have a Back to Basics food strainer that works beautifully.  I used to use a chinoise strainer, and I still use it for small batches, but for large batches the food strainer can’t be beat.  It’s so much faster!

straining sauce

Cook down tomatoes to reduce volume and make a thicker sauce.  We start with four pots and end up with one.

spaghetti sauce

While the sauce is cooking, you can do the rest of the prep work, like chopping the rest of your veggies, filling the canner, and getting the lids and jars ready.

My pressure canner uses three quarts of water, to which I add one tablespoon of white vinegar to reduce hard water build up on the jars.  I wash my jars in the dishwasher and keep them hot until I’m ready to fill.  I keep my lids hot in a one quart saucepan, and use kitchen tongs for lifting them out of the water.

To Finish the Sauce

Saute in 1/4 cup butter until tender:

  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 cup chopped celery or green pepper (I used celery)
  • 1 pound sliced mushrooms (optional, I skipped these)

Combine sauteed vegetables and tomatoes.


  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons oregano (flakes, not powder)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar or unrefined cane sugar

Bring to a boil.  Stir frequently to avoid burning.  Reduce heat to simmer, keep hot while waiting to process.

Home Canned Spaghetti Sauce

Fill jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Adjust lids.  Process in a pressure canner 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts.  If using a weighted-gauge canner, set at 10 pounds pressure at 0-1,000 feet above sea level; set at 15 pounds pressure at higher altitudes.  If using a dial-gauge canner; set at 11 pounds pressure at 0-2000 feet above sea level; 12 pounds at 2,001-4,000 feet; 13 pounds at 4,001-6,000 feet; 14 pounds at 6.001-8,000 feet; or 15 pounds above 8,000 feet.

My husband came in from outside while this was cooking, smiled and said the house smelled like an Italian restaurant – a good Italian restaurant.  I had to agree – it was a particularly fragrant batch.  I suspect that the lack of rainfall this season concentrated the flavors of the aromatics in the sauce.  Yields around eight pints.

This round of canning yielded eight pints of spaghetti sauce, 14 pints of salsa, three pints of stewed tomatoes and 5 pints of tomato juice.  (I drained some juice off the tomatoes before making them into salsa and sauce by putting them in a strainer after they were cut into pieces.)

canned tomatoes

It took about a day and half, but combined with what I already have in the pantry this should keep us in tomato products until next harvest season.

If You Don’t Have Enough Ripe Tomatoes from One Picking

If you don’t have enough ripe at one time, you can pop ones that are very ripe or damaged into the freezer until you have enough for the recipe.

I usually core the tomatoes and half or quarter them (depending on the size) before freezing. Then, when I am planning to can the next day, I place them in the sink overnight to thaw. In the morning, you can pour off some of the clear juice if you like so that the cook down quicker. Weigh them out, dump them into your stockpot, and start cooking.

I have found that ripe, undamaged tomatoes will easily keep for a week or more at room temperature. Cracked or otherwise damaged tomatoes will only last a day or two before spoiling and/or attracting fruit flies, so they should be processed in some manner within 24 hours if possible.

With recent rains following the drought conditions, I’ve had a lot of splitting issues and blossom end rot. I should have watered more or mulched more, but it is what it is.  My garden is not perfect and there are only so many hours in a day.  I’m still getting a good harvest, I just would have had a better harvest.

You may also enjoy:

Home Canned Salsa That Tastes a Lot Like a National Brand – Except Better!

2 Homemade Ketchup – Canned or Lactofermented

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  1. Candy Jane says

    Good tutorials on both the spaget sauce and salsa! I've been making and freezing "raw" tomatoe soup and sauce – sure glad those 'maters made it before the frost nailed the garden!

  2. Laurie says

    Most days it smells pretty good, I must admit. That's one of my favorite parts of cooking and one of my favorite things to come home to after a day in town. :^)

  3. Michelle says

    Laurie, I am loving your posts! Just the inspiration I am needing! Those tomatoes look fabulous and I can just smell the sauce. I am growing more tomatoes next year. *Ü*

  4. Laurie says

    Michelle, some of my favorite paste varieties are Amish Paste, Opalka and Purple Russian. For me, one or more of these three will produce large, meaty fruit and lots of them no matter what the weather conditions. My favorite seed sources are on the sidebar. It takes time to do this, but the technique is easy and the flavor is outstanding.

  5. Glenn says

    What, no Basil in your pasta sauce? :)

    I keep looking back at this recipe, and after making a couple of batches of tomato sauce (not this recipe unfortunately as we just don't have that many tomatoes in our little garden) I wonder about the food ratios; you mention that "It is not safe to increase the proportion of onions, peppers, celery or mushrooms in this recipe if you are planning to can the sauce …" but you reduce the amount of tomatoes considerably during the entire process. Is this what you expect of the volume of tomatoes to vegetables?

  6. Laurie says

    Glenn, believe it or not, I'm not a huge fan of basil. I use it pretty sparingly in the kitchen. You could probably sub it in for the mushrooms or any of the other non-acidic ingredients.

    As for the tomato ratio and safety issues, the quote was from the original recipe. What I believe she wanted to avoid was people overloading the sauce with other ingredients and losing the acidity of the tomatoes. You're only driving off excess water, not really changing the proportions, when you cook the tomatoes down, with or without the other veggies. Either should increase the acidity of the end product. If one was to add an extremely high proportion of non-acidic ingredients, you could potentially create a low-acid environment that would be much more prone to spoilage. I don't think tweaking a bit this way or that would be a problem, but some people go overboard. If it's really a concern one could use a pH test on the final product before canning and add some lemon juice or vinegar to lower the acidity if needed.

    • says

      Water bath canning is not recommended for this sauce because the additional ingredients (other than tomatoes) raise the pH of the final product to a level where water bath canning is considered unsafe.

  7. Jodi says

    So glad I found this recipe! I plan to make some spaghetti sauce tomorrow (already have a “killer” recipe for salsa :) Thank you!

  8. Nancy says

    Laurie, I just went over the entire recipe but I cannot find the recipe for the salsa, did I miss it? Can you share (email) it with me and the stewed tomatoes? Thank you

    • says

      The link to the salsa is in the text right about the photo of finished jars, but I’ll make it to see because if you can’t see it, other can’t, either. Here’s the link to the salsa recipe: http://commonsensehome.com/home-canned-salsa-that-tastes-a-lot-like-a-national-brand-except-better/

      For the stewed tomatoes, I followed the Blue Book directions. Peel the tomatoes and put them in a large pot. Heat to quite warm ( no need to boil, you just don’t want to put cold food in hot jars). Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each pine, 2 tablespoons to each quart jar. This makes sure that the tomatoes are acidic enough to safely can, as many modern varieties are less acidic. Pack tomatoes into hot jars. Poke are press down with a wooden spoon or chopstick to make sure the air is out. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint, 1 teaspoon salt per quart. (Optional). Put on lids and process pints and quarts 1 hour and 25 minutes in a boiling water bath or 25 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.

  9. gem says

    hi there, question-
    back in the day canning tomatoes was just tomatoes,.salt, sugar and we used basil. all fresh and in water bath. no vinegar, lemon juice or citric acid. a recent glance at ball book spaghetti sauce recipe online and a number of other on line recipes say to use either one of those w the recipe it gives. more research and we read todays genetically modified tomatoes need citric acid, vinegar or lemon juice for canning. whats ur experience on this?
    thanks :-)

    • says

      As far as I know, there are not currently any genetically modified tomatoes on the market – however – most modern hybrids are lower in acidity than traditional heirloom varieties. With the addition of herbs and/or other vegetables, this could place your tomato based sauce into the low acid range, making it a candidate for botulism or other food borne illness. Thus, the addition of lemon or vinegar to most current tomato sauce recipes.

    • says

      Yes, that agrees with my understanding. Better safe than sorry, as we deal with nastier bugs than they did in the past.

      Thank you for your words of encouragement. Some days it’s tough to find the energy to tackle it all. The kind words help keep me motivated.


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