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Friday, January 6, 2012

My Own Homemade Tomato Sauce

I love tomato sauce.

I mean LOVE tomato sauce.

Raw tomatoes… eh, I'm not the biggest fan.

Weird, I know, but I know I'm not the only one, right???

I rarely, ever, buy pre-made sauce, sometimes I will, like when we are going on vacation and it just seems more practical or time efficient when I have a million things to pack.

At home though, I try to save us some money and make a
giant batch every once and a while, then portion it out and freeze it.

I've canned it in the past, but freezing is way easier.  Boiling water canning of tomato sauce makes me nervous so I do what your supposed to and add lemon juice, but when it's small batches like this, it's easier to freeze. Plus adding acidity to something I just spent all day trying to lessen is a little defeatist to me. Canning just tomato puree is another story.

Up until this summer I was growing my own, incredibly awesome
Roma tomatoes at a community garden.
So awesome they were stolen.
No joke.

So I quit the whole community garden thing and now I have to buy my tomatoes until we move out the woods. I already miss all my jars of canned homegrown tomato puree.

Being winter there's not any great fresh options so canned is the only way to go.  I try not to stress about the BPA by buying organic, but still...


Anyway, cost wise I have about $9-10 tops in a giant ass batch of sauce.  The herbs I had, the onions cost between $1-2, I bought a ton of them when they were on sale a while back, and the  organic tomato puree was a steal at just under $2 a can because they were on sale and I had coupons for them!

This is a good, simmer it all day kind of sauce
(or gravy as my family calls it), so plan on making it on your day off.

If you take one weekend a month to do some major cooking you can save yourself a lot of time and money the rest of the month.

I made sauce and beef stock at the same time, and was prepping to make lasagna, and making meatballs and a loaf of italian bread (not gluten free), and cookies.

Ok. It was a little much. I would suggest NOT doing all that at once, I was a little stressed, as was my stove, but spaced out over a weekend, it's no big deal.

If you've grown your own tomatoes and have some stored or canned your own tomato puree your set and I'm a wee bit envious. ;]

So let's get on with it… as usual, I've added some notes and tips at the bottom of this post.
I'm going to add one note here, don't freak out about not having 'exact measurements', part of cooking homemade is cooking by feel and taste. Sure my sauce turns out a little different each time, but it always tastes good. :]

This is big batch ingredient roll call, halve or quarter the recipe as needed.

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut in half (2 if you are making a large batch)

Then for each 28 oz can (or 1 Quart) of Tomato Puree:

  • 1 small onion (I prefer yellow)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves (adjust this is you seriously hate garlic, but it's not overpowering trust met)
  • Basil (I like a good amount)
  • Oregano (don't go too crazy, this herb can get overpowering, start with about 1 Tbsp)
  • Thyme (add about the same amount you did of Oregano)
  • Rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • few grinds of pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp sugar (I used mascobado)

1. Peel and finely chop/mince your onion. Mince your garlic.

I use my super awesome Pampered Chef Food Chopper that I've had for over 10 years! Even still I spent the next two hours with watering eyes until I finally got smart and washed my face and glasses, after which they stopped.

2. Add a few glugs of olive oil to your pan and heat on low.

Olive oil is not a high heat oil to keep it low, we're going to saute our onions not deep fry them.

3A. Add your onions and saute them gently until they are cooked and somewhat translucent.  Once they have reached this stage add your minced garlic and cook a few minutes more to soften the garlic.

stack all of your basil leaves

chop your basil to 1/4 inch size pieces

chop your rosemary as fine as possible

3B. While your onions are cooking, wash and chop your herbs.

For 4 cans of tomato puree, I used a giant handful of basil (the leaves were pretty huge despite how the photo looks), and a 5" sprig of rosemary (I would have used double this but it's all I had).

You can use dried if you do not have fresh. Start with about 1 Tbsp of Basil and 1 tsp of Rosemary (crush it if it's not crushed before measuring).

4. When your onions and garlic are done add the tomato puree and stir well.

5. Add your rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano and carrot, give it a good stir to incorporate.

6. Now add your salt, a few grinds of pepper, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Stir really well and increase heat to medium stirring frequently until you get a good simmer going.

7. Once simmering you will need to reduce the temperature to get as low of a simmer you can so that it's still cooking but not exploding all over your kitchen.

If you have a splatter screen go ahead and stick that on there, although I will warn you that it will most likely react with the screen.  The sauce will turn black. I knock any good sauce back in but rinse the screen every so often so that yucky sauce doesn't fall back in.

You can also set a lid on top tilted so steam can escape. You don't want to keep the evaporating liquid in your sauce, let it out.

8. Now you just need to be patient.  Every once and a while go give it a stir.
  • After about 2 hours I start taste testing.  Add more herbs if needed, salt (a little then let it simmer a while before adding more).  If it's really tasting acidic add 1 Tbsp of sugar and let it simmer for about 45-60 minutes before you check again.  I added about 3 more Tbsp until I was done.  I like to taste and evaluate every hour, then make SMALL adjustments, you can always add more of something, but you cannot take away.
  • If you use less acidic tomatoes, like Roma, you won't need quite as much sugar.
  • And that carrot???  That's a family trick, it's in there to help reduce the acidity as well.
  • I simmered mine about 5 hours… I totally forgot to check the time. It's going to depend on how much 'water' is in your tomatoes.
  • See the water around the edge of mine up in the above photo, I could have simmered a little longer but was really pressed for time.  It will taste fine, you'll just have some liquid seep say if you make lasagna.
  • When your sauce has stopped seeping liquid on the top, it's done.
  • You want a nice thick sauce but not so thick you can build little sculptures out of it, it should be flowing but thick enough to 'cling' to food and not seep liquid or too much liquid.
  • When it's done, let it cool completely before you refrigerate or freeze it.
  • Once cool, remove that carrot and compost it or throw it away or feed it to the dog.


  • No matter what, don't be impatient, keep your heat low. This is a slow process.
  • No matter what, don't taste your sauce 5 minutes after adding all of the ingredients together. Don't even judge it half way through, taste for tweaking purposes only, wait until the end to really start eating it by the spoonful. Give the flavors time to develop. And honestly, I like to refrigerate mine a day before eating it, it just tastes better.
  • In my personal opinion, you can't really overdo Basil, but you definitely can Oregano and Thyme. If you are newbie start with small additions of these and gradually increase, allowing time for the sauce to simmer and develop the flavor before tasting again.
  • I used a full head of garlic for four cans of puree and quite honestly, had I not needed the other heads I had left for the rest of my cooking I would have added more.
  • In the summer when I have a multitude of fresh herbs growing in my garden, I'll throw in a hefty portion of marjoram instead of oregano.


Jennifer said...

Okay, this looks delicious! Will have to try it for sure. Up until now I've been pureeing my tomatoes, boiling them down a bit, then freezing them and making small batches of sauce as needed. (I put a few cups worth of purée in freezer bags, then place those in bread pans until frozen solid. Makes for easy to stack, square bags of tomatoes!) ;-)

cmv... said...

Thanks Jen! I love that you ACTUALLY try my recipes. I wonder sometimes if there is anyone out there. LOL It's so easy to make and more cost effective than buying premade jars. Plus you grow your own tomatoes so it will be even better! I miss my garden. Great freezer method!

TB said...

Yummy! Added my beef into sauce (may be an amateur move) but tastes delightful. Plan on making lasagna.

Jun said...

Can I use tomato sauce instead?

cmv... said...

Hi Jun, Yes you can, although it may be already cooked down to be a little thicker than just starting with pure tomato puree. That's ok! You just won't need to simmer everything down as long. If it's really super thick. Add about 1/4-1/2 cup of water to loosen it up, to give you some time to simmer it down and let the flavors blend.

cmv... said...

Hi Jun, Yes you can, although it may be already cooked down to be a little thicker than just starting with pure tomato puree. That's ok! You just won't need to simmer everything down as long. If it's really super thick. Add about 1/4-1/2 cup of water to loosen it up, to give you some time to simmer it down and let the flavors blend.

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