Fruits & Vegetables - Preserving the Harvest

Canning Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

homemade spaghetti sauce
Spaghetti sauce from my homegrown tomatoes!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Having your own homemade spaghetti sauce on hand is a great feeling in the winter. You can purchase tomatoes by the bushel or grow your own to make this delicious sauce. Try raising your own herbs, garlic, peppers, and onions to flavor the sauce, too. Once you’ve tried your own homemade, you’ll never want to go back to buying it from the store!

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My brand spanking new Victorio Food Strainer! I get excited about weird things. :)
My brand spanking new Victorio Food Strainer! I get excited about weird things. 🙂

I recently purchased a food strainer (#ad) and used it for the first time with these tomatoes and I must say that it worked much better than my food mill (also known as a Foley mill). It made pretty short work of my project, and it was on sale…bonus!

How to Make Your Own Tomato Sauce

  • Wash, core, and remove any bad spots from 40 pounds of ripe tomatoes
  • Cook until soft and allow to cool until just slightly warm
  • Strain tomatoes through a food strainer to remove skins and seeds
  • Pour tomato juice into a large stainless steel pot with a heavy bottom
  • Cook on low heat until the sauce is thickened
  • Add 1/2 tsp citric acid or 2 Tbs lemon juice to each quart of sauce
  • Process in quart jars in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes

For Spaghetti Sauce

Follow the above directions, except add the following ingredients to strained juice in the pot:

  • 5 or 6 green peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 5 or 6 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 3 or 4, onions, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar (I use about 1/4 cup but most people like more)
  • 2- or 3-tablespoons of Italian seasoning

Remember to add 1/2 tsp citric acid or 2 tsp lemon juice to each quart jar of sauce to be sure that the acid level is high enough for water bath canning. This recipe makes approximately 9 to 12 quarts of tomato or spaghetti sauce, depending on what variety of tomatoes you use and how long you cook it down.

Handy Tip: To reduce cooking time, you may add tomato paste to spaghetti sauce to thicken it. The more tomato paste you add, the shorter the cooking time and the larger the batch.

Ripening tomatoes

Canning Spaghetti or Tomato Sauce

A boiling water bath is the recommended canning method for preserving tomato and spaghetti sauce. Because many varieties of tomatoes are not high enough in natural acids, you should add citric acid or lemon juice to the sauce, as directed above.

To Can Tomato and Spaghetti Sauce:

  • Bring the water bath canner to a boil and sterilize glass canning jars
  • Bring sauce to a low boil
  • Sterilize screw bands for lids
  • Dip out a small amount of hot water into a bowl and place canning lids in the water
  • Remove canning jars from boiling water
  • Fill with tomato sauce, leave 1/2″ headspace
  • Wipe the top of the jar with a clean cloth
  • Top with a canning lid and screw band, finger tighten
  • Use a jar lifter to place each filled jar into the boiling water bath
  • Bring water back to a boil
  • Process jars of sauce for 40 minutes
  • Lift jars from the canner and place them on heavy cloth on the counter
  • Allow jars to cool at room temperature
  • Jars are sealed when the lid pops down with a pinging sound
  • Remove screw bands, clean and dry each jar
  • Label jars with contents and date and store them in a cool, dark place

Notes: I didn’t use tomato paste to thicken my sauce. Instead, I cooked it for about 24 hours. Considering the cost of our electricity, we estimated that it cost around $1.30 to cook the sauce and can it. However, if your time is limited or you would like to get as much sauce as possible from your tomatoes, you may wish to add tomato paste and cook for a shorter time. I added peppers, onions, garlic, and basil from my garden and Pizza Seasoning from Frontier Herbs, as well as organic sugar. My large boiling water canner holds 9 quarts and I had about 2 extra quarts that I used to make dinner.

Spaghetti Dinner

  • 2 pounds of ground turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped and seeded
  • 2 eggplants, peeled and chopped
  • 2 quarts tomato or spaghetti sauce
  • 16 oz package of spaghetti or other pasta, or homemade egg noodles

Brown turkey and add vegetables. Cook until veggies are tender. Add tomato or spaghetti sauce. (If using plain tomato sauce, add 3 Tbs sugar and 3 Tbs Italian seasoning, or to taste.) Turn the burner to low and cook and stir for about an hour.  In a separate pot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Spoon pasta onto a plate and top with spaghetti sauce and grated cheese.

Do you make your own homemade tomato and spaghetti sauce? Do you freeze or can your sauce?

30 Comments on “Canning Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

  1. I made spaghetti sauce to can in pint jars but they only processed for 10 minutes maybe in boiling water my timer got turned off some how they all sealed do I need to reprocess them longer

    1. Hi Pam,
      I would reprocess them for the proper amount of time. Even if they are sealed, there could be botulism spores that aren’t killed if the jars aren’t processed long enough. Did you put some citric acid in each jar to make sure the acid is high enough for using a water bath canner?

  2. I am Italian and make our family recipe of spaghetti sauce and freeze it. I would like to start canning it and don’t know how to do that safely. My sauce contains six pounds of beef, boneless pork, and hot Italian sausage. One batch yields about 10 containers for freezing and is fully cooked all day long. What is your recommendation for canning and does a pressure cooker affect cooking times? I don’t want the meat to fall apart or be shredded from over cooking. All information is appreciated!

    1. Hi Lisa,
      Spaghetti sauce with meat should be pressure canned at 10 pounds of pressure for 60 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts at elevations at or below 1,000 feet. For higher elevations, you will need to bring the pressure up to 15 pounds. The sauce should be ladled into jars while it is still piping hot.

      If you cook the meat thoroughly before adding the tomato sauce, you would only need to cook the whole batch of sauce until it boils, then pressure can it. Pressure canning will cook the meat further. Once you open the jars to use the sauce it would only need to be heated through but you do have the option of cooking for a longer period of time to thicken it, if you like.

      I hope this helps answer your question!

  3. Hi I have a question hopefully you can tell me the answer. I make my own spaghetti sauce I make a big batch and usually freeze it. I would like to can a batch it instead of freezing it. I put onions and green peppers in my sauce and it will all be cooked. I also use all canned tomatoes (diced, whole, puree and paste along with spices). The question I am wanting to ask is can my homemade sauce be canned. I make my own meatballs usually using five or six pounds of ground beef but to get around canning my sauce with the meatballs I want to cook the meatballs in with the sauce, the meatballs just have to cook with the sauce or it just doesn’t taste the same…LOL, I will remove the meatballs before canning the sauce and freeze the meatballs is that going to be an issue? I don’t want to waste all the money on making my sauce just to have to throw it away due to messing up. I have never canned sauce before and I am really iffy about trying it. Thanks so much for any advise you are able to give me.

    1. Hi Debbie,
      If you cook the spaghetti sauce with meatballs, I would recommend pressure canning the sauce to be safe. Even if you remove the meatballs before canning, I would be concerned about bacteria that might survive hot water bath canning.

      Tomato sauce is on the borderline of the proper acidity for water bath canning so it is recommended that you add a tiny bit of citric acid to be safe.

      If you have never canned before, I suggest trying a batch of jam for your first canning experience. It’s much easier than a batch of spaghetti sauce! And freezing it works great! Best wishes!

  4. I’ve always froze my sauce before but want to can it now. The only down side is no meat but I can put it in when I cook it before eating. Since I’m Italian I do have my family recipe and always add sugar because of the acid in the tomatoes. But my husband likes it not too sweet so I don’t use a lot..

    1. Yes. I make mine without meat. Then I will brown my meat Add the the spaghetti sauce and warm. Takess no time for warming. Serve over hot noodles or mix together.

  5. Lisa, I just made the first batch of spaghetti sauce but I used one onion, and just one cup of sugar. It seems sweet. I think I’ll cut down the sugar even more.

    1. Hi Linda,
      I think that the next time I make it I will reduce the sugar too. A lot of it is personal taste. I hope you can choke it down!
      Thanks for the feedback…Lisa

  6. My husband and I canned about 40 quarts of homemade spaghetti sauce a couple weekends ago…. It is super rewarding to finish up and look at all the beautiful jars full of yummy sauce just waiting to be gobbled up…. We use tomato paste and tomato sauce in addition to fresh tomatoes. Depending on how thick you like you sauce (we like it pretty thick). We used 4 gallons of paste, 4 gallons of sauce, 4 gallons of water and 5 lbs of fresh tomatoes diced and simmered with the meat. We added approx. 20 lbs of ground beef/venison. We mix all this up in 2 huge pots and let simmer for about 30 minutes. We added 2 cups of ground garlic, 1 cup parsley, 5 bay leaves, 1 cup sweet basil, 1/2 cup salt, 1/8 cup black pepper (per pot). Then we add just a bit more water to keep the consistency we like and let simmer for an hour. We then ladle the hot sauce into prepared quart jars and add the lids and rings. We pressure cook ours for 20 minutes with 10 lbs pressure and tada…..!!! All finished! Of course we usually have just enough left over to have dinner, who can pass it up after smelling the fantastic aroma all day long?

  7. Lisa:

    Meant to ask you if you could tell us how to make our own tomato paste? What do you have to do to get it so thick?


    1. Hi again!

      I’m hoping to share a short post on tomato paste tomorrow. Today is super busy, so we’ll see if I can get that up in time. But, basically, you need to keep cooking down your tomato juice/sauce until it is very thick. It takes quite a bit of time to do that, but it’s really nice when you’re all done.

  8. Hi Lisa:

    Great post! Also thanks for the review on the strainer! Please don’t laugh but as I said from the very beginning, I’m a “greenhorn”……just about as “green” as one can be……lol Anyway, I was disappointed because you told everything in your original post except for how long to cook it and at how much pressure! Then I read your response to Vickie’s post regarding when canning it with meat. In that post you did tell us the cook time and at how much pressure.

    So now I am confused. So do you mean you can…….. can veggies, (in this case spaghetti sauce), WITHOUT using a pressure cooker and it is called a: “water bath”? How does it seal without the pressure? Also, what need is there for ever using a pressure cooker, if you don’t have to have one in order to can things? Because, like you said, it does take awhile waiting for the pressure to go down before you can proceed again!

    Well, as long as I am showing how “green” I really am here……lol……I may as well ask you another question……How long do you need to leave the jars in the “boiling water bath” to ensure they are sterilized? Also, how long for boiling the screw rings for the lids? Don’t you also need to boil the lids to sterilize them? Or was that just a “typo” that should have read, as the 3rd bullet: “•Sterilize screw bands AND lids”? (Instead of FOR lids)? Or do the “Lids” NOT need to actually “BOIL” at all and it IS the “step” for sterilizing the “lids” to just: “•Dip out a small amount of hot water into a bowl and place canning lids in water”? (I didn’t know if this was a separate step “AFTER BOILING” the lids, just to keep them like….”warm” and therefore, pliable enough……so they would remain warm rather than being cold, so that they would seat/seal right but not burn your fingers when you went to pick one up? Or, if just placing them in a bowl of hot water was enough to sterilize them?

    Never heard or tasted spaghetti sauce with using the eggplant in it. It sounds yummy! I made some spaghetti sauce one time using already steamed up and chopped small, broccoli florets. I learned this from a friend of mine who was a vegan but who oddly enough, did not like to use tofu for her meat substitute. Once you start eating it with the broccoli added, the lack of meat isn’t noticed due to the consistency of the tiny broccoli florets in there.

    Oh, I nearly forgot……I wanted to ask about cooking the sauce for 24 hours, (if you don’t use any tomato paste)……How do you keep it from sticking and burning on the bottom of the pan while you are sleeping and therefore not “stirring occasionally”?

    1. Hi Tirtzah,
      In my post, under ‘How to Make Your Own Tomato Sauce’, the last step lists the canning instructions…Process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes. Processing means to put your filled jars with lids into a canner of boiling water, bring back to a boil, and boil for 40 minutes.

      Tomatoes do not need to be pressure canned, but the guidelines given by reputable home canning sources all instruct you to add the citric acid or lemon juice to make sure that your tomato products are acidic enough for canning in a boiling water bath. You can find instructions for canning all kinds of things, with the latest, safest information on this free website…

      Although tomatoes do not need to be pressure canned, all other vegetables do because they aren’t acidic enough to can in a boiling water bath. Again, there is a ton of information on the site above that will explain this much better than I can. 🙂

      The new canning lids that I use do not recommend boiling the lids…it can cause disintigration of the rubber sealant if boiled too long or too hot. I still put mine in hot, not boiling, water for just a minutes before placing on the jars, just because it makes me feel better. But for information on the lids that you are using, go to the manufacturer’s website and follow their instructions. The site that I listed above does not instruct you to boil the screw bands, but I still do that for about 5 minutes before placing on the jars. This is all if I am canning using the boiling water bath method. If I am pressure canning, I don’t put the lids in hot water and I wash the screw bands but I don’t boil them.

      Sterilizing jars…the site listed above instructs you to sterilize jars for jams and jellies that are processed in a boiling water bath for less than 10 minutes. To sterilize the jars, boil for 10 minutes. For high acid foods that will be processed for more than 10 minutes it is not necessary to sterilize the jars first…which I guess I forgot about that. I always put my jars in the canner, add the water, and bring it all to a boil. I leave the jars in the boiling water until I am ready to fill them. I guess I am ‘erring’ on the side of safety!

      To cook your sauce for 24 hours (give or take, depending on how thick you want it) you will need to use a stainless steele pot with a nice, thick bottom. Turn your burner to low once the juice/sauce gets nice and hot. I do get up several times during the night to stir, but if you have the heat low and the pot has a thick bottom, you shouldn’t need to.

      There are several recipes for ketchup on that site…here is a link directly to that list…

      I like my spaghetti with all kinds of veggies. The eggplant is optional…I should have mentioned that. 🙂 Broccoli is great cooked into spaghetti sauce.

      I hope I answered all of your questions. I know that the site that I shared has a wealth of information that will be useful to you. I hope you can check it out and have any additional questions answered.

      1. O)h great results with the ketchup, but my bf ruined a big batch of spaghetti sauce last night

  9. Good morning, Lisa Lynn! My tomatoes were late this year also! A weird growing season. Anyway, I made pasta sauce with ground meat in it last year and then pressure canned it. It was delicious! I don’t think I will have enough tomatoes for much sauce at all this year. Bummer, Oh well. Thanks for your review of the Victorio food strainer – I need to buy one! Have a great week!

    1. Hi Vickie,
      Your pasta sauce with meat sounds yummy 🙂 I thought about making my sauce that way, but hated to pull out the pressure canner this time. Mine only holds 7 quart jars and it needs to sit for so long to reduce the pressure once it is done processing that I usually only do one canner full each day. Otherwise I’m up until the wee hours of the morning…and that is too much for me nowadays!

      Thanks for sharing! If anyone is interested in canning their pasta sauce with meat, you will want to cook the meat thoroughly, add it to the sauce, fill your jars and process in a pressure canner for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure…unless you live at a high elevation. If so, check the National Center for Home Food Preservation for the processing time. 🙂

      Glad that the info about the food strainer was useful!

  10. Does this process equally as well without the sugar? Not only does my husband hate ‘sweet’ pasta sauces, we are trying to reduce and eliminate as much white refined sugar from our diets as we possible can. I have been searching for a really good tasting pasta sauce recipe without sugar. That’s not been an easy task. Thanks!

    1. Hi Diana,
      I completely understand your desire to reduce sugar in your diets! This spaghetti sauce doesn’t taste sweet, the sugar really just makes it taste less acidic…but you can certainly eliminate the sugar without any problems. It isn’t necessary to make the sauce safe for water bath canning.

      If you try this and feel that the sauce needs a sweetener to make it taste less acidic, you could try honey to replace the sugar. Just use about 1/4 the amount and add more if you think it needs it.

      I use the organic sugar because, well, it’s organic, and it is also much less refined than the regular white sugar from the store.

      Let me know if you try it without the sugar and how you like it!

    1. Good for you, Lori! I am completely out of freezer space now…one of our freezers died on us last week and I had to toss out a bunch of veggies in order to save all of the meat. 🙁 But I should probably learn to live with 2 freezers instead of 3 anyway!

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