Marinara Sauce

I believe that no one can have too much marinara sauce on the shelf.  Whether you use it as spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, a hot dip for breadsticks and cheese sticks, or a spread for bruschetta . . . marinara is extremely versatile and flavorful and makes a super speedy meal.

I like to simmer up a base sauce for canning. Then, once I’ve decided what I’m cooking for the day I add in ingredients specific to my dish.  I might add fresh grated parmesan and herbs if it’s for spaghetti, and I might simmer for longer and then chop it smoother in the food processor because at least one of my kids likes their marinara smoother. If I’m making bruschetta I keep it chunkier. For pizza sauce I’d probably puree, cook it down longer and add in fresh oregano. Whatever is your fav, making up a batch of marinara ensures that you cut your meal prep time down to almost nothing.

I plan a giant batch, and then halve that (because I don’t have a pot big enough), so this pictorial will be half of my giant batch.  The small batch recipe at the end of this post will be a quarter of the giant batch.

Finely dice 4-5 onions and 8 garlic cloves. Dry saute until golden and starting to carmelize.

Slice 12 – 13 pounds of roma tomatoes. Add onions/garlic to sliced tomatoes and a #10 can of crushed tomatoes.  I use a cutting mandolin to make everything go faster, but be careful with your fingers!

Simmer tomatoes and onions together until sauce is made but marinara is still somewhat chunky. It will probably take 30 minutes to 1 hours.  Then add in  1 cup chopped basil (and/or 1/4 cup fresh oregano), 1/3 – 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Bring all to a boil, then turn off heat.  Ladle marinara into hot jars through funnel (8 quarts or 16 pints for this size recipe).  Screw on lids and hot seals, and process for 30 minutes for pints at sea level, 35 minutes at 5000 feet.

Recipe: half giant batch Marinara

1 #10 can crushed tomatoes (use a quality label) or 8-10 pounds roma tomatoes, simmered

12-13 pounds of roma tomatoes

4-5 onions

8 cloves garlic

1 cup chopped basil and/or 1/4 cup fresh oregano

1/3 – 1/2 c fresh lemon juice or vinegar

salt and pepper to taste (start with 2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper and don’t overseason)

Recipe:  small batch Marinara

3-4 lbs crushed (canned) tomatoes (or 5 lbs diced roma tomatoes, simmered)

6-7 lbs roma tomatoes

2-3 onions

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup chopped basil and/or  1/8 cup fresh oregano

juice of 2-3 lemons or 1/4 cup vinegar

salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and don’t overseason)

Saute thinly sliced onion and diced garlic until lightly browned and starting to carmelize. Add to diced tomatoes and simmered tomatoes (or canned) in large pot.  Simmer until still chunky but thickened, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Add basil (and/or oregano), lemon juice (or vinegar) and salt and pepper.  Bring to a slow boil.  Turn off heat, ladle into hot jars (makes about 4 quarts, 8 pints), and process in water bath for 30 minutes pints at sea level, 35 minutes at 5000 feet.

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20 comments to Marinara Sauce

  • cjtsc

    In this recipe, do you use a #10 can of tomatoes as well as the fresh tomatoes? Mine turned out a bit thin, but very tastey.

  • elizabeth

    I either use the canned and fresh, or simmer additional tomatoes to substitute for the fresh. To thicken yours up, you can simmer longer, or add some paste. The larger the surface area that is being simmered, the more evaporation you’ll have, and the thicker your sauce will be. Good luck!

  • kerry

    Quick question… what porportions would I use for only 5 lbs of fresh roma tomatoes? I need a small batch recipe that would accomodate that – I have some from my garden to use up. Any advice would be appreciated. I’m not very good at adjusting recipes.


  • elizabeth

    Hi Kerry — the total tomato weight in this recipe is approximately 10 pounds. Since you have 5, you can halve the recipe and use your 5 lbs tomatoes, 1 – 1 1/2 onions, 2 cloves garlic, 1/4 c basil, 1/8 cup vinegar etc. If you’d like to add a little sauce from a can, only add about 8 ounces. If you’d like to keep it all your own tomatoes and want to simmer a few longer, use about 2 pounds for that. The important thing with quantities for this recipe is to maintain an acidic environment that is high enough to preserve the marinara safely. Tomatoes and vinegar supply the acid, so make sure that you don’t skimp on those and increase the onions, for example. Hope that helps!

  • Susan Spoon

    Can I use my own recipe for marinara sauce? I am asking this because I love my marinara recipe, but it does not have any vinegar in it; so will it still can safely? My other question is, “How much head space do you leave in the jar before putting the lid and band on?”

  • elizabeth


    Your headspace should be a 1/2 inch. As far as your own recipe, if it has a pH of 4.6 or less, you can can it using the hot water bath method. If not, you’ll have to use a steam pressure canner. To test for pH, most people need to use a pH meter. pH strips work for some items, but marinara sauce might not give a good reading. Also, you don’t want to mess with the chance of “bad bugs” in your jars. So check with your country cooperative extensive for their recipe for a high acid sauce, or compare your sauce to a sauce that does have a pH of 4.6 or less such as the “Seasoned Tomato Sauce” in the Ball Blue Book. That’s where I started with my sauce. If you really love your recipe and it isn’t acid enough, don’t give up! You might learn to pressure can and then all will be well . . .

  • Judy Anderson

    After canning my marinara sauce what will be the shelf life? Can I keep it for 2 or 3 years

  • elizabeth

    Most canned foods keep for about a year without noticeable decline in flavor or appearance. Some keep longer than others. This marinara sauce keeps at least a year, but I have some 2 year jars and they look and taste fine. It really depends on how you store it. If it’s between 50 and 70 degrees, in a darkened place and this temp stays somewhat consistent, then it’s going to keep longer. When I start getting tomatoes in the summer or they start flooding the market, I always want to make new sauce, so I rarely keep it longer than a year. Does that help?

  • Debby Lovett

    This recipe sounds really good and I’m looking forward to doing a lot of canning this summer. But frankly, I’m a little confused. At the top of your recipe, you have 1 #10 can crushed tomatoes or 8-10 lbs Roma tomatoes simmered. Then listed underneath that 12-13 lbs Roma tomatoes. Do you use all of the tomatoes listed for a total of 20-23 lbs?

  • elizabeth

    In the past 8-10 pounds has simmered down to approximately a #10 pound can of crushed tomatoes, so that’s why I list that. In canning, there is a trade off between fresh and using the energy resources to simmer down pounds of tomatoes, as well as the resource of time. Bear in mind this is a huge batch. Hope that helps!


  • Theresa

    My daughter and I really enjoyed taking your canning class this past Spring. I’m planning to make and can some Marinara and have this question: the Ball Blue Book instructions say to quarter the tomatoes, simmer them, and then run them through a food mill or sieve to remove the peels and seeds. Your recipe, above, doesn’t mention peels or seeds. Can I peel and seed the tomatoes BEFORE I simmer them? Will this matter in terms of food safety? Do they even need to be removed? Thanks!

  • elizabeth

    I use paste tomatoes (roma) and don’t peel or seed my tomatoes. Both the peels and seeds contain nutrients that I want to keep in my sauce. My vote is to skip the peeling/seeding, because in the processing (simmering, sterile technique, and then boiling water bath for the required time) the safety of the sauce in ensured. So glad you liked the class! I’m soon to be gearing up for the fall class . . .

  • elizabeth

    A water bath is one way to process food for canning. See my post on dill pickles for step by step directions . . .

  • Cortney

    I’m sorry, but is the water bath the same as cold packing, where you submerge the jars in boiling water?

  • elizabeth


    With a water bath, you submerge jars into water and bring them to a boil, to get them hot enough to become “sterile”. Then you pack them (in this case, with marinara, this is a hot pack, since the marinara should be simmering when you put it in the jar) and put them back into the simmering/just boiling water. You put the lid on the water bath, and let the jars of marinara sit in the water bath for the required time. Sitting in a hot, boiling water bath forces air out of the jars and creates a seal. Processing time varies depending on what you’re canning. Hope that helps. I haven’t substituted cilantro for the basil. I’d use cilantro in salsa, but I prefer basil in marinara sauce. It’s really up to your own personal tastes.

  • Vickie

    Your recipe calls for roma tomatoes, I have tons of tomatoes, but none are romas…will this recipe work for any types?

  • elizabeth

    Hi Vicki,

    Romas are a meatier “paste” tomato. I use those usually, but I’ve used other tomatoes and they are fine. Sometimes the marinara turns out a bit more watery with other tomatoes — so just add some paste until the marinara is the consistency you want. Happy canning!

  • Vickie

    Thanks so much Elizabeth for your recipe and tips! All I can say is wow, wow, wow this is just what I was looking for! I love your “basic recipe” to add spices or run through food processor depending on what you are making! My batch today got me 9 quarts and 5 pints, can’t wait to make my favorit pasta dishes with it! Oh, great idea to add the tomato paste to get the perfect consistency, worked like a charm Thanks again!

  • elizabeth

    Yes! And I bet your tomatoes are happy too!

  • Carol

    This recipe is the most awesome recipe I have ever tried. We use it with spaghetti, pizza as an appetizer. Thank you, Thank you for sharing.

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