Homemade Canned Spaghetti Sauce {Step-by-Step Tutorial}

Using garden fresh tomatoes, this delicious homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe is super easy to make (step-by-step pictures below) and so flavorful!

Homemade canned spaghetti sauce in quart jar.

Long promised, I’m finally sharing the homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe that will adequately take care of all those lingering fresh garden tomatoes!

Below is a step-by-step guide to making and canning this marinara sauce along with some general details about canning to help out any beginners interested in getting started.

This sauce is thick and hearty with a rich flavor that suits everything from topping a simple plate of pasta or using in recipes that call for jarred spaghetti sauce.

Homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe with penne pasta.

As you may already know, I have a tried-and-true, decades old homemade spaghetti sauce I use regularly for family spaghetti dinners (and a faster weeknight spaghetti sauce), but neither of those have been tested for canning safety.

That’s where this homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe comes in! While the flavor profile of this canned version is a little different from the above favorites, it is delicious in its own right.

Plus, it’s just plain satisfying to see how fresh tomatoes can turn into something so splendid. Basically, you’ll feel like a canning rock star in no time.

Small Batch Canning: A How-To Resource

Let’s start with a few canning basics. Here are a few posts I’ve done in the past that help demystify home canning:

Canning 101: Water Bath Canning Basics
Small Batch Canning 101

Below in the tutorial for this homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe, I’m using a steam bath canner. It processes the same high-acidity foods as a water bath canner but uses a lot less water and is less bulky.

You can learn more about it in this post (why I use it, if it’s safe for canning, etc.). There also an article on the National Center for Home Food Preservation about steam canners here

What Canning Tools Are Needed for Homemade Spaghetti Sauce?

*affiliate links included below for products I’ve purchased from Amazon

-this over-the-sink colander is awesome for draining the tomatoes

-my trusty Breville food processor does all the chopping

steam bath canner (with dial on top for accurate safety)

-this simple canning toolset has just about everything I need for filling and handling the jars (I also have this extra canning funnel with measurements; I use it every day to strain kefir but it doubles as a great canning tool)

Now let’s get started! 

To make this canned spaghetti sauce recipe, you’re going to need about 18-19 pounds of fresh tomatoes, which is right around 60 tomatoes.

I use a mix of Roma (paste) tomatoes and every day garden tomatoes (I think I have early girl in my garden this year which I used for this recipe).

Peeling the Tomatoes

The more traditional method of removing the skins from the tomatoes involves plunging the tomatoes into boiling water and then plunging again into ice water.

I can’t bring myself to mess with that after I learned about the broiling method (which I talk about here in this popular homemade canned salsa recipe post).

Broiling the tomatoes to remove the skins is super easy. Cut the tomatoes in half, cram them in a single layer on a sheet pan and put them under an oven broiler for a couple of minutes until the skins wrinkle.

Broiling tomatoes to remove skins for homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe.

Once the tomatoes come out and cool for a minute, those skins will peel right off, and the sheet pans are super easy to clean!

I’ve heard you actually don’t need to remove the peels of the tomatoes – but keep in mind, they can be bitter and give an off-taste to the recipe you are using if you leave them on (and I have read on a couple sites that the skins may mess with the canning pH level, but I’m not 100% sure about that).

Draining, Chopping, and Measuring the Tomatoes

After the skins come off (go ahead and discard them), place the tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl or the sink and let them drain for 30 minutes to an hour until most of the watery liquid has drained off.

You can speed up this process by using your hands to mash and squeeze the tomatoes (did that just sound weird to anyone else?)…or a spoon works too.

You can see the before and after below.

Draining tomatoes for homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe.

I throw the tomatoes in the food processor and give them a whirl until they are pretty well blended (I also use the food processor to chop up the peppers, onions, and garlic, too – makes it so easy and saves me White Knuckle Knife Syndrome from all that chopping).

Measure the tomatoes after they have been drained and chopped.

Simmer the Spaghetti Sauce

Combine all the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce except the lemon juice in a pot.

Stir well so the tomato paste doesn’t clump up and sink to the bottom. Burned tomato paste flavor throughout your sauce, and you may hate me forever.

Combining sauce ingredients for homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe.

Bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer and let it cook for about an hour. It should be nice and thick. If it is still really watery, let it simmer longer.

I use my immersion blender to get in there and smooth out any large chunks. The level of puree at this point is totally up to you (and you can also use a regular blender and process in batches, if needed – just take care blending the hot mixture).

Simmering sauce in large pot for homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe.

Here’s a quick little tip: while the spaghetti sauce is simmering, I get my steam bath canner filled with water and heating up on another burner. While it heats, I place the clean canning jars I’m going to use on the steam canner, cover with the lid, and let the jars steam and sterilize while the spaghetti sauce simmers.

Fill the Jars

Pour two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice into sterilized and hot quart sized jars (this recipe makes about 4 quarts). Fresh lemon juice isn’t recommended as the acidity level of fresh lemons can vary.

Now ladle in that sauce!

Filling quart size canning jars with homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe.

Wipe the rim of the jar clean with a damp cloth and put on a canning lid and ring (don’t over tighten).

Wiping edge of jar and putting on lids and rings for homemade canned spaghetti sauce recipe.

Process the Spaghetti Sauce

Process the quart jars for 40 minutes in a steam bath or water bath canner, adding time as needed for higher elevation (1,001 – 3,000 feet add 5 minutes; 3,001 – 6,000 feet add 10 minutes; 6,001 – 8,000 feet add 15 minutes).

Processing quart jars of homemade spaghetti sauce.

Once the jars have finished processing, carefully transfer them to a cooling rack or a towel set on the counter and let them cool naturally to room temperature…and wait for that beautiful pinging sound to let you know the jars have sealed (best sound in the world!).

And there you have it! Delicious, rich, hearty homemade canned spaghetti sauce!

Homemade canned spaghetti sauce in quart jar.

A Note About Canning Safety and Experimenting

I love home canning! And I love sharing canning recipes with you.

I actually experiment a lot with canning different things at home – trying new recipes and getting creative with ingredients and flavors. But when it comes to actually sharing those recipes with you, my beloved readers, I won’t post my recipe experiments, as delicious as they may be.

I’ll only ever share recipes that have been adequately tested for canning safety (pH levels) or that follow safe canning guidelines. That keeps both me and you safe.

But it also means that creativity (and yes, sometimes flavor) can be thwarted a bit. Canning safety dictates that a certain amount of acidity be included in a recipe for safe water bath/steam bath canning. And messing around with adding and decreasing ingredients (especially high or low acid ingredients) can compromise the safety.

I’ve made many other spaghetti sauce recipes for canning over the years. Some very delicious ones actually (several of you have sent me your favorites), but most of them have not been tested for canning safety, which means I can’t in good conscious share them.

Canning safety isn’t something to mess around with when sharing recipes with millions of people, if you know what I mean.

The good news is that recipes like today’s home canned spaghetti sauce are delicious and widely recognized to be safe to can at home. Phew! A tried-and-true canned spaghetti sauce recipe to hold on to forever.

Now, enough reading, let’s get canning!

One Year Ago: Cheesy Baked Ziti {Make-Ahead/Freezer Meal}
Two Years Ago: The Best Homemade Salsa {Fresh or For Canning}
Three Years Ago: Portillo’s Chopped Salad with Sweet Italian Dressing
Four Years Ago: Peanut Butter Granola
Five Years Ago: Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Brown Sugar Streusel

Homemade Canned Spaghetti Marinara Sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 12 cups peeled, drained, and chopped tomatoes (see note)
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
  • 2 cups finely chopped white or yellow onions (about 3 medium onions)
  • 3 cans (6 ounces each) tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated or brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons salt (I use canning salt, see note for options)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the lemon juice in a large 8-quart pot, stir to combine well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring often. Take out the bay leaf and discard. For a smoother consistency, use an immersion blender or transfer the sauce to a blender to process until smooth (optional).
  2. Pour 2 tablespoons of lemon juice into the bottom of sterilized, hot quart jars. Ladle in spaghetti sauce within 1/2-inch of the top. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth. Place a canning lid and ring on each jar.
  3. Process the spaghetti sauce in a water or steam bath canner for 40 minutes (add 5 minutes if you live at 1,001 to 3,000 feet – if you live at higher elevation than that, you’ll want to use a water bath canner since steam bath canners shouldn’t be used to process jars longer than 45 minutes).
  4. Remove the jars carefully from the water or steam bath and let cool to room temperature. Check to make sure the jars have sealed correctly (lightly press the top of the lid; it should be firm – if the center bubbles up and down when you press on it, it hasn’t sealed correctly and will need to be refrigerated or re-processed).

Notes:

Amount of Tomatoes: This recipe calls for 12 cups of peeled, drained, and chopped tomatoes. I used a mix of Roma and non-paste tomatoes (I think I have early girl variety in my garden) – about 60 tomatoes/18-19 pounds. Measuring the tomatoes after they have drained and been chopped (I use my food processor) will ensure accuracy for measuring and for canning safety – and it also will eliminate any variances if using different varieties of tomatoes. Also, a quick note about the peppers, you can use 2 green peppers instead of 1 green/1 red or 2 red peppers. I prefer one of each for flavor. 

Salt: If you don’t have canning or pickling salt and/or would prefer not to buy it, you can use coarse, kosher salt (or experiment with table salt) but make sure it doesn’t have added iodine or any other additives.

Peeling Tomatoes: I don’t like messing with a water bath and bowl of ice water to peel the tomatoes; instead, I cut them in half and place them cut side down on a large baking sheet (really cram them in there in a single layer). Broil the tomatoes for 3-4 minutes until the skins begin to pucker. Once they come out of the oven, the skins will wrinkle and peel right off and the baking sheet is easily cleaned. See pictures in the post for a visual.

Easy Chopping: For easy and fast chopping, I throw the peppers, onion, and garlic in the food processor and process until finely chopped.

Canning Safety: As with all canning recipes, this recipe has been developed and tested specifically to make sure the pH level is safe for canning. Altering the ingredient amounts, particularly increasing low acid vegetables and decreasing tomatoes, can affect the pH making the recipe unsafe for canning. I have not canned this recipe in a pressure canner, but I have given details here about steam canners vs. water bath canners. Please do your own research to decide what method is best for you.

Steam Canning: The only canning processing method I use these days is steam bath canning. It is used to process high acidity foods (the same foods that can be processed in a water bath canner). I’ve given more details above in the post. However, since this recipe requires a longer processing time (and that increases even more with higher elevations), if you live about 3,000 feet elevation, you’ll need to use a water bath canner instead of a steam bath canner to safely process this sauce. You can read more here

Doubling Recipe: This recipe can be doubled or tripled (make sure you have a big pot ready!) or halved.

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Recipe Source: used this recipe as inspiration and cut down quantities to make 4 quarts (without compromising acidity levels)

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