When I was new to gardening (and new to canning what came out of my garden), homemade tomato sauce was one of those projects that always felt a little intimidating.
Every recipe I came across called for boiling a pot of water, blanching the tomatoes, plunging them into an ice bath, then making X-shaped slits in the bottom to release the skins. Some recipes went a step further, telling me to run the peeled tomatoes through a food mill to remove the seeds.
Frankly, it doesn’t sound all that bad… until the first time you’re faced with a sink full of tomatoes (especially smaller tomatoes) that need to be peeled, one by one.
All that work, all that mess… I actually started to dread the peak-of-summer harvests when I had more tomatoes than I could use right away!
But then one summer, I thought… Why go through all the trouble of peeling and seeding tomatoes?
I actually like the flavor and texture of the skins and seeds, and when I cooked them down, the skins seemed to disappear into the sauce anyway.
Fun fact: Tomato skins contain essential amino acids and actually have higher levels of lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) compared to the pulp and seeds.
That tiny revelation became my go-to method for making a quick tomato sauce from scratch that requires not much more than a food processor (or a blender or immersion blender).
And if you decide to do a double/triple/quadruple batch, you can rest easy knowing you won’t be adding hours (or even days!) to your tomato processing.
- The secret to a fresh and flavorful tomato sauce from scratch
- How long should you cook the tomato sauce?
- What are the best types of tomatoes to use for skins-on tomato sauce?
- How to safely store your tomato sauce
- Easy Peasy Homemade Tomato Sauce (No Peeling Required)
- Tomato Sauce Recipe Sources
- More tomato recipes to try:
The secret to a fresh and flavorful tomato sauce from scratch
This is a basic sauce that omits the labor-intensive blanching, peeling, seeding, and straining of more traditional sauces.
It’s all tomato—and nothing else.
(Unless you’re planning to can the sauce for storage, in which case you’ll need to add bottled lemon juice for safe canning.)
I prefer to keep the sauce simple as it gives me more options when cooking. Some nights I might be feeling classic Italian marinara with basil, oregano, and garlic, other nights I might want a little arrabbiata action, and there are nights I might go for this spicy minty tomato sauce.
Whatever the mood may be, I like having a neutral sauce that I can add my garlic, onions, peppers, herbs, and spices to, without being tied down to a specific flavor profile.
By starting with a basic tomato sauce, you also reduce the chances of ending up with a bitter-tasting sauce, which sometimes happens with overcooked spices.
Quick tip: To save a bitter tomato sauce, stir 1/4 teaspoon baking soda into 1 cup sauce while it’s simmering. Taste, and keep adding tiny amounts of baking soda to see if it helps neutralize the acidity. You can also take the edge off a bitter tomato sauce by stirring in 1 tablespoon butter until it melts.
Pasta sauce isn’t the only thing you can make with your pureed tomatoes, however. The unadulterated tomato sauce is a good base for homemade ketchup, tomato chutney, tomato jam, and salsa as well, or you can simply stir it into minestrone soup, Spanish rice, or any recipe that calls for crushed or diced tomatoes.
I tend to cook the tomato sauce for less time than most recipes recommend, since I know I’ll be cooking it even more when I make the actual sauce. A shorter cooking time (I usually never go more than half an hour) means you retain more of that fresh tomato flavor.
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How long should you cook the tomato sauce?
In general, aim for 30 to 90 minutes of simmering on the stove. Any longer than that, and you’re on your way to tomato paste.
At 30 minutes, the sauce will be thinner (reduced by about one-third) but have a lighter, fresher flavor.
At 90 minutes, the sauce will be thicker (reduced by half in volume) but have a deeper cooked flavor.
I use a deep, wide-diameter pot (this Dutch oven is great for the task, but I also use this saute pan for smaller batches) to allow the liquid to evaporate quicker. If you use a pot that’s taller than it is wide, you may need a longer cooking time.
What are the best types of tomatoes to use for skins-on tomato sauce?
Any blemish-free, vine-ripened, firm-fleshed tomato can be used for sauce. Traditional recipes often call for paste or plum tomatoes, like the Roma variety, since they have thicker skin, firmer flesh, and less moisture (which means they peel easier, boil down faster on the stovetop, and make a denser sauce in less time).
But because this sauce requires no peeling, I’m a fan of using any and all tomatoes, including cherry and grape varieties.
Use the excess harvest from your garden, or seek out tomatoes at farmers’ markets, which sometimes sell their slightly bruised or blemished fruit in bulk for a great bargain. (Just be sure to slice off any blemishes before using them.)
If you love tomatoes as much as I do, you can even make a rainbow of sauces from all the colorful and delicious heirloom tomato varieties available.
I’ve turned out green tomato sauce (from ripe green tomatoes), orange, yellow, white, even a stunning maroon from a batch of beautiful purple-black fruits. It’s fun, it’s different, and it can dress up an otherwise ordinary dish.
How to safely store your tomato sauce
The sauce will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months (for optimal flavor).
Related: How to Safely Freeze Liquids in Mason Jars
For long-term storage, you’ll need to add bottled lemon juice in order to raise the acidity for safe canning.
The proper amount is 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice for each quart jar.
Don’t substitute fresh-squeezed lemon juice for bottled lemon juice, as acidity levels vary widely among fresh lemons you buy or grow.
You can, however, substitute citric acid (at a rate of 1/2 teaspoon per quart jar) for the bottled lemon juice, if you already have that on hand.
Properly canned tomato sauce will keep for at least 1 year in a cool, dry, and dark environment.
Easy Peasy Homemade Tomato Sauce (No Peeling Required)
Makes 4 to 6 quarts (depending on length of simmer time)
15 pounds tomatoes, stems removed
8 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (optional, if canning)
Step 1: Working in batches, quarter or coarsely chop the tomatoes and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to your desired level of chunkiness.
Step 2: Transfer the tomato puree to a large stockpot, then repeat Step 1 until all tomatoes are processed.
Step 3: Place the stockpot over medium-high heat and bring the puree to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 90 minutes until the tomato sauce is thickened to your liking.
Step 4: When the sauce is finished, let cool to room temperature, then transfer to jars and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Alternatively, you can transfer the cooled sauce to freeze-proof containers or zip-top bags and freeze for up to 3 months.
(Tip: When storing the sauce in bags, portion them into 2-cup or 4-cup servings for ease of cooking, squeeze out the excess air and then flatten the bags before stacking and freezing.)
You can also freeze the tomato sauce in mason jars (but make sure you follow the tips in that post).
Prepare a boiling water bath and 4 to 6 quart-sized canning jars.
Follow the directions above through Step 3. Remove the stockpot from heat.
Transfer the hot tomato sauce to warmed jars, leaving about 1 inch of headspace.
Stir in 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per jar.
Wipe the rims with a towel, then seal with lids and bands.
Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes, adjusting time for altitude as needed.
Properly canned tomato sauce will be shelf stable for at least 1 year.
Learn more: 9 *Updated* Canning Tips and Tricks for Modern-Day Home Canning
Tomato Sauce Recipe Sources
Staub 6 1/4-Quart Round Cocotte | Calphalon Tri-Ply Stainless Steel 5-Quart Saute Pan | Cuisinart Pro Custom 11-Cup Food Processor | Ball Wide-Mouth Quart Jars | Ball Wide-Mouth Plastic Storage Caps
View the Web Story on easy homemade tomato sauce.
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on July 27, 2017.
ToddSeptember 28, 2022 at 9:52 pm
Very nice of you to post this. We started with making just tomatoes but began adding onion, peppers, garlic, oregano and some other spices. We were wondering what to do with all of our tomatoes, now we want more tomatoes. We decided to keep one jar out of the water bath and that will be for tomorrows dinner. It was awesome. It was easy. It was very appreciated.
BetsySeptember 11, 2022 at 11:36 am
I canned tomatoes without the lemon juice. Will they be ok or should I discard them?
KimFebruary 7, 2023 at 4:03 pm
Ball Blue Book does not call for the lemon juice.
DianeAugust 17, 2022 at 5:55 pm
I’m going to try this with yellow tomatoes for the reduced histamine. I had to research and found this regarding nutrition retained from leaving skins on and seeds in from West VA University. https://researchrepository.wvu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5115&context=etd
Marla BrownFebruary 4, 2022 at 11:19 pm
It’s going to be my first time canning anything and I have been scouring the internet trying to find a recipe that says its safe to can tomatoes, tomato sauce, passata etc. without peeling them first.
When I looked up why you had to peel, it always mentioned something to do with bacteria and that peeling was necessary. Has this information changed or was it wrong to begin with ? I plan on using 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid per pint of tomato sauce but just want to confirm that leaving the skins on is okay and how long do I water bath the jars for ?
MelodieAugust 12, 2022 at 2:15 pm
I toss tomatoes not peeled with onion, garlic and herbs in food processor. Put them in a pot adding little olive oil and spice. Cook some. Cool and put sauce in freezer bags and freeze. Very handy for many meals.
MelodieAugust 12, 2022 at 2:16 pm
Oh and I add some tomato paste.
KathySeptember 6, 2021 at 9:52 am
Thank you for the recipe on no-peel, no-seed removal sauce. AND a big thanks for the mason-jars-in-freezer advice. I forgot to add lemon juice to my roasted and seasoned cherry tomato sauce, and instead, transferred to wide-mouth quart mason jars to freeze, per instructions!
gillSeptember 3, 2021 at 3:07 am
I did this with cherry tomatoes and the first time, no issue with skins. The second time, even after an immersion blender, the skins feel like little sticks and are hard to chew. What else can I do? I have an old fashioned food mill, but will be time consuming with the size of the batch. Any other suggestions?
AlanAugust 25, 2021 at 11:27 am
In the process of making this now. We have 2 cup jars – so I’m guessing it’s 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per jar? Thanks!
KCJuly 28, 2021 at 11:03 am
I love that someone finally posted tomato sauce without all the work of blanching, cooling, peeling and de-seeding. I have been making this style of tomato sauce for over 20 years. I just clean, quarter and core the tomatoes, toss them into the Vitamix and whiz until no seeds or skins are seen. Then cook down with a bit of salt until desired thickness and proceed to can with a bit of citric acid in boiler-canner. So simple and no wasted food to throw out. So very tasty and sweet….and strictly just tomatoes!
Thank you for posting this.
Jenny JuliesJanuary 14, 2021 at 2:05 am
THIS right here is exactly what I have been looking for! Just the thought of the lengthy canning process has simply been way too overwhelming to me!
I always grow way too many tomatoes so this easy method is a game-changer for me.
Must tomatoes be sliced/blanched for freezing or is it okay to freeze whole in a freezer container? Also, what do you suggest as the length of time it can be kept in the freezer?
Linda LyJanuary 18, 2021 at 1:44 am
You can freeze tomatoes whole! I wrote about that here: https://www.gardenbetty.com/preserving-tomatoes-by-freezing/
As long as your tomatoes are well sealed in a bag or container, they should be good in the freezer for 6 to 12 months, at least.
Layli ShiraniAugust 22, 2020 at 11:38 pm
Hi there, love the idea of using skins and seeds (in the past, I have peeled the tomatoes but retained the seeds). One question: Is there any reason I can’t still use some garlic and olive oil in preparing an otherwise neutral sauce? Also: Any reason not to season with salt? Thanks in advance!
Linda from Garden BettySeptember 5, 2020 at 4:01 am
You can certainly use olive oil and garlic when preparing your sauce. I’d wait until the very end to add salt though, just to make sure you won’t concentrate it as the sauce cooks down.
ggoriJune 12, 2020 at 9:33 pm
Well, traditions, like Italian cooking, are based on many years of experience. They discovered that peel and seeds were not good for you, especially if not well cooked. Why would they go through all that?
Today we know that they contain lectins, proteins dangerous to your gut’s walls. I would not discount traditions so fast…
Linda from Garden BettyJune 30, 2020 at 6:32 am
Whether or not lectins are truly harmful to your health is a complex issue, as they have to be consumed in high concentrations or in isolation, as they are in medical experiments. But tomato sauce is generally cooked anyway, so if you were sensitive to lectins, the simple act of cooking it for your pasta greatly reduces the lectin content.
imtpartyJanuary 14, 2020 at 1:06 am
Thank you for using the term “canning”. I had never heard the term “jarring” until one of the celebrity cooks use it on her show;
ReneeNovember 9, 2019 at 10:15 pm
Hello, I finally washed and cut up mostly green tomatoes, some changing color, and a few red tomatoes. I have them cooling now. I did not remove the skins, and with limited freezer space, I may pick up a few canning jars tomorrow, and try canning the batch. Years past, I would just cook them to sauce, and make lasagna within a week of making the batch. This year, I’ll do something different. I thought about tart pear and apple with green tomatoes as a chutney….. honey, to sweeten, a dash of salt maybe, cardamom, and cinnamon for a holiday pork roast…. ? Thank you for your post. It is encouraging others do similar cooking with tomatoes grown at home. 🙂
imtpartyJanuary 14, 2020 at 1:16 am
Yes yes yes, Renee. It can be a long or short process depending on “water bath” or the pressure cooker. I’ve been canning for about 50 years. The results, though, are great. I’ve canned a lot of different foods.
Use the citric acid for caning tomatoes.. The lemon juice makes the tomatoes to tart and strange tasting!
Marla BrownFebruary 4, 2022 at 11:06 pm
I’ve never canned before but have alot of tomatoes ripe and readyfor harvesting and sadly not enough freezer space. It seems like every recipe I have looked at says you have to peel them before canning due to bacteria on the skin. If you have been canning fir 50 yrs and have always done it that way, then thats good enough for me.
How long do you reccomend processing pint size jars for using the water bath method ?
Marilyn BrownOctober 15, 2022 at 6:12 pm
U should contactUSDA for safe canning methods.or if u have a local county extension or master food preservers.also recommended USDA info is on internet
Brenda LandisOctober 1, 2019 at 12:25 pm
Are you saying that you can water bath can this recipe with peelings? I thought peelings in this method would lead to botulism?
Linda from Garden BettyNovember 22, 2019 at 1:27 am
Yes, you can process these jars in a boiling water bath per the instructions in the recipe. Just make sure you add the bottled lemon juice (as directed), and wash your tomatoes normally before using.
Marilyn BrownOctober 15, 2022 at 6:14 pm
U should contactUSDA for safe canning methods.or if u have a local county extension or master food preservers.also recommended USDA info is on internet you should always peel tomatoes when canning.bacteria lives in the stem end&can be on peelings.you need to prevent botulisim.
Karen BauerSeptember 22, 2019 at 8:03 pm
You’re my hero! Have made 22 quarts of sauce already, peeling each one of those little gems! Now I found YOU! Ball Book of Canning also doesnt say you have to peel them. What a good idea to make a basic sauce which I can “doctor” later!
Mary Beth JourdonnaisSeptember 10, 2017 at 10:10 pm
I have pint jars instead of quart. How much lemon juice to add to pints?
Linda from Garden BettyNovember 9, 2017 at 10:48 pm
Use 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice per pint.
Beth WatkinsAugust 8, 2017 at 1:06 pm
I’ve been chopping up extra tomatoes at the end of each week and freezing them. Could I defrost and use them for canning? Is that safe? Thanks!
Linda from Garden BettyAugust 15, 2017 at 7:00 am
Yes, frozen fruits and vegetables are suitable for canning.
Beth WatkinsAugust 15, 2017 at 11:18 am
KarenJuly 31, 2017 at 7:48 pm
I do the same! No need to fuss with seeding and peeling, I throw in a mix of tomatoes and simmer with a quartered onion, salt and butter (Marcella Hazan’s recipe). Nothing from the grocery store can compare.