Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce


Canning tomato sauce is easier than ever with this step-by-step method.

Tomato Basil Simmer Sauce,
Prep Time:
2 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time:
1 hrs 10 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 40 mins
about 11 cups sauce (6 pints)

When you have an abundance of fresh tomatoes, it’s time to make sauce. And not just any sauce. You want a sauce that’s worthy of the tomatoes that you’ve nurtured in your garden or carefully chosen at your local farmers market. This simple tomato basil sauce recipe shows you how to can tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes and herbs. The recipe makes 6 pints so you’ll have plenty for your favorite pasta or pizza. Just remember to follow the recipe exactly—altering the amount of produce, vinegar, sugar, salt or water could alter the pH and make the recipe unsafe to can.

Customize this easy tomato sauce recipe with roasted garlic or crushed red pepper flakes, depending on your flavor preference. When you're ready to enjoy this simmer sauce, serve it over pasta or as a pizza sauce.

What Is Canning?

Canning is a classic preservation technique that uses boiling water to process jars of food so they are self-stable for up to a year. Preserving food this way is important because boiling water destroys harmful microorganisms, inactivates the food’s enzymes, and vacuum-seals the jars so they are airtight.

Canning Safety Tips

Wash canning jars in hot, soapy water and rinse them well. To sterilize jars, place jars in a boiling-water canner with a rack. Cover with hot tap water. Bring to boiling; sterilize jars for 10 minutes at a steady boil. (For jars that are processed for more than 10 minutes with food in them, you do not need to sterilize them first, but do keep jars hot in simmering water until you're ready to fill them.)


  • 12 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 25 tomatoes), peeled*

  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt or 4 teaspoons salt

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped

  • 1 cup lightly packed assorted fresh herbs (such as oregano, thyme, parsley, or Italian (flat-leaf) parsley), chopped

  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice


  1. Cut peeled tomatoes into chunks and add some of the chunks to the food processor. Cover and process until chopped.

  2. Transfer chopped tomatoes to a 7- to 8-quart nonreactive heavy pot. Repeat chopping remaining tomatoes, in batches, in the food processor. Add all tomatoes to the pot.

  3. Add brown sugar, salt, vinegar, and black pepper to the tomato mixture. Bring to boiling. Boil steadily, uncovered, for 70 to 80 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to about 11 cups and is desired sauce consistency.

  4. Remove from heat; stir in herbs.

  5. Spoon 1 tablespoon lemon juice into each of six hot, clean pint canning jars.

    Test Kitchen Tip: When a canning recipe call for lemon juice, it is best to use bottled lemon juice. The pH of bottled is always spot-on; the pH in fresh lemons may vary too much.

  6. Ladle sauce into jars with lemon juice, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

    Test Kitchen Tip: Headspace is the space between the top of the jar and the top of the contents. It is specified by a recipe to ensure jars seal properly. Measure headspace with a ruler or canning tool from the top of the jar to the top of the contents.

  7. Using a clean, damp cloth, wipe the rims and threads of the jar to remove any residue. Food particles or liquid left on the jar rim might interfere with the seal.

  8. Remove lid from hot water with a magnetic wand or tongs. Place lid on jar and screw on band no more than fingertip-tight (just tight enough that you could turn the band another ¼ to ½ inch tighter with your fingertips). If applied too tightly, the lids might not seal.

  9. Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 35 minutes (start time when water returns to a full boil).

  10. Remove jars when the processing time is up. Do this by turning off the heat and using pot holders to lift up the canner rack and rest the handles on the side of the canner. Allow jars to cool in place for a few minutes on wire racks.

  11. Use a jar lifter to remove jars from canner and set them on a wire rack or a towel placed on the countertop (cold countertops can crack jars). Do not tighten bands. Let cool 4 to 5 hours.

Spicy Simmer Sauce Variation

Stir in 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper with the herbs.

Roasted Garlic Simmer Sauce Variation

Stir in 3 tablespoons chopped roasted garlic with the herbs.

Double Tomato Simmer Sauce Variation

Stir in 1 cup snipped dried tomatoes (not oil-packed) with the herbs.

Roasted Garlic Variation

Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel away the dry outer layers of skin from garlic bulbs, leaving skins and cloves intact. Cut off about 1/2 inch from the pointed top portions, leaving bulbs intact but exposing the individual cloves. Place the garlic bulbs, cut sides up, in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart casserole. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Cover casserole. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until garlic is soft. Remove from oven. When garlic is cool enough to handle, remove garlic cloves from papers by squeezing the bottoms of the bulbs. Chop roasted garlic.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

57 Calories
1g Fat
13g Carbs
2g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 22
Calories 57
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 1g 1%
Sodium 539mg 23%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 34.8mg 174%
Calcium 50.5mg 4%
Iron 0.9mg 5%
Potassium 619mg 13%
Folate, total 40.3mcg
Vitamin B-6 0.2mg

*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.

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