Making tomato sauce

Fresh tomato sauce, canned and ready for winter!

So what did you do this past Labour Day weekend? I was lucky enough to be invited by some Italian friends to a “tomato making” party so I spent my Saturday making fresh tomato sauce with some Italian friends. It was so much fun to participate and to watch such a tradition taking place. Six hours of labour but such a beautiful and delicious end result: 115 liters of tomato sauce! I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Here’s how to make this easy and lovely sauce that will surely get you through the gloomiest of winter days.

Preparing the jars:

  • If you’re reusing some of your old mason jars, you must nonetheless buy new seals
  • Wash the jars in the dishwasher at the hottest setting to get them ready. Do not wash the seals!
  • Reserve the jars (unsealed) until ready to use
  • When ready to use, warm the jars up in the oven at a very low temperature
How to can tomatoes at home

How to can tomatoes at home

Cooking the tomatoes:

  • Wash the tomatoes (photo 2)
  • Hull then cut them into big chunks (remove the bad spots) (photo 3)
  • Place them in your pot and turn the heat on on medium (photo 4)
  • Stir often so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot (photo 5)
  • Once it comes to a boil, skim the foam that will form at the surface and keep skimming until it doesn’t form anymore (photo 6)
  • Let the tomatoes cook at a rolling boil for about 10 minutes then you’re ready to start filling up your jars!


  1. Place one or two leaves of basil in each jar
  2. Fill up each jar until about 1/2″ from the top making sure the tomato chunks are covered with some sauce at the top
  3. Make sure the rim of the jar is clean of any chunks before you seal tightly (but not too tightly)
  4. Place the jars somewhere where the temperature will not drop drastically overnight. Cover the jars with a blanket. You’ll probably hear a few of them “pop” already which means that they are sealing
  5. Check on all the jars the next morning by pressing on the top to make sure it’s sealed. If the top doesn’t cave in, then it’s sealed
  6. If some of them haven’t popped, place them on a wire rack inside a big pot, cover them with water and “cook” them in this water bath for about 1/2 hour

Using the sauce:

  1. When you’re ready to use your fresh tomato sauce, open a jar of tomatoes, empty it in a bowl and blend it until smooth with an immersion blender (or in a blender)
  2. Sauté an onion and some garlic
  3. Add the tomatoes, season with salt, and let it simmer on low heat for about an hour so it reduces a bit
  4. Add fresh herbs and your sauce is ready to use with pasta, meat, etc.
  5. You can also cook meatballs or Italian sausage directly in the sauce while it’s simmering

And the best part of this whole 6-hour process? I mean other than the many tomato jars we produced? Enjoying a true feast at the end of the day. Pasta fagioli made with the fresh tomato sauce, sausage, meatballs, salumi from Italy, etc. Thank you Sandro for the amazing food!


If you’re going to be making tomatoes like an Italian, all of yous need to learn a few terms. So here are the right terms to use while “making tomatoes” (thanks to Marcella for these)

English = Italian = Italian from Quebec dialect

Tomato = Pomodoro = I  tomat’
Jar = Bottiglia = Boucatch
Sauce = Salsa
Chop = Tagliare = Tai – lheh
Mix = Mescolare = Meeshk
Skim = Schiumare = Shkoom


A few words of wisdom for all of you who will be brave enough to take on such an endeavour.

  1. You will get a few calluses and blisters from the repetitive actions of hulling and chopping the tomatoes
  2. Ah the smell of tomatoes, it’s nice, right? Wrong! Not when your hair, clothes, skin, car, etc. start smelling like tomatoes! You will want to run home and bathe just as soon as you are done
  3. Cuts, burns, bruises and soiled clothes are all part of this fun game so be careful out there kids!
  4. If you’re doing this outdoors or in an open, fully equipped garage like a true Italian, you will attract some bees and wasps. You’ve been warned!


  1. 1 bushel of tomatoes yields about 20 liters of tomato sauce. We bought ours from the Birri Brothers at the Jean Talon market, who, in my opinion, have some of the best produce in Montreal and their tomatoes are sweet, ripe and just perfect for this sauce
  2. Use Italian Roma tomatoes to make this sauce, any other kind would not hold up to the heat and will not yield a nice sauce
  3. The sauce will keep in your pantry for a couple of years

Now is the perfect time of year to make these. The markets are overflowing with beautiful tomatoes so gather some friends (and your courage) and go ahead. I promise you’ll have fun and you’ll be so glad you did it when those cold winter nights come around and you’re in need of some sunshine…

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