From Arugula to Ziti: Tomato Sauce for Winter

It’s only recently that I’ve started canning in earnest, and I have to say I’m a bit addicted to the “canvolution.” Like many of the culinary pastimes that I’ve adopted over the past few years, canning takings time, energy and emotional commitment to stand near a hot oven while food processes. But the reward—getting to taste the peak of summer (and in many cases, the peak of my garden) in the middle of winter—is huge.

This tomato sauce, which uses fresh tomatoes, garlic, onion, herbs, habaneros and banana peppers, tastes like harvest to me. The flavors are fresh and rich, and when combined with my favorite pasta and a little roasted eggplant, it is perfect. Eating the leftovers from canning a large batch of pasta sauce, I couldn’t help but look forward to those cold January nights when I’ll pull out a jar full of homemade, homegrown sauce and remember what September feels like.

Tomato Sauce for Winter

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 large white onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
10 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 banana peppers, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped
2 habaneros (optional), with 1/2-inch slits sliced into the sides
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh oregano, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice from 1 lemon
6 (12-ounce) mason jars, with lids and bands

In a large pot, heat the oil and butter. Add the onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until translucent. Add tomatoes, peppers and herbs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add vegetable stock, wine, vinegar, salt and pepper. Let simmer for one hour. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as necessary. Add lemon juice.

About an hour before you want to can, fill two large pots with water. I recommend that you use some canning equipment, at the very least a large pot with a rack and a pair of tongs. You’ll need a separate pot for sterilizing the jars and lids. Bring both pots of water to a boil. Place the jars and lids (not the screw bands) in one pot. Boil, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes, but keep the jars and lids in the pot until right before you fill them.

Use a spoon to fill the jars with sauce, leaving 1/4 inch of room at the top. Use a spoon to make sure there are no bubbles in the jar, and adjust the headspace (the space between the sauce and the top of the jar) as needed. Wipe the rim with a sterile cloth. Place a sterilized lid on the jar and screw the band on tightly. Set aside and repeat with all of the jars.

Place the jars on a canning rack that will fit in a pot of boiling water. Lower the rack into the pot of boiling water and process the jars for 30 minutes. Remove them from the water and (here’s the hardest part) wait for the ping. When they first come out of the water, the jar should pop up and down, but when the jars seals you won’t be able to pop the jar anymore. Some jars will seal immediately, some will take a little longer and some may not at all. If jars fail to seal, store them in the fridge for up to two weeks. The jars that do seal, however, will keep in a cool, dark space for up to a year.

Elena Rosemond-Hoerr is a writer and photographer and can be found on her own website,

Have you ever tried canning? Chime in below!

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