Garden Fresh Marinara Sauce

Isn’t it amazing that you can plant a $4 pack of tomatoes seedlings in the spring and Vine to Spaghetti sauceget 100’s of vine fresh tomatoes a couple of months later?  Garden fresh food is hands down the most amazing thing to cook with.  You can take a stroll across your yard and pluck ripe vegetables  & herbs right off the vine.  And if you love to cook, with a small amount of patience and a little work you can turn a ripe tomato into homemade spaghetti sauce!

What you need:

  • 20-24 large Roma tomatoes
  • 4 large garlic gloves peeled and cut in ½
  • 2 tablespoons tomatoes paste
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh basil
  • EVOO
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red pepper flakes if you like a little heat!

What you do:

  • Wash & remove the core from the tomatoes, set aside.
  • Bring large pot of water to a boil.
  • In small batches, drop the tomatoes into the water and boil until the skin starts to naturally peel.
  • Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and drop them into an ice bath.
  • Remove the skins from the tomatoes.
  • Repeat the above 2 steps until all tomatoes are peeled.
  • Crush the tomatoes using your hands until they are in small chunks.
  • Add EVOO to a large stockpot pan and sauté garlic for 30 seconds.  Do not burn!
  • Add tomato paste and stir until combined, about 3 seconds.
  • Add tomatoes, fresh basil, pinch of sugar, red pepper flakes and season with salt & pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil.
  •  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45-60 minutes until reduced and sauce is thickened (make sure you boil the water out otherwise it’s really runny).
  • Remove basil stems and large chunks of garlic.
  • Optional: Let the sauce cool and puree in a food processor or blender if you like your sauce smoother vs. Chunky.

Canned tomatoes!

After 3 years of making canned salsa, I thought I’d try my luck at canning some 

tomatoes.  The ladies at the VFV stand where I buy my heirloom tomatoes for caprese salads, also sell tomato seconds.  Those are perfect for canning because you can get them for cheaper and in bulk.  Since you are peeling and canning them, don’t need picture perfect tomatoes.  You can just cut off all the ugly and save a few bucks. 

I went to the VFW stand on a Saturday and asked about buying some in bulk.  They said they could hand-pick me some fresh ones Sunday morning.  Umm…OK.  I wasn’t totally prepared to do it that weekend, but thought I would buckle down and make it happen.  The only question I had to answer was “Do you want a 1/2 bushel or full bushel?”.  I instantly responded with full bushel…obviously.  Now in my head, I was thinking a bushel was the size of one of those cute little baskets you get apples in at the orchard.  Little did I know the size in my head DID NOT match the actual size of a bushel.  When I went to pick them up, she pulled out a bankers box packed full with beautiful tomatoes!  She even said she gave me extra including some heirloom seconds because she didn’t want them to go to waste.  Then she said, “I’ll go get the other box.”  Wait, WHAT?!?  Another box?  In my head I had a moment of panic (Holy crap.  Another Box.  How the hell am I going to can all these tomatoes in one day, ALONE, and watch the Vikings game.  I don’t have enough jars.  Crap. I have to go back to Walmart and buy more. What did I get myself into).  When she came back with another box, she looked at my 12 quart jars and said “You’re going to need more jars”.  Yeah, ya think!?!?

When I got home with an overwhelming 70 pounds of tomatoes, I stared at them for a good 5 minutes processing the amount of work I had ahead of me.  But then, I got down to it.  It ended up taking me 7 hours to wash, blanch, core, peel, smash, fill and boil the jars to seal.  Worth it?  I’m sure it will be when I have farm fresh tomatoes for spaghetti sauce and chili in the middle of an ice-cold MN winter!  


  • There are many of variations of how to can tomatoes out there.  I combined a couple into one and it seemed to work well.  
  • Buy more jars than you think you will need.  You can always return what you don’t use.  The last thing you want to do go back to the store in the middle of canning them.

What you need:

  • Tomatoes
  • Jarred Lemon Juice
  • Salt
  • Canning Supplies (Jars, Lids, Seals, Large pot to boil jars & blanch tomatoes)

What you do:

  • Take a deep breath, you are in for a long haul.
  • Run your jars and lids through a dishwasher to sterilize them.  Keep hot in dishwasher until ready to use.
  • Place the rack in the bottom of your large stockpot. Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil. 
  (The pot must be large enough so the jars can be submerged leaving at least one inch of water above them.) 
  • Fill your smaller blanching pot with water and bring to a boil. 

  • Fill another bowl with ice water.
  • Once the smaller blanching pot of water has come a boil, blanch the tomatoes in batches of 4 or 5 for 1-2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes from the blanching water and drop them into the ice water.

    Tons ‘O Pots!

  • Remove tomatoes from ice water.  Remove core and peel them.  The peel should slide right off.  If it doesn’t, drop the tomato back in boiling water and then ice water. 

    Ice Water Bath

  • Put the peeled, cored tomatoes into a large pot and smash them up into small chunks using your hands (using your hands is less messy than chopping them with a knife.  Plus, you don’t loose any of the juice).
  • Once you have filled the pot with smashed tomatoes, bring them to a simmer on the stove top.  Let simmer for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Add two tablespoons of lemon juice to each quart jar. 

  • Fill jars with tomatoes leaving ½ inch of head space in each jar.
  • Add 1-teaspoon salt to the top.
  • Remove any air bubbles from inside the jars using a wooden spoon or jarring tool.
  • Using a clean kitchen towel or a paper towel, wipe down the rims of the jars. 

  • Place lids on the jars and screw on the rings (don’t tighten those rings too much). 

  • Using jar lifters or tongs (the jar lifter is well worth the investment!!!), gently lower the jars into the large stockpot with boiling water.
  • Once all the jars are in the pot, put a lid on it and boil the jars for 45 minutes.
  • When the time is up, remove the jars from the pot with the jar lifters.  BE CAREFULL!!
  • Place them on a towel and allow them to cool. The lids should make an audible popping sound as they seal.
  • Once the jars are cool, test the seal by gently tapping the lid. It should hold tight and be concave.
  • If you have as many tomatoes as I did, you will need to repeat the process above over and over.  I would get the tomatoes jarred, drop them in the water and then start over while one batch is processing.  The processing time of 45 minutes seemed to be enough time to blanch, peel and jar the next round!

    70 pounds + 7 hours = 12 quarts


P.S. This is what my husband did during my canning adventure (Burton + Miller Lite + Vikings Game = Happy Hubby):

 P.S.S. This is what I did after my canning adventure (Burton + Chardonnay + Smut T.V. = Happy Wife):

Canned Salsa

What’s my inspiration?

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes!  Any Farmers market in the late summer has tomatoes galore and although this is a belated post, I wanted to share.  I make tons of Pico de Gallo in the summer, but wanted a way to preserve the goodness year round.  I haven’t canned a thing in my life so this was new to me.  Luckily, my mother in law was also thinking of canning salsa so we took the opportunity to try this together.  The results?  A tasty batch of salsa sitting in my cupboards that I can enjoy through the cold winter months.  I suppose you could follow this recipe with grocery store ingredients anytime of the year, but I would advice you keep this recipe in mind for next Farmers Market season and give it a try.  It was super fun and a very gratifying experience!  For me, there was a major sense of accomplishment when the cans ACTUALLY sealed.  Next year I hope to try my hand at canning other farm fresh produce.

What you need:

  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 banana peppers, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, chopped (use seeds for more heat or remove seeds for less heat)
  • 3 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 – 6 ounce cans tomato paste
  • ¾ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 4 garlic cloves diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1-tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • 8 pint canning jars with lids and rings


  • Plan an extra 1-2 hours to chop everything…it takes a while!
  • We put ¼ cup brown and white sugar in.  It was good, but a little too sweet for my taste.  I reduced the amount in the recipe above.  If you like a sweeter salsa, add more sugar.
  • If you want to make ½ the salsa mild and ½ hot, use 2 pots and add more jalapeño and cayenne pepper to the “hot” salsa pot.  Just make sure to label the jars when you can the salsa.
  • Don’t like red, yellow or white onion?  Use all the same kind!
  • Don’t like green pepper?  Use red, orange or yellow!
  • You get the point; if you don’t like something, substitute something else or omit it.

What you do:

  • Combine all ingredients in 1 or 2 large pots depending on the size.
  • Simmer on stove until thick, about 3 hours.
  • Sterilize the jars and lids:  this can be done in boiling water for 5 minutes OR in a dishwasher.
  • Pack the salsa into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top.
  • Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles.
  • Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.
  • Fill large stockpot halfway with water.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, and then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2-inch space between the jars.

    Salsa Jars in Water


  • Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars.
  • Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 12 – 15 minutes.
  • Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool.
  • Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all).
  • Refrigerate after opening.