When you have too many tomatoes…make some sauce!

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MILWAUKEE -- What do you say when you have too many tomatoes? Make some tomato sauce! Master Preserver Christina Ward joins Real Milwaukee with her basic tomato sauce recipe from her latest book Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation and Dehydration

Recipe: Basic Italian Tomato Sauce (Pomodori Verdi or Green Tomato Sauce)

Total Preparation Time: 2 hours
Special Equipment: Conical sieve or Vittorio tomato strainer
How Long Before Use: 1 day
Headspace: 1/2 inch
Process time: 35 minutes
Jars: 16-ounce, 32-ounce
Yield: 6–8 32-ounce jars

Note: This recipe makes a simple ‘ragu-style’ tomato sauce that can be used as is or serve as a base for more complex recipes. This is the only tomato sauce that can be processed in a hot-water bath canner; recipes containing vegetables render this sauce low-acid and must be pressure-canned. Dried and powdered spices are used to add flavor without drastically affecting the overall acidity of the sauce. Paste varieties of tomato have less juice and more pulp which works best for sauce and paste. Try Amish Paste, Roma, Jersey Devil, and the mother of all paste tomatoes—the San Marzanos.


  • 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice must be added to each prepared jar prior to filling with sauce.
  • 32 cups of tomatoes, measured after chopping (about 25 pounds or half-bushel)
  • ¼ cup dried oregano
  • ¼ cup dried parsley
  • ¼ cup dried basil
  • ¼ cup garlic powder
  • ¼ cup onion powder
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons 100% pure salt
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Water


  1. Wash and rough-chop tomatoes.
  2. In large stockpot, place tomatoes. (Use two stockpots if needed!) Splash 1 cup of water into stockpot to cover bottom of pot. (Add another cup of water to the second pot if using.) Over medium heat, cook until tomato skins begin to peel back and they release juice.
  3. Using Vittorio tomato strainer or conical sieve, press cooked tomatoes through strainer to remove seeds and grind skins. Do in batches until complete.
  4. In large, non-reactive stockpot, pour sieved puree and remaining ingredients.
  5. Over medium heat, simmer for approximately 30 minutes. Stir frequently. Simmer longer for thicker sauce.
  6. Place 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice into each prepared jars. Ladle sauce into jars. Put on lids and process in hot water bath canner, freeze, or place in refrigerator for short-term storage. (See canning instructions below.)

You can adjust the spices included in this recipe to suit your personal tastes as long as the total measurements do not exceed the totals in the recipe. This recipe easily becomes Pomodori Verdi or Green Tomato Sauce if you substitute the ripe red tomatoes for green tomatoes and use a white balsamic vinegar.

Step-by-Step Review of the Canning Process:

  1. Clean and prep jars by washing with very hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly in hot water. Do not dry. Immediately use OR instead of hand-washing, run jars in a dishwasher on sanitize cycle.
  2. Place lids into boiling hot water. This softens or ‘activates’ the rubber edge on the lid.
  3. Pour food into hot, drained jars. Leave correct headspace as directed in the recipe. Headspace is the air left between the jelly and the rim of the jar, necessary to set the seal.
  4. Carefully wipe rims of jars to remove drips. Place lids on jars.
  5. Place bands on jars and “finger tighten.” As soon as you feel the natural resistance of the band on the jar when turning, stop.
  6. Place jars into boiling water processor. Jars should be on the rack and not touching the bottom of the canning pot.
  7. Process for the time listed in the recipe. Timing begins when the water in the canner is at a full boil. 8. Remove jars from canner. Place jars on flat counter/table surface and let them cool 24 hours.


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