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The Best Marinara Sauce

Total Time

Prep: 1 hour + simmering Process: 40 min


9 cups

I developed this recipe with a friend to make the most of a bumper crop of tomatoes. Now we like to make huge batches—we’re talking 220-pounds-of- tomatoes huge—and then give jars along with a pound of pasta as gifts around the holidays. Knowing this sauce is made from the heart with the best possible ingredients makes me feel good about giving it to my family and friends. —Shannon Norris, Cudahy, Wisconsin


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic, divided
  • 12 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 cups water
  • 1-1/4 cups minced fresh basil, divided
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh oregano
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice


  1. In a stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add tomatoes, water and 1/2 cup basil; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until tomatoes are completely broken down and soft, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  2. Press tomato mixture through a food mill into a large bowl; discard skins and seeds. Return tomato mixture to stockpot; add 1/2 cup of remaining basil, oregano and remaining garlic. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until thickened, 3-1/2 to 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and remaining 1/4 cup of basil; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice to each of 3 hot 1-1/2-pint jars. Ladle hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.
  4. Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 40 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Test Kitchen Tips
  • If you have another method for canning, feel free to use it with this recipe. Shannon prefers steam canning over water bath canning, especially when working with a large volume. Just be sure to double-check that your method results in a food-safe seal.
  • Be sure to start off with fresh whole tomatoes—seeds, skin and all. Not only does this save you the step of peeling and deseeding, but it adds a lot of flavor to the sauce.
  • This is one of the only times bottled lemon juice is preferred over fresh. This is because bottled lemon juice has a standard pH that is more reliable in canning than a fresh lemon.Check out 37 old-world Italian dishes where you can use this sauce.
  • Nutrition Facts

    3/4 cup: 131 calories, 4g fat (1g saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 348mg sodium, 22g carbohydrate (13g sugars, 6g fiber), 5g protein.