The simplest sauce

I didn’t grow up with home-canned spaghetti and pizza sauce. Up until several years ago when I started making my own, I was content to add a couple cans of plain, store-bought tomato sauce to a pot of sauteed onions, garlic, green peppers, and herbs. It worked, and I was happy.

But then I started experimenting with my own sauce and promptly fell in love with both the method and the results. It’s a slow process, and not a very pretty one, truth be told, one that involves buckets of sweat and boatloads of dirty dishes. Broken down, the process goes like so: the tomato picking (or acquiring), the blanching, peeling, and coring, the chopping, simmering, and pureeing, and then, of course, the canning. If you’re making a pizza or spaghetti sauce, there’s also the onions, garlic, and peppers to clean, chop, and saute, the fresh herbs to gather, clean, chop, and measure, and so on and so on, till your kitchen walls are redly be-speckled and you’re swearing under your breath.

I totally understand why some people might be daunted. Heck, I’m daunted some days.

And yet, I still do it. Keeping one eye cocked on the lazily simmering pot of tomatoes as it reduces, playing chemist with fresh and dried herbs, ladling the final product into pint jars—it’s a process packed with satisfaction, dirty kitchen be damned.

Over the past couple days, I’ve been experimenting with some new tomato sauces. My friend (I think she took pity on me after looking at pictures of our dismal garden) called me up to see if I wanted two five-gallon buckets of tomatoes. Well, duh, yes.

The day she called, I had gleaned several pounds of tomatoes from our pathetic garden and was already experimenting with SouleMama’s carrot tomato soup, so when the buckets of tomatoes landed in my lap, I happily branched out to experiment with a new pizza sauce (more on that later) and this roasted tomato sauce.

It’s the simplest sauce I’ve made to date, so listen up, people. There are only three steps.

1. Roast: toss halved tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them in a hot oven for three-quarters of an hour.

2. Blend: whiz them up with a hand-held immersion blender (Eh? You have not a magic kitchen wand? Fool! Cheapskate! You mocketh the culinary arts with your inauthentic wizardry! Take thyself to a kitchen store and buy one henceforth! Now, away with you!)

3. Can: ladle into mason jars and process in a hot water bath.

Attention Weary Kitchen Workers! Please note, there is no blanching, no peeling, and no stove-top reducing. Verily, I tell you, straighten your aching shoulders and attack those last few tomatoes with renewed vigor! Hark, your job is nearly done! Delicious sauce will soon be yours.

And is it ever delicious, oh my. Thanks to the time in the oven, the sauce is richly flavored and caramel-y sweet. It’s gorgeous, too—a dark red, flecked with bits of black from the tomatoes’ blistered backs. Vibrant, musky, sexy, oo-la-la, and yum. It’s all of that, and more.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

I add citric acid (purchased in the canning section of my grocery store) to the jars when canning as a precaution against the olive oil’s neutralizing qualities; if you omit the oil (but don’t!—it tastes so good), there is no need for the acid.

8-9 pounds paste tomatoes, washed, cored, and halved
½ cup olive oil
sea salt
½ – 1 teaspoon black pepper
citric acid, to add to the jars before/if canning

Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and pepper. Divide them between two large baking sheets and bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through. The pans will fill up with tomato juice (careful when turning!) and some of the tomato tops will blister black.

Dump the roasted tomatoes into a large stock-pot and whiz well with an immersion blender. Or, if you no magic kitchen wand, you can get the job done with a blender. (If, by any chance, your sauce isn’t as thick as you’d like, now’s the time to cook it down a bit more—simply cook on low heat, stirring every few minutes.)

Season well (I added another tablespoon of salt, a little at a time, tasting after each addition) and ladle the sauce into jars. Add citric acid (½ teaspoon for quart jars, 1/4 teaspoon for pints), wipe the rims, lid, and process the jars in a water bath—once the water boils, allow 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.

Yield: approximately 6 pints

This same time, years previous: apple crisp topping, pasta with sauteed peppers and onions


  • Sara Rose Nissen

    Magic Kitchen Wand; I want. Does it also do dishes and windows??

    Righteous sauce BTW. I dig it. Thanks for the recipe. 🙂

  • kerri

    I'm curious. If I can this sauce according to your recipe, would I need to add herbs/spices and simmer it to use as pizza sauce or do you use it as pizza sauce straight from the jar? I'm excited to try this…so tired of blanching and peeling tomatoes at this point in the season!

    • Jennifer Jo

      Kerri, This sauce still needs the spices.

      But actually, I'm writing about my favorite pizza sauce recipe, made with this method, for this week's newspaper column! I'll post it here later this week.

      For a sneak preview, go to this link ( and scroll down to the end. The last recipe (the roasted tomato and garlic pizza sauce) is what I use all the time.

    • Anonymous

      Just about to start this with 10 kilos of romas when I realized my oven isn't working! Aarrrggghhhhh! Might have to try another method since they probably won't wait for the repairman. Time to try the butter-onion recipe on this website from some time ago…

  • Anonymous

    I discovered a similar recipe to this earlier this year. I actually roast my onions, garlic and fresh or dried herbs right along with my tomatoes. My romas aren't doing to well in the garden this year, but my cherry tomatoes are going gangbusters and my beefsteak ones are right behind them. For the cherries, I simply remove any green stems and toss 'em in the pan. For the beefsteaks, I halve or quarter them, remove the core and give them a squeeze over a mesh colander in a bowl. This removes a good portion of the seeds and extra juice. Sometimes I do have to scoop it out with a spoon. I toss it all with olive oil, salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs of choice and a dash of balsamic vinegar and roast away. The cherry tomatoes give it a sweeter flavor than just the beefsteak or romas alone. My usually comes out orange too, but it tastes so fresh and bright I don't care. The juice that drains off when I squeeze the tomatoes becomes fresh tomato juice to use or freeze. You can also drain the extra juice off after roasting, but be sure to save it to use in soups and such.

  • Lorri

    As far as using on-Roma tomatoes with this: I've just made 2 batches using a mixture of tomatoes – most looked like slicer or general-use varieties. They are all juicier than Romas, which are a paste variety. My results are very nice but juicer than what she has here. I did have to separate out the juices after I diced them, and again after I roasted them. I've saved those because I like to use 'tomato drippings' for beef marinades in the winter.


  • Anonymous

    I modified this recipe today and oh my it looks good and so easy. I roasted my garden ripe Romas in the oven with olive oil, salt and black pepper. Then I ran them through my food processor (I have an 8 cup one) until all the skins were gone. Then i heated the sauce in a stock pot and added the following: oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, basil, parsley and sugar. Then I jarred it and cooked in pressure cooker. Viola! It is wonderful. Can't want to "unjar" it and try it out. Tasted good going in anyway.

  • Marie

    Made it, and it tastes amazing! I used Roma tomatoes because at the time I wasn't really sure what a paste tomato was but had seen a lot of other recipes call for Roma. I do have 1 question, your pictures are MUCH redder than mine. Is that because of the type of tomato? Mine came out orange. Not really red at all, but it tastes wonderful.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Were the tomatoes from the store, or were they vine-ripened? If from the store, they might be a more pallid red and thus the orange color. Otherwise, I'm not sure. As long as it tastes good, you're probably fine…

  • Marie

    Inauthentic wizardry? You think your grandma had a handy dandy kitchen wand? Sounds like a delicious recipe, but I'm not running out to buy a kitchen wand just for pureeing tomatoes. I'll stick to the blender.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Anonymous, Yes, you can freeze it, though it may get a little watery (but nothing a little cooking won't fix). I prefer jars (only 3/4 full), but bags would work too.

    (And FYI, my husband is almost NEVER away—I couldn't get half the stuff done if he were, either. Be easy on yourself…)

  • Anonymous

    ok…i still haven't figured out how to juggle preserving food with 3 children 6 and under in tow and hubby away a lot with his job….so, i was thinking the lazy way out would be to freeze a lot. can i freeze this recipe? can i do it in glass jars or should i stick to ziplock bags? i pray i can get to where you are one day, but i guess i have to look at what i have done. Thanks!

  • Jennifer Jo

    Anonymous, Feel free to email me using the "contact" button on the sidebar. I'd love to talk nectarines with you. It's what I'm doing today.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jennifer Jo. I apreciate your quick response. I read a few more of your posts and realize youre a busy lady! Understatement! I look forward to eating yummy tomato sauce.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, I look forward to eating yummy tomato sauce! I should be getting more tomatoes today. In the mean time, I'm going to can nectarines and make nectarine butter. I have questions about that as well, but not sure this is the location to ask about that. Anyway, thanks for your tips.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Anonymous, Congrats on making the sauce!

    1. Yes, I think I use less salt than what I called for in the recipe. I put 1 teaspoon of salt per large pan and then once I blend up the sauce, season to taste.

    2. For the scorching, just watch them closely. You can move the tomatoes around if you need to. My edges always burn, but I blend it up anyway—I like the flavor.

    3. Um, not sure on this one. My cousin said she made the sauce without the acid, too, but she was using heirloom tomatoes and they have a higher acidity. If it's a bunch of sauce, I suppose you could recan it (ugh), or if it's just a few jars, quick make a bunch of chili for the freezer. Maybe?

  • Anonymous

    I tried this recipe! Yay! I'm a tomato sause maker, beginner, so I need a few pointers. My first batch came out yummy, but a but, a bit salty. I'll have to reduce the salt at the last step. Second, since I don't have cookie sheets, I used 2 cake pans. The sides came out scorched. Any suggestions on how to reduce getting the pan scorched? And third, I forgot to add citric acid. How long will these caned tomatoes last?

  • Jennifer Jo

    Emily, I add citric acid to counter the oil, but vinegar would work, too. I made it last year and we ate it all through the winter and spring with no ill effects. It's my favorite tomato sauce, by far! Good luck!

  • Emily

    Any reassurance that the acid level is ok for regular hot water canning in this recipe? I also like to put in white balsamic vinegar, so I'm considering using that in place of the other acid options, but still concerned about the oil.


  • Marie M.

    Oh boy, Dr. P. do I have a bone to pick with you. First, I worked outside my home for many years. I always cooked for my family. I was gone for 12 hours but with proper planning you can put great home cooked food on your table. I did take off several years when our son was born and it was worth every minute. I counted every penny and would never change it for millions.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Ginger, I think you could freeze it. Sometimes tomato products get watery when frozen, but seeing as this sauce is well-cooked (roasted) and fairly thick, I think it should be fine. If you do it, report back…

  • Janelle

    So glad to have found this post! My sauce is already done for this year, but I wanted to do some kind of salsa/taco sauce, so I took this idea and added jalapenos (whole, just pulled the stems off before I blendered) garlic and onions. I used my turkey baster to suck up some of the juices after baking awhile and used that piping hot liquid to rehydrate some dried New Mexico chili peppers. Added some cumin and oregano and blendered the whole shebang! I am sooo doing this again! I never had to don rubber gloves, and the taste is great! My hubby came in during the roasting and was loving the smell! I am imagining how it will taste with some sour cream and tortilla chips… BTW, your pictures are lovely! Thanks for posting! 🙂

  • Stephanie from

    Looks like and easy and tasty sauce. Do you peel the skins before processing?

    PS – how awesome is it to have friends who give you food – I got my fair share of figs this year from a neighbour – and made 7 recipes with them!!

  • Zoë

    Oh my stars. I just tasted some of the sauce my mom made. Heaven on a noodle. There is a batch in my oven as I type. I am WAY too excited for it to be finished. Maybe I'll make some pizza dough yet this afternoon.

  • Aimee @ Simple Bites

    I'm going to make time for several pints of this. It looks tooooo good and you have inspired me.

    Rock on! Looking forward to the pizza sauce. 😉

    (What is up with Dr.P?) Obviously we do with less so we can stay at home. A double income looks attractive on paper, but as anon stated, the memories are priceless.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! I have been making sauce the old way for years, but when faced with three huge baskets of tomatoes thought I would try the roasting. (Although it was 90 degrees here in Ontario Canada.) It turned out great and not nearly as messy or watery as my old way of doing the sauce. The seeds do stay in, but the effortless way is worth it! Great flavour.

  • Anonymous

    In answer to Dr. P. It is a luxury to stay home and have the time to make tomato sauce and play with your children and give them the greatest gift of all — your time. I did it and gave up many of the things others take for granted. We had one car (old), ate lots of peanut butter sandwiches, lived frugally. Believe me, I'd do it again in a minute. My memories of those years are priceless.

    p.s. I keep threatening to buy me one of those magic wand blenders. Now I think I will break down and get one — if only for this sauce. Did you squeeze the seeds out? I loath tomato seeds.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Oh, MOOOOTHER Dearest! I can spy you a mile away, thanks to your flapping hands. Humph.

    Reheated means 75 degrees C, or bubbling gently for three minutes (with stirring) or baking in a hot oven. Happy now?

  • Anonymous

    Oh no, the emergency room people, in the case of botulin, would flap their hands in despair and call for the gurneys.

    (Also, reheated doesn't mean just made bubbly.)

    Guess Who

  • Anonymous

    Read the blog, made the sauce. So simple. In the hot water bath as I type! I will do all my end of season tomatoes this way! Thanks!

    L. in Elkton

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it is a luxury Dr P. Or maybe it is a way of life chosen for the good of the family while giving up luxuries that are seen by many as necessities.

    However you look at it is ain't easy. Sometimes downright difficult.

  • dr perfection

    you people who have the luxury to stay home and cook all day for people who like to eat…I hope you appreciate that it IS a luxury.