Friday, July 20, 2012

Roasted Garlic and Herb Pasta Sauce

Over the past few canning seasons I've been experimenting with different pasta sauces.  We use a lot of pasta sauce throughout the year, and my goal is to make enough during the summer to get us through.  It is really difficult to make myself go into a grocery store and buy pasta sauce off the shelf when we run out because it is not nearly as good as what we make at home.  The problem with pasta sauce is that it is a bit time consuming as is most everything when it comes to canning tomatoes.  We have experimented with Mrs. Wages Pasta Sauce Mix which is tasty (on par with grocery store sauces) and probably the easiest to make as it just involves a packet and your tomatoes, but it is higher in sodium and has some ingredients that you would'nt add to your sauce at home.  We have also tried a Seasoned Tomato Sauce and a Garden Tomato Sauce, both of which I posted about last year.  Between the two of those, the Garden Tomato Sauce was the easiest to make because it didn't require peeling the tomatoes which, let's face it, is the most time consuming part of the whole sauce-making ordeal.  This year we got 50 pounds of tomatoes and it was a day-long (yet rewarding) process.     

We liked all of these sauces, and we ate them all with no complaints, but this year we wanted to try a new one.  We had a lot of herbs from the garden that needed to be used, and we wanted something more garlicky and a little spicy to go with meatballs, in lasagna, or just mixed with pasta.  We made some of the Seasoned Tomato Sauce because we knew we liked it and made some Roasted Garlic and Herb Pasta Sauce to try.  Turns out, this new sauce is very tasty with lots of fresh herbs and a mellow garlic flavor.  Very good.  It is also a little sweeter than the Garden Tomato Sauce from last year due to a small amount of brown sugar which I think would make this sauce very kid friendly (minus the pepper flakes if spiciness is not desired). 

It begins with peeling the tomatoes.  If you want to see the step-by-step peeling process, go my post from last year.  While you are peeling the tomatoes, you will want to roast about three small heads (heads, not cloves) of garlic.  Do this by removing any excess papery skin from each head of garlic and cutting the pointed end so that you expose the tops of each clove.  Place the heads of garlic in a baking dish, drizzle each of them with a teaspoon or so of olive oil, and cover the dish with foil. Roast them in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes until the garlic is tender.  Once they are cool enough to touch, you can squeeze the garlic out of each head, and you will have a garlicky paste that looks something like this. 

Once your tomatoes are peeled, they need to be pureed to your liking.  We like our sauce a bit smoother, but you could certainly leave it chunkier if you prefer. 

You will also need to gather some fresh herbs.  You will need about two cups of fresh basil and another cup of mixed herbs (I used parsley and oregano). 

Once all of these ingredients are combined and cooked to a thicker sauce consistency, you will end up with a sauce that looks something like this.

Between the two sauces we made, we ended up with 23 pints which should be enough to get us through the year without having to purchase store-bought sauce.  Last year we only canned about 12 pints and ran out before spring, so we are very excited about the larger quantity this year. 

Roasted Garlic and Herb Pasta Sauce- makes 6 pints

This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens Canning magazine.  I added the roasted garlic based on another version from their website.  The original recipe called for 1 tablespoon pepper flakes, but it was plenty spicy with half that amount (which is what I indicated in the recipe below).  If you don't like heat, omit the pepper flakes altogether.  If using the pepper flakes, I suggest adding half of what is in the recipe below and then adding more as you taste.     

12 pounds tomatoes, peeled and pureed to your desired consistency
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup assorted herbs, chopped (I used 3/4 cup parsley and 1/4 cup oregano)
3 Tbsp roasted garlic (about 3 small heads roasted as indicated in post above)
6 Tbsp lemon juice

Prepare your canner, jars, and lids (see Canning Basics on how to do this). 

Place your tomato puree in a large nonreactive pot.  Add the brown sugar, salt, vinegar, and black pepper (do not add pepper flakes at this point).  Bring to a boil and reduce heat, stirring frequently.  Simmer, uncovered, 70-80 minutes until reduced to a desired sauce consistency.  Remove from the heat.  Add the pepper flakes (if using), herbs, and roasted garlic. 

Spoon 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into each pint jar.  Ladle hot sauce into each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace, and wipe rims.  Place sterilized lids and rings on each jar.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes.  Remove to a towel to cool for 24 hours before checking seals, labeling, and storing.



  1. Hi there! Thanks for posting this great recipe. I'm planning on making it this weekend but was wondering if removing the sugar would negatively impact the recipe, chemically speaking.

  2. Fluvial, in the case of this recipe, the sugar does not act as a preservative. You can leave the sugar out but I would taste it before canning just to make sure you like it. A little sugar helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes. Just don't forget to add the lemon juice to each jar as that is necessary to ensure that the sauce is of a high enough acidity level to can safely. Hope you enjoy it. Let me know how it goes!

  3. I have a large family and would want to put this sauce up in quart jars. Would I need to process in a water bath for a longer length of time with quart jars? Thanks for your help.

  4. Deb, I completely understand wanting to put sauce up in larger jars. To put this up in quart jars, you will need to double the lemon juice you put into each jar (pints had 1 Tbsp so quarts will need to have 2 Tbsp). You will then need to increase the processing time to 40 minutes rather than the 35 called for with pints. I hope this helps and that you enjoy the sauce. Just remember to taste it before adding too much of the pepper flakes to make sure you like it.

  5. Virginia,
    This sauce sounds great, have just copied it down and will give it a try next tomato season.I do many dozens of jars of crushed tomatoes,and tomato sauce(ketchup type) and also make lamb mince/tomato bolognaise in the pressure canner which is a real favourite at our place over pasta. You can't beat having a good supply of tomato based products in the pantry.

  6. Ozzibeth, I think you will like the pasta sauce if you try it. There is nothing better than having it on hand for spaghetti, lasagna, calzones, and other goodies. We just canned 25 pints of it on Sunday. We have stopped making the other pasta sauces we used to make in favor of this one. I would love to try your lamb sauce in the pressure canner. I bet it is great. Thanks for following, and I can't wait to check out your blog more too. You have some very interesting projects on there!

  7. Virginia,
    I prefer to use a pressure canner and was going to try out this recipe this week (I too got the Better Homes and Garden mag on canning, I drooled over it )). Do you happen to know the time/pressure for this recipe? I'm thinking 10 pounds, but unsure about the time. Thanks!

  8. Swissmiss, since this recipe was not developed with pressure canning guidelines, I cannot say for certain. I can tell you that the National Center for Home Food Preservation has a spaghetti sauce recipe without meat containing similar ingredients which they indicate must be processed at 10 pounds of pressure (for a weighted gauge) and 11 pounds (for a dial gauge) canner. They indicate 20 minutes for pints or 25 for quarts, and all other recipes I have found online for pressure canned pasta sauce indicated the same pressure and processing time. Of course, don't forget to adjust the pressure accordingly if you are at a higher elevation. Hope this helps.

  9. Hello Virginia! Glad to find this post since I'm literally canning my first batch of anything today!....we have both Roma tomatoes and Sweet 100 Cherry tomatoes growing and with this super warm summer the plants are loaded. Can we mix in some of the cherry tomatoes with the romas? or is it better to find a recipe specifically meant for these little guys. Thanks in advance...Christine

  10. Christine, first of all you are lucky to have so many great tomatoes at your disposal. I would personally stick with the Romas. My concern with the cherry tomatoes would be with the acidity level of the varieties you have. I am not an expert when it comes to cherry tomatoes, but I am fairly sure that some varieties are less acidic than other tomatoes, and this would be a safety concern when canning with them since tomatoes already tend to be on the low-acid side of things. If you want to preserve your cherry tomatoes, you could try freezing them or roasting them (yum). The roasted ones are fantastic and freeze really well. Check out my post about freezing Romas with this link. If you want to freeze cherry tomatoes, you do it the same way but for less time. They also make great roasted tomato pesto which you can also freeze. Go here for that. Hope this helps.

  11. Great recipe, but this isn't safe for boiling water bath. Way too many low-acid ingredients and fresh herbs, and not enough added acid, which with BWB canning could create a lovely environment for botulinum to grow. Pressure can it for safe shelf storage.

    To pressure can:

    1. The lemon juice isn’t necessary unless you want it for taste. (This little amount was probably intended to help acidify the product but again, is NOT enough for BWB.

    2. After finishing the sauce, pressure can it in half-pint or pint jars according to USDA/NCHFP’s recipe for canning peppers for 35 minutes at the appropriate pressure for your elevation.


    1. Don’t use larger than pint jars as NCHFP doesn’t give a tested time for anything more than half-pint or pint jars.

    2. The reason for pressure canning according to NCHFP’s peppers recipe is because NCHFP offers no processing times for pressure canning roasted garlic or mixed fresh herbs. Peppers are the ingredient in this recipe which have the longest pressure canning processing time, so that time is long enough to thoroughly cook the roasted garlic and fresh herbs.

  12. Barb, while I realize that NCHFP does not provide a recipe for pasta sauce which can be canned outside of a pressure canner, this recipe was taken directly from a reliable source of tested canning recipes. The recipe does not contain peppers as you stated, but it does contain roasted garlic and herbs. Because of such ingredients, I talked about and shared the recipe with several sources including my local cooperative extension office before canning. The recipe came from and the garlic was added due to a recommendation on that page as well as from another recipe in their book which adds roasted garlic to a pasta sauce that is almost identical in composition to the one in the link above.

    If you do not feel comfortable canning it in a BWB, by all means pressure can. I disagree with a processing time of 35 minutes in a pressure canner though since the recipe does not actually contain peppers and you were basing the processing time on that ingredient. NCHFP has a spaghetti sauce without meat containing many low acid ingredients which is processed for 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts. Another alternative if you want to double check the safety of a recipe for BWB would be to test it yourself using a pH meter or strips (although strips can be less reliable). Either way, go with what you feel most comfortable with. I will continue to process mine as the directions in the recipe state.

  13. This sauce is absolutely delicious! I made it this morning and am just finishing the canning process now. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Out of curiosity, can you share where we might be able to purchase a reliable pH meter? Thanks!

  14. Thanks, Sarah. I am so glad you liked it. We love this recipe at my house too. Below is a link from Canning Across America. The bottom of the article talks about pH meters and strips and where to purchase.

    Amazon also sales a inexpensive meters as low as $14.99. I know some people say the cheaper ones are not as great, but I feel that an inexpensive one is fine if you don't want to invest too much since it is only being used occasionally.

  15. Thanks so much! By the way, we cannot begin to tell you how much we love this recipe. I just had some for dinner tonight - such a treat to have delicious homemade sauce in late December. I can't see why we would ever try another recipe!

  16. So glad you like it, Sarah! I have tried several pasta sauces through the years, but this one is my favorite. It goes well in so many dishes.

  17. Thank you for your post - I'm obviously coming late to the process, but I have a (hopefully) quick question. Can I use recycled jars rather than buying particular types? I've noticed some people say to put them in the oven beforehand to sterilize them. Is this in addition to using a boiling bath or as a replacement?

    Thank you!