Grandma’s Inspired Tomato Sauce: The Base for a Plethora of Delicious Dishes

Grandma’s Inspired Tomato Sauce: The Base for a Plethora of Delicious Dishes
By Terri Rozema
Plus: Terri’s Tasty Marinara

This canned tomato sauce inspired by an Italian Grandmother is as simple as it gets, for a good reason. Using tomatoes as a base, you can create endless scrumptiousness, such as Marinara, bolognese, vodka, pizza and clam sauces, vegetable juice, cioppino, Manhattan chowder, gazpacho, and more.

As seen in the photo, my tomatoes (most likely) are greener than yours. I wanted to photograph the process so that you could visually journey from garden to kitchen to jar, but decided against it because most tomatoes are ripe and ready to go. So, let’s get our tomatoes on.

Heirloom plum/paste tomatoes are ideal because they are less watery and denser. Incorporate a wide variety of tomatoes for a more flavorful sauce.

Inspired Tomato Sauce - produces roughly 7 quarts of sauce

You will need: 

  • Water-bath canner
  • Canning jar lifter
  • Wide-mouth funnel
  • Lid lifter
  • Canning bubble popper
  • Large colander(s)
  • 7 Ball Regular Mouth quart canning jars with lids and tops
  • Stainless steel food mill or an electric tomato press
  • Large stainless steel stockpot
  • 45 pounds of organic heirloom tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup freshly-squeezed organic lemon juice
  • 35 leaves of thoroughly washed unbruised organic basil
  • 7 tsp. Celtic sea salt


  1. Wash tomatoes, and remove bruises and imperfections. Quarter tomatoes and remove the core. Sprinkle with sea salt, toss with hands, and place in the colander(s) in the sink. Allow tomatoes to rest for 1-2 hours. (This helps remove excess water.)
  2. Place about 10 tomatoes at a time in a large stainless steel stockpot, crushing the tomatoes to release their juice, and bring to boil on high, stirring constantly to avoid burning on the bottom. Keep adding tomatoes while maintaining a vigorous boil (uncovered). Reduce heat to a hearty simmer and stir frequently for about an hour.
  3. Carefully run tomatoes through a food mill or electric tomato press to remove the skins and seeds. Discard the skins and seeds. (Alternately, you may peel the tomatoes prior to step 2 by cutting an x into the skin and blanching them in hot water for a minute or so, until the skin loosens up enough to peel.)
  4. Pour the sauce back into the stainless steel pot, uncovered.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a hearty simmer. Stir frequently and allow the sauce to reduce according to your thickness preference. (I like my sauce thick, so I usually let it reduce to about half of the original volume.)
  6. Meanwhile, prepare canner and lids.

Preparing the Canner:

  • Fill canner and rack 2/3 full with water and add 2 TBSP white vinegar (helps to inhibit hard water residue).
  • Place water-filled canner and rack (covered) on the stove at Med-High and bring to boil; keep at a simmer.

Sterilize jars and lids

  • Sterilize jars, minus lids, by placing them on a protected cookie sheet, I use a Silpat. Place in an oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 minutes. Keep hot.
  • Sterilize lids by heating them in barely simmering water for 5 minutes, remove with lid lifter just prior to use.

  1. Remove jars from the oven

  1. Place 5 or so whole basil leaves and 1 and 3/4 TBSP lemon juice into each hot quart jar.

  1. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving at least 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed by adding more sauce. Wipe the rim thoroughly. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met; then increase to fingertip tight.

  1. Using the lifter, place jars in a canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 40 minutes, turn the heat off. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, remove jars (without tilting), and place on a towel in a draft-free area to cool for 24 hours.

  1. Check all lids to ensure each is securely sealed. Label and store.

Tip: If you have extra sauce, freezing is always an option.

Terri’s Tasty Marinara

You will need:

Optional: Terri’s Tasty Meaty Marinara

1 to 2 pounds ground venison or grass-fed/finished beef. (I usually use about 1 and a half pounds, sometimes more, because we prefer a meaty marinara.)


  1. Heat dutch oven on medium-high. Add 1 TBSP fat of choice.
  2. Season meat with salt and pepper, sauté, stirring infrequently (this allows browning to occur). Once browned, remove meat from pan, set aside. - Skip this step if going meatless.
  3. On medium add remaining fat and onions and cook until translucent.
  4. Add garlic and stir until fragrant (30 seconds). Do not allow garlic to brown or burn.
  5. Add balsamic vinegar, stirring for about a minute, scraping the bottom of the pan to release those delicious brown bits (called fond).
  6. Add red wine; reduce the liquid in half (stirring occasionally).
  7. Add Inspired Tomato Sauce, Italian seasoning, and honey. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for a good 1/2 hour. The longer you simmer, the better the flavor.
  8. Add Dr. Cowan’s Garden’s Powders and the browned meat. Salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Finish with cheese.

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