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skins-on easy tomato sauce to freeze

Tomato sauce in freezer jarsI USED TO SPEND RAINY DAYS in harvest season writing, and reading, and streaming a bounty of BBC and other British television series such as “Broadchurch” and “Silk”–oh, what would I do without public TV from both sides of the Atlantic? All the while I’d set consecutive small batches of tomato sauce to bubbling on the stove…destined for the freezer. In 2020 it doesn’t rain much and my TV viewing leans to the Australian, but the cooking process is the same. Keeping things really simple, my basic freezer red sauce goes like this:

fast red sauce for the freezer

ingredients:

  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 1 large head of garlic, whole cloves peeled
  • 3 chopped quarts of plum tomatoes
  • fresh basil, chiffonaded (as much or little as you like)
  • generous handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • (salt and pepper to taste, if desired)

steps:

Sauté all the peeled whole cloves from one head of garlic slowly in olive oil till they are really soft and almost caramelized. I leave the cover on the pan, and use low heat so they don’t get crispy (later, the cloves will sort of melt into the sauce).

chopped tomatoes for making sauceTo the soft garlic, add a mixing bowl full of chopped whole paste tomatoes (above). By mixing bowl I mean 8-inch diameter, holding about 3 liquid quarts.

Yes, I leave on the skins, and leave in the seeds, terrible person that I am! Hey, more fiber and vitamins for me, right? (If you really hated the skins, you could use a food mill to strain them out of the cooked mixture, but I love chunky sauce.)

I do remove any dings or occasionally the cores if they are really substantial – just that greenish-brown spot where the stem attached, I mean, not the innards. But the small, very reliable and productive paste tomato I grow for sauce, the hybrid called ‘Juliet’ (below) or the newer variety ‘Verona,’ really don’t have much core to fuss over. Note: even cherry tomatoes make their own distinctive sauce, so if you have a late-season glut of them, why not?

Juliet small paste tomatoesCover, and after things start to soften slightly, add chopped basil to taste.  Cover again, and let the ingredients really get thoroughly soft–then remove the cover to let steam escape and the sauce thicken.

I chop some of my favorite parsley, the Italian-style giant flat-leaf type, and add it in after I remove the sauce from the heat, so the leaves just wilt but stay bright green.

The whole process for each small batch might take half an hour, prep to finish. When the sauce is cool, I ladle it into straight-sided canning jars, leaving some headspace for expansion, and freeze. (I say straight-sided because jars with “shoulders” can crack more easily when liquidy ingredients push up while freezing to solid. Wide-mouth straight-sided are best of all.)

One more tip: Vary the size of jars you stash with sauce. Sometimes you just need enough for one serving, like a half-pint jelly jar, or even half that, perhaps to use as the “liquid” in some sautéed vegetables or to enrich another sauce. Other times, company’s coming: Make sure there are some quarts on hand.

or: try herbed-roasted tomatoes to freeze

TIP: I FREEZE WHOLE TOMATOES in freezer bags, to use instead of canned whole tomatoes in soups and stews and sauces all year. And lately I also follow the inspiration of my friend Alana Chernila, a cookbook author and neighbor, and freeze herbed roasted tomatoes, too. As a future sauce or soup, they are unrivaled. Here’s the “recipe.”

  1. Kari says:

    Yeah for Juliet! I’ve been growing it for years for drying, but thanks Margaret, I’ll try it for sauce too.

    I have been plagued with Early Blight for decades but this year started seed for only Early Blight resistant varieties, including Juliet, Verona, Defiant PHR, and Plum Regal. General disease resistance isn’t enough. Johnny’s Select Seeds sells all of these and lists them as AB in their codes. We have cold, wet, weather here in Minnesota too, but my plants are looking pretty healthy.

  2. Michael Balgley says:

    How do you combat the anthracnose fungus which attacks my heirlooms every year? I have been using OxiDate but still have the problem.

    1. margaret says:

      I don’t have a problem, perhaps because I am growing in raised beds, Michael, with excellent drainage (loads of organic material in the form of compost), and do very serious fall cleanup as well. I know that can help prevent the anthracnose. Ohter cultural practices like rotation of tomatoes (and relatives), staking plants, strict fall cleanup and other such practices can help, like this explains.

  3. Cathy says:

    When you cook tomatoes down as for sauce it becomes more acidic. You don’t need to add lemon juice as with whole packed tomatoes. Just watch how many extras you add. I’m a former UC master Food preserver.

  4. Carolyn Ragan says:

    I am lucky enough to have lots of tomatoes and I have done this method but I wanted to dry drying some. I used roma varieties, split, removed any tough central stem, put salt, olive oil, rosemary, basil, parsley and chopped garlic. I baked them for about 3 hours on 250 and the smell in the house was invigorating. They did not dry out but were cooked so I did as you did and put them in small jars. I think they will be awesome on pizza, sandwiches and added to all types of savory food, even on toasted french bread. I would post a picture if I could. I used a glass pizza plate for roasting as it is non reactive.

  5. Andrea says:

    Thank you i tried this reciepe of no seeding or peeling tomato sauce and i loved it , it was exactly what i wanted chunky, fresh, coun try and even my maestro husband on italian spagehtti sauce loved it too! Its summery , easy and delightful! Keep the meat pureed sauce for the winter or not, this rocked!!

    1. margaret says:

      Yes, you can freeze in freezer bags, which can be frozen flat and stacked easily for efficient use of your freezer space.

  6. LP says:

    Been harvesting 20 pounds of tomatoes at our farm per day for a few weeks now, and gonna try out your ez freezer sauce method. Will add some pre-browned chunks of Zephyr and Gold Zucchinis, they thicken and bring tomato sauces together really well. For me a tomato sauce needs to cook down with the skins or else its less flavorful. Thank you :}

  7. Keith Silva says:

    This is a great recipe. This week I made two gallons of sauce using Juliet tomatoes. What a great tomato variety! I, too, left the skins and seeds in the sauce. However, I used an immersion blender on the cooled sauce to incorporate the skins into the sauce very nicely. I’m fine with the seeds, but I understand if some want to remove them. At least the skins can stay. I also made a small batch of sauce using only Sun Gold tomatoes. It has a nice flavor and color.

  8. Annie says:

    I live in the mountains in California, and it looks like what is left is my smaller green cherry tomatoes are not going to turn Red.
    Should I pick them, put them on my window sill and hopefully they will turn red, Or what can I do with Green Tomatoes that is easy?

    Btw, I do not peel my tomatoes.I wash them, take out the core if its thick, then, I put them in a food chopper with fresh Garlic, and allot of seasoning & a squeeze a little lemon.
    Put them in a stainless pan, simmer for about 1 -1/2 hrs..Let it cool, and put it in a Zip lock baggie.

    Also Baggies now say if there BPA or not.
    If you let it cool there should not be a problem..

    Thank you..

  9. Chris says:

    Thanks! This makes a fine sauce. I also like the slow-roast process — removes a lot of bulk so more efficient for freezer space.

    Sometimes though it’s nice to have a smooth seedless sauce too. For that, I use the brilliantly designed Passatutto Velox. Available from the (otherwise also excellent) Seeds From Italy online catalog, though I got mine used & cheap from Ebay. It lasts forever. You don’t need to skin or core, the gizmo miraculously spits out pulp from one side, seeds & skin & core from another. (I put latter through a second time to extract the last and denser pulp.) It also works great for apple sauce, same ease of prep.

  10. Nancy Schaefer says:

    Margaret, I learned about slow-roasting tomatoes from your blog and will never process tomatoes on the stovetop again! The only extra step I do is to puree them in the food processor after they have cooled, because I’m a wimp about having big pieces of the skins in my finished sauce. And Juliets are the best!

  11. Wynne says:

    I don’t have the thicker Roma tomatoes but make sauce easily by cutting regular tomatoes in half (or quarters if huge), place in large pot over very low heat with tiny amount of water to prevent sticking. As they heat, the liquid comes out. When they are softened, carefully pour the liquid out. Let pot sit a few minutes and more liquid accumulates, pour it out again. I let the pot cool and peel the tomatoes easily at this stage, although some years I just leave the skins. Then I put a stick blender in the pot to break them up to chunky sauce consistency. I freeze in muffin tins until solid, then pop the sauce chunks out (turn pan upside own over cookie sheet and apply hairdryer to bottom). I put all the chunks in a single bag to use as needed in the winter. I don’t season this at all, preferring to season at the time I use in my recipes. The muffin tin size is very handy anytime, and I use two if I need a lot.

    1. KATHLEEN ROCHESTER says:

      Muffin tins! Great idea, thanks for sharing it. I’ve used the ice cube tray idea for smaller things like tomato paste or pesto, but never thought of muffin tins. Might be good for broth even…

  12. Elinor says:

    I am growing Juliet tomatoes for the first time this year. They are growing in large pots on the south side of my house. It seems that they turn red and ripen except for the quarter stem top which remains yellow. When I use them I have to cut off the top quarter and throw into compost. Does anyone have this problem and know of a remedy?

  13. Tracy says:

    I’m all for a simple sauce. I grow several varieties of tomatoes, cherry tomatoes to pop in my mouth and to use as appetizers or in salads, etc., a new disease resistant variety I’m. Dry impressed with called Warrior’, but mostly, I grow Gardener’s Delight, a small tomato that is fairly acidic and very tomatoes-y and great for sauce of soup. Here’s what I do. From Ina Garten: I use all varieties of tomatoes for this, all mixed together. Halve the cherry tomatoes, cut the small toms into quarters, etc. so that all the pieces are roughly the same size. Put them all in a huge mixing bowl, drizzle with good olive oil and a full handful of peeled garlic cloves. Salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss until all the tomatoes are coated lightly with oil. Spread in a single layer on rimmed baking sheets. Pop into a preheated 400 degree oven and roast them until they’ve collapsed but are still very wet, and have a faint ring of browned edge and so are a bit carmelized. About 30-35 minutes. Dump the whole sheet pan’s worth into a blender, add two big handfuls of fresh basil leaves and whizzzzz. All the skins and seed are pulverized. I don’t sieve or strain. I just pop this mixture into various sized freezer bags. I use it ‘straight’ for sauce and add a touch of half and half or cream for bisque. Fantastic. Thank you, Ina!

  14. Chris Baswell says:

    I do something very close to your recipe, Margaret, though I stir in basil only as I take the sauce off heat, as you do the parsley. It might be imagination, but I feel like more of the complex, evanescent flavors and odors remain if the basil hasn’t ever come to the boil. I make some batches with shallot instead of garlic, if I’m going to use it in milder settings.

    Slow roasting, any style, is my favorite though. If (like me) you have limited freezer space, a slow roast can take off 75% of the volume. And as you say, great over pastas, or whole grains.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Rhonda. I used to. But when hot packing you have to be more precise (for food safety) about your ingredients and proportions and acidity level, plus it’s a (hot) extra step in August in my (hot) kitchen. Freezing also retains more of certain nutrients. So I save time, avoid standing over the hot water bath, and even get more nutrients.

      1. Janet says:

        One more question on that, so when you put them in the canning jars to freeze, you still use the rubber gasket and metal screw top? Or is it OK to use the plastic screw top only?

  15. Anne Conatser says:

    Thanks for the recipe Margaret. I grow Juliet tomatoes. I will certainly try this. It looks yummy. I have been dehydrating them. They produce quite abundantly .

  16. mindy says:

    hi margaret, love your sauce making here, but offer this efficient, eco-friendly and economical technique for packaging and storage.

    soups
    stocks
    stews
    sauces

    — Beef and Chicken (etc)Stocks: No way do I ever have room in my freezers to store stock. When I make any stock, after chilling and removing the fat layer, I significantly reduce/cook down the stock to a rather rubbery dark colored ‘demi glace’ (half ice). I pour the demi into a rectangular tub,to a depth of no more than 2 inches. Freeze it, flip it out onto a cutting board and cut it into cubes and then toss the cubes into a tub or ziploc bag. (Waste of saran to wrap each cube separately.)For ease, leave demi-glace in plastic rectangle ; let soften a few minutes at room temp, and cut cubes as you need it .
    — Soup and sauce storage: Black plastic rectangular take-out containers (the kind with the clear domed lids) are ideal for freezing soups and sauces, but I use them to hold/give shape to the food, not to store the food. I line my rectangles with saran that hangs over the sides. I fill the saran with a pre-measured amount of soup or sauce or stew (like 1 or 2 people’s worth of soup.) Then I place the containers on a rimmed sheet pan and freeze them flat. Once frozen, i flip out the containers and tightly wrap the overhanging saran – around the product. I label the product and stack them in a ziploc bag.(This takes up much less space than stacked up containers with their raised lids.) Rectangles and squares fit much better than rounds into a packed freezer.
    I practice these techniques with liquids because I am a batch cook i.e. I always make and freeze multiple servings of each thing. For soups and stews, it’s usually at least 10 servings. It hardly takes any more time to cook 10 servings of something than it does to cook 4 servings of something.

  17. Betsy says:

    Thanks for making me feel better about my skin on choice and also for planting Juliet this year. What a bright little cutie that tomato is. I roast some and make Ina Garten’s tomato soup, freeze whole, make some into sauce. Everything goes in the freezer. I did make one large jar of sauce and processed it, but wimped out and stored it in the fridge. I just don’t trust myself to can correctly. Thanks for a great site, I’m a fan over here in Berkshires.

  18. Dianne says:

    I use an over abundance of tomatoes to make sauce but omitting the garlic and herbs because I never know how I’m going to use it. Lovely Juliets are usually the majority of the sauce tomatoes. Been growing Juliets for years thanks to you Margaret. My only complaint is that they are hybrids and I can’t save the seeds. Turned my gardener friends onto Juliet too. I use an immersion blender so it chops the skins pretty good. I make a smooth sauce and a few jars of chunky. And into the freezer in jars they go per you Margaret. I have freezer room and it sure beats dealing with the hot water bath.

  19. Catherine Salam says:

    Love “Silk”, tho I have a hard time telling the male, blond lawyers in the firm apart. LOL. I wish they had the series on PBS Passport or BritBox so I could binge it.
    Your tomato tips are brilliant as well.

  20. Lisa says:

    I do this in the crockpot…needs less supervision! I’m in Texas, so tomato season is over, but I have a freezer stocked with sauce and roasted tomatoes. Juliets are one of my favorites to grow because it is so prolific and versatile!

  21. Susan says:

    Have I missed the ‘print’ button? Would love to copy on paper…not too much…paper…! Looks like a delicious and simple recipe. Doing lots of childcare this summer, so simple is good.

  22. Brooke Beebe says:

    Any tips on how to peel a whole head of garlic quickly for this recipe? This would take me a long time – rather be in the garden.

    1. Nancy says:

      Brooke, place 1 head of garlic, unpeeled and unbroken into a small aluminum bowl. Place another bowl over the top. Preferably a similar size. Shake. Shake. Shake. It’s very loud, but you will find the garlic cloves peeled and separated from the stem. So easy. No stinky fingers! Just loud.

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