tomatos next to jar of tomato sausce

The PERFECT Garden Fresh Marinara Tomato Sauce

This is the PERFECT marinara sauce for using garden fresh tomatoes! Sweet, simple, with a high yield, and a flavor that tastes fresh! Let the slow cooker do all the work!

Honestly, I don’t even know what to call this tomato sauce. There are so many wonderful things about it, I can’t decide which to highlight! Let’s just say, it’s everything I’ve been looking for and want in marinara sauce recipe from fresh tomatoes!

But first, let me tell you what I HATE about using tomatoes fresh from the garden for sauce-making.

Every year, I gather pounds upon pounds, bushels upon bushels even of tomatoes I’m hoping to preserve for our use for the 9 months out of the year when there aren’t fresh tomatoes to be had. And every year when I’m done, it never fails to drop my jaw at how very few pints of sauce can come from tens of pounds of tomatoes. I want to think that last time I had froze something like 70 pounds of tomatoes and ended up with 6 pints of sauce! It was something ridiculously crazy like that. And how do you even get to that point? Why by baby sitting a pot of tomatoes as they simmer the water away for hours and hours on end!

This is the BEST Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce (It's SO easy, makes a ton, and it has canning instructions!)
This is the PERFECT marinara sauce for using garden fresh tomatoes! Sweet, simple, with a high yield, and a flavor that tastes fresh! Let the slow cooker do all the work!

‘Twas a hopeless task I dreaded. With our growing family, it seems virtually impossible to grow enough tomatoes to even consider putting up enough for the year. So much so, that I gave up.

And I’m no quitter!

I think we had homemade spaghetti sauce 3 or 4 times last year, if that. And by homemade I mean I busted out the Hunts sauce, puree, and paste, a little sautéed onion, some herbs and spices, a bit of sweetener, maybe a pound of ground beef. Point being, I scaled by my expectations and the New Plan was to make the majority of the pizza sauce for a weekly pizza night. Forget pasta sauce. Now I look at those little 6 ounce cans of tomato paste that are sold for less that a buck and marvel at how they can afford to do it. There’s gotta be, what, 30 pounds of tomatoes in that bitty can?

Like with so many things, I didn’t know the true value of what went into a product until I produced it myself!

This is the PERFECT marinara sauce for using garden fresh tomatoes! Sweet, simple, with a high yield, and a flavor that tastes fresh! Let the slow cooker do all the work!

So that’s what I don’t like about traditional tomato or spaghetti sauce. Now let’s get back to the sauce at hand and the fact that I have discovered the most quick and simple way to make a garden fresh marinara sauce recipe…. and it even tastes good!

It’s an ingenious method that uses carrots, yes carrots, to thicken the sauce AND naturally sweeten it as well. I wish I could take credit for it, but I can’t. I adapted the recipe from The Italian Slow Cooker. (Which is a pretty amazing cookbook. Love it! Get it. You’ll love it too.)

Let me break this down for you.

Step One: Chuck a bunch of ingredients in a crockpot. (5 minutes)
Step Two: Turn it on. High for 6 hours. Low for 10 hours. (.5 seconds)
Step Three: Add some herbs & olive oil. (1 minute)
Step Four: Puree it. Yes, seeds, skins, and all.  (3 minutes)

Less than 10 minutes invested into the finished product!!

AND… oh wait for it…

No. A bit longer….It’s so good, it’ll be worth the wait…

It makes 3 QUARTS of sauce!!! Yes- 6 pounds of tomatoes yields 3 QUARTS of sauce.

It blows my mind!!!

I want to dance and sing and shout for joy with every batch I make- and that’s averaging about 2 a day. (Half of which I make while I’m sleeping!)

Recommended Canning Tools & Resources

Can I Can This Tomato Sauce?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. That’s all well & good Quinn, but can you can it?

Well, since it’s not an official, scientifically tested, government certified and inspected recipe, I can’t recommend that you do. For safety’s sake, of course.

(But I am.) And I plan on even eating it at some point in the future. I just make sure I test the pH first so I know if I should add in some citric acid (or bottled lemon juice)  if I want to water bath can it. (Buy pH strips HERE and citric acid HERE.)

Is it Watery?

Are you wondering if it’s watery? I was too. I always find that the marinara sauce recipes from fresh tomatoes are a more watery than their Cooked-Down-All-Day-And-Then-Some counterparts. The answer is, a tiny bit, but it’s not too bad! Since I’m canning it, I wouldn’t want it to be any thicker for safety reasons since the heat won’t be able to as fully penetrate the sauce. If it’s too much for your preference, don’t despair. You have options.

1.) Cook it down some more just before you’re ready to eat it. A low simmer for an hour or so really oughta take care of it.

2.) Add in some tomato paste or tomato powder. This option is quick, but it might mess with the flavor.

3.) Attainable Sustainable has found this trick using a strainer and a turkey baster. Clever! I’ll be trying this!

4.) Use tomato powder to thicken it up.

The last time I made this sauce, I actually forgot the carrots. Don’t ask me how, there’s like 5 ingredients to remember, but I did. The sauce? Like water. The carrots are the secret ingredient that makes this sauce thicken up so nicely!

This is the BEST Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce (It's SO easy, makes a ton, and it has canning instructions!)

How Do I Get Rid of the Tomato Seeds & Skins?

Perhaps wateriness isn’t your concern. Maybe you’ve noticed and are wondering about why I’d leave the seeds & skins in there. Well, the original recipe said to do the whole dip the tomatoes in boiling water to slip off the skins trick. I hate doing that, so I didn’t. The seeds & skins surely have some nutritive value anyway, right? If you didn’t want them in there, you could always do the Boiling Dipping Trick or make quick work of it with a food strainer.

Can I Add in Other Ingredients?

I know you’re wondering too whether you can add in your own favorite ingredients. Sure. Of course you can. This sauce would be a wonderful way to hide a multitude of vegetables.  Fat, overgrown zucchini. Trick the picky mushroom haters with it.  But I must give you two warnings.

First, if it’s your first time making it and you make any additions or substitutions and don’t like it, I won’t vouch for it so don’t come back and tell me how awful it is. *wink*

Secondly, and seriously, please freeze your sauce instead of trying to can it if you add in any other extra vegetables. Better safe than sorry.

One other thing I’ve got to mention. There is a way to make this sauce more rich and delicious, even more nutritious. But it’s kind of strange if you’ve never done it before. If you have, you’ll never consider skipping it again. Chuck in a big ole’ hunk of beef bone. Whether it’s shin bones, ribs, or leftover scraps from a wonderful steak you had last month, the acidity in the tomatoes will draw out the goodness and flavor from the bones.

This is the PERFECT marinara sauce for using garden fresh tomatoes! Sweet, simple, with a high yield, and a flavor that tastes fresh! Let the slow cooker do all the work!

Garden Fresh Marinara Tomato Sauce Recipe

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tomatos next to jar of tomato sausce

Garden Fresh Marinara Sauce

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4 from 1 review


  • 6 pounds of tomatoes
  • 1 pound of carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • beef bones, optional
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried oregano (or 1/4 cup fresh)
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil (or 1/4 cup fresh)
  • **If water bath canning- 2 teaspoons of citric acid (I buy it here) or 6 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice


  1. Chunk up the tomatoes, carrots, and onions and toss them into a large slow cooker.
  2. Peel and halve the garlic.
  3. Add the garlic, wine, salt and pepper, and bones to the slow cooker.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 10 hours.
  5. Remove the bones if you used them.
  6. Stir in the oregano, basil, and olive oil.
  7. Puree the vegetables with an blender, food stainer, foley mill, or stick blender.
  8. Taste adjust the seasonings.
  9. Serve immediately, freeze, or can.
  10. *To Can (which I can’t recommend)*
  11. Pressure Canner
  12. Ladle into clean, hot jars.
  13. Remove the air bubbles with a plastic utensil.
  14. Clean the rims with a clean, wet rag.
  15. Screw on the ring/lids.
  16. Add to the pressure canner and continue according to manufacturers instructions.
  17. Can at 10 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes for quarts,
  18. Waterbath
  19. Test the pH level. (I buy them here)
  20. Add the citric acid or lemon juice if necessary to raise the acidity to 4.5 or higher. (Which means lower number)
  21. Thoroughly stir in the citric acid for a couple minutes and then retest.
  22. Ladle into clean, hot jars.
  23. Remove the air bubbles with a plastic utensil.
  24. Clean the rims with a clean, wet rag.
  25. Screw on the ring/lids.
  26. Lower into boiling water bath canner water.
  27. Resume the boil and then begin the timer for 40 minutes for quarts.
  28. Test the seal 24 hours after removing from the canner.
  • Author: Quinn


Last update on 2024-04-15 at 17:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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  1. I am way behind you’re post but mine is in pressure canner now. Will process 1 hr. Per meat sauce recipe for meat sauce in Ball Blue Book 100 th Anniversary edition, even though I only used two ribs for the bones. I made a few editions; peppers, dehydrated Zucchinni, tomato flakes, spinach powder, rosemary, winter savory and thyme. It tasted fantastic as it went into jars.
    Thank you I have always canned my tomatoes with just peppers and onions in a pressure canner. This year I made Balls Italian sauce, whole plum tomatoes and roasted salsa. Found out Pace uses GMO ingredients. Getting adventurous in my old age. Been caning since a child, 72 now.

  2. A little confused. Am I supposed to puree with seeds & skin or put through food mill.

    While describing the dauce you say to puree but directions say food mill is an option.

    What would that do to the final yield?

    Thank you

  3. Soooo maybe I’m nuts to jump in and comment now (First comment was from 2014!?), but what kind of tomatoes are you using? I know it’s a mix frm what I’m seeing in the comments here. My grammy, who was from Italy, always insisted that they type of tomato you used in the sauce made a huge difference. I don’t rememeber the name of the kind she grew for sauce making, but they were very fleshy and had very few seed/gel pockets compared to some other tomoatoes grown for non-sauce purposes. When she did occationally use these other, more gel filled tomatoes for sauce (be it for flavor or b/c she ran out) she would end up simmering it for much longer to evaporate the extra water. Just a thought! Thanks for the great post! (P.S. Carrots were her secret weapon as well!)

    1. I did used to use the paste-type tomatoes such as San Marzano or Amish Paste. Still a lot of cooking down, stirring, and babysitting. And to be honest not a whole lot of flavor. With this recipe I don’t have to any babysitting/stirring. I can grow separate tomato varieties for fresh eating and canning, plus the mix of heirlooms and sweet cherries makes the most delicious and flavorful sauce- I don’t even bother to use herbs half the time. It’s that good on it’s own.

  4. Can I make this without the wine? Wine isn’t allowed in my diet right now. Will leaving it out affect anything? Should I try to substitute something else in its place? Also, can you tell me a little more about doing the ph test and knowing when to add citric acid or lemon juice? I’m fairly new to canning and have never heard about this before?

    1. As a fresh recipe, the wine is simply going to add a depth and boldness to the flavor. I would just leave it out then. Though I’m not sure canning it without the wine is a good idea. The wine will help to acidify it and make it safe for canning. I would suggest anyone add the citric acid just to be safe.

  5. You need to stop "not recommending" this for water bath canning. Please take that part off of your page. You have meat bones and oil in this recipe. Both are dangerous and should NEVER be on the ingredient list for water bath canning. For pressure canning -> sure, you haven't had the recipe officially tested, but the canning time seems alright, so, feel free to "not recomend" that.
    You have a responsibility if posting canning recipes to have a fraction of a clue what you are talking about.

  6. Quinn, is this recipe for frozen (and thawed) tomatoes, or only for fresh? I ask because quite a lot of extra liquid comes off frozen tomatoes after they thaw, so it would make a difference.

    1. The tomatoes I’m using this year are pretty watery compared to the ones I’ve used in the past (which is a shame because they are so abundant!) and what happens in the crockpot is the water separates so I’ll just ladle it out before pureeing to make sure it’s thick. I haven’t tried it with frozen ones yet (though I did freeze some this year to experiment with.) I imagine that it will work out just the same as my watery fresh ones.

  7. Why the concern for pressure canning? Doesn’t pressure canning work specifically for low acid foods like meat and corn? I thought that is why you pressure can, but I am new to it, so I might be wrong.

    1. You’re totally right, but since this isn’t a “professionally” tested recipe, I simply wanted to make it crystal clear since it is a food safety issue. I’ve already got folks in these comments treating me like an idiot and calling me irresponsible.

  8. Reformation Acres Thank you for answering my question. The sauce is fantastic! Next year I hope to put up more than this year.

  9. Totally works with cherry tomatoes! Most of my sauce this year was cherry tomato sauce thanks to the chickens wolfing down all my heirlooms.

  10. I’ve made this sauce several time in the last couple months. I love how easy it is… Our freezer is now full of it! We love it. Thank you for the recipe!!!

    1. You’re very welcome Karen! We’ve had a rough time with chickens (and oddly enough our cats) eating the tomatoes right off the vine. We had our first killing frost this morning and I couldn’t help but take a moment and be overwhelmed with gratitude because of this recipe. We still were able to put up 37 quarts of tomato sauce because the yield is so high. I’m so glad that you love it too!

  11. That's what I found over the winter as well- it's incredibly versatile! I used it everywhere and for the first time ever was able to have sauce last almost all the way to tomato season. It's a life changing recipe! So glad you love it!

    1. I’ve made this for a couple summers and froze it,however, after talking to our health department about pressure canning it (15# 25 min for quarts at our 1000+ altitude), I’m giving that a try now.

      I’ve been using a slotted spoon to remove the solids leaving behind all the liquid. As I’m working on the batch this year I started to wonder if that’s wrong do I need some of that leftover liquid with red wine for flavor? Or does it soak into the vegetables?. I also seem to mess up and put the olive oil and herbs in the crockpot instead of adding it later. Hoping to fix that on this next batch.

      Our kid has issues with fructose and carrots are better than tomatoes, so I’m hoping that eating this sauce over the store ones will help minimize the stomach issues and we don’t have to give up red sauces all together!.

      1. The herbs and olive oil do not need to be heated so much, which is why the recipe says to add it after. However, if you are going to can the recipe, it all gets heated so adding those after is a moot point. Don’t worry so much about it.

  12. Quinn, this is awesome!!!! Batch #3 is in my crock pot and I've been sharing this recipe with everyone and anyone I know who has a garden. Thanks to you, it's homemade sauce this winter, not ragu!

  13. This is just the best stuff ever! I've been freezing it in old tomato sauce jars since I don't have pH strips and I'm nervous about canning them, but I will try it next year when I get my pH act in gear. Thanks so much!

  14. Quinn At ReformationAcres … lol …. I went to the store … and bought some Melbec….. since I like it:) ….. It in a hot water bater right now …l did pints.

  15. Thank you, Quinn! I can’t wait to try this!
    Sorry I haven’t been too talkative on your blog lately. Life gets in the way! But in a good way (most of the time :P)
    Oh, and I had wanted to purchase the bundle and almost forgot until 10:00 last night! I ordered it through your link up above. I can’t wait to start reading and learning!
    take care!
    Johanna from Lancaster County

  16. Oh Quinn! Thank you. I have had to ‘throw the towel in’ on canning tomato sauce because the amount of time it takes to make it just wasn’t conducive to the other needs of our family. But now – now!!! The perfect recipe. Thank you for sharing, I will be making this this weekend and serving it with our grassfed beef over a dish of fresh spaghetti squash. Lovely, thank you! Hollie

    1. You’re welcome Hollie! I hope this is the solution you need for making tomato sauce for your family like it has been for me and that you guys really enjoy it!! Blessings 🙂