I love homemade spaghetti sauce made with fresh herbs from the garden. I really believe using fresh herbs makes a big difference in the sauce compared to using dried or frozen herbs. I like to can some of this goodness during the summer when the herbs are growing, and then we can enjoy it during the winter months too. I use my own spaghetti sauce recipe, taking a short-cut on the tomato sauce. I've made my own tomato sauce before; it is very time consuming for a small yield, so I buy the canned tomato sauce and add my fresh ingredients to it.
(Note: You can make this sauce for immediate use or freeze it in freezer bags. To can it, you need a pressure canner.)
Canning jars and lids
Canning jar lifter
Large stock pot
Blanching pot and strainer
Large wooden spoon
(Yield: 7-8 quarts)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Large bell peppers and 1 poblano pepper
1 Large onion
2 Cans tomato sauce (105 oz. each)
12 Roma or paste tomatoes
12 oz. Tomato paste
Fresh herbs (such as parsley, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, rosemary)
3 teaspoons minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and prepare vegetables.
Wash and dice the peppers and onions, removing the skin from the onions and the core and seeds from the peppers. Saute them in a large stock pot in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until tender.
In the meantime, blanch the tomatoes to easily remove the skins. Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Wash the tomatoes and place them in the boiling water for one minute. (I use a large pot strainer to lower the tomatoes into the water; then I can lift them all out at once.)
Then place the tomatoes into very cold water for 1 minute. This prevents the tomatoes from cooking further and makes the skins easy to remove.
The skins slip right off.
(Tip: I can tomatoes, and I also freeze some. To freeze, after blanching and removing the skins, place the whole tomatoes on a tray lined with parchment paper or wax paper and freeze them until solid. Then place the tomatoes in a freezer bag, label them and store them in your freezer. Later you can pull out the quantity you need for soups, chili, or stews.)
For the spaghetti sauce, core the tomatoes, remove the bulk of the seeds and dice them.
When the sauteed vegetables are tender, add the tomato sauce to the stock pot. (Tip: if you pour the sauce so that the stream hits a spoon or the side of the pot, it doesn't splash as much.)
Set the heat on medium and add the diced tomatoes.
For a thicker sauce, stir in some tomato paste.
My favorite part, and the key to the best spaghetti sauce . . . the fresh herbs. Choose your favorites. Here are mine:
Finely chop the herbs, removing stems, and add them to the sauce. (Tip: you can chop the herbs quickly by pulsing them in a food processor.) Also add minced garlic, salt and pepper at this time. For a spicier sauce, add a dash of red pepper flakes.
Bring the sauce to a boil and then lower the heat to low. Cover with a lid and simmer for at least an hour, stirring frequently. If you prefer, you can let the sauce cool down and ladle it into freezer bags and freeze. Or, keep the sauce hot and get ready to can it.
Processing and Canning
Remember, spaghetti sauce must be processed in a pressure canner, not a hot water canner. Acidic foods such as tomatoes and most fruits can be canned in a hot water canner, but the vegetables in the spaghetti sauce lower the acidic level. A pressure canner reaches a much higher temperature than the hot water method, thus eliminating any bacteria associated with the vegetables.
Keep the sauce hot. Check your jars to make sure they aren't chipped or cracked. Sterilize and heat the jars. You can do this by heating them in a pot of boiling water for 10 mintues, putting them through an automatic dishwasher cycle, or fill them with water and heat them in the microwave. (Time in the microwave will vary depending on your appliance. In my microwave, I heated 7 quart-size jars on high for 8 minutes.) Heat the lids in a pan of hot water (not quite boiling) for 10 minutes.
Follow the instructions that come with your pressure canner. My instructions say to add 3 quarts of water to the canner. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to the water to prevent spotting on the jars. (I have a Presto 26 quart pressure canner.)
Using a canning funnel and a ladle, fill the hot jars with the spaghetti sauce, leaving 1 inch headspace at the top.
Slide a plastic knife or spatula along the inside walls of the jar to remove any air bubbles. (Metal can scratch or damage the jars.)
Wipe the top rim of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel to remove any residue and assure that the jars will seal properly.
Place a hot lid on the jar and twist on a clean ring, tightening until you feel resistance. Place the jars in the pressure canner. Put the cover on the canner and lock in place. Turn the heat on high. When a steady flow of steam comes out of the vent pipe, turn the heat down a little and set the timer for ten minutes. This allows the pressure to start building inside the canner. After the 10 mintues, place the pressure regulator on the vent pipe and turn the heat back up to high. Let the pressure build up until the gauge needle is at 11 pounds. Set the timer for 25 minutes and adjust the heat to keep the pressure at 11. At the end of 25 minutes, turn the heat off and let the pressure in the canner go down on its own before removing the lid.
After the pressure has come down, wait 10 minutes before unlocking and removing the cover. Carefully lift the top of the cover up so that the steam releases away from you. Use a jar lifter to remove the jars. Place them on a towel a few inches apart. As they begin to cool, you will hear the "ping" as the jars seal. Let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours. (You can check the seals by pressing down on the lid with your finger. There should be no downward movement in the lid.) Label the jars and store in a cool, dry place. You'll be enjoying your homemade spaghetti sauce with fresh herbs now and all winter!
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