Two full canning jars of spaghetti sauce surrounded by fresh garlic, tomatoes, and herbs.

It’s hard to beat boiling a pot of pasta and popping open a jar of spaghetti sauce for a speedy weeknight dinner that everyone in the family will love.

Sure, you can buy store-bought sauce, but why not get the best flavor out of homegrown summer tomatoes and can your own spaghetti sauce instead? We’re excited to be partnering with the makers of Ball® home canning products to bring you a beginner-friendly, Italian-style tomato sauce recipe you’ll love!

A hand spoons spaghetti sauce over a bowl of spaghetti. A full jar of canned spaghetti sauce and some fresh tomatoes sit behind the bowl.

The great thing about this spaghetti sauce recipe is that it’s designed and tested to be processed in a water-bath canner! While certain canning spaghetti sauce recipes need to be processed in a pressure canner because of their low acid levels, this recipe has been lab-tested to be water bath canner safe, making this a perfect recipe for beginner canners. Let’s make some sauce!

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A hand holds out a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce

What is the difference between marinara and spaghetti sauce?

This recipe is for an Italian-style tomato sauce—it’s not a traditional marinara sauce, although the two recipes are quite similar. In fact, many people use the two terms interchangeably.

While tomato sauces can vary quite a bit from region to region, in general:

  • Marinara sauce is a thinner tomato-based sauce with simple aromatic veggies like onions and herbs.
  • Spaghetti sauce (AKA: Italian-style tomato sauce) is typically a thicker and richer tomato-based sauce. Some recipes have a more complex herb and aromatic veggie profile than classic marinara sauce.

A black bowl is filled with spaghetti, topped with sauce and fresh basil

The phrase “spaghetti sauce” is a bit of a misnomer, because any sauce you use on spaghetti (alfredo, garlic sauce, etc.) can be considered a “spaghetti sauce.” Here in the US, though, most folks think of the thick, red, tomato-based sauce when they say “spaghetti sauce,” so we’re going with it!

A spoon dips into a jar of spaghetti sauce.

Does spaghetti sauce need to be pressure canned?

Foods with a pH (AKA: acid level) of less than 4.6 are safe for water-bath canning. The high acid level doesn’t allow for the growth of microorganisms like botulism and other bacteria.

With a pH of between 4.3 and 5.0 (depending on growing conditions, variety, and other factors), tomatoes fall right on the line of needing to be pressure canned.

A hand sprinkles Parmesan over a bowl of spaghetti with sauce and basil

No need to buy a pressure canner though! We make this tomato sauce safe to water bath can by acidifying the sauce with lemon juice. This takes the pH level to a safe range and makes this a simple canning recipe that is great for beginners.

Wholefully Protip

Make sure to use bottled lemon juice for acidifying in all canning recipes. Why? Well, the pH level of bottled lemon juice is consistent—in fact, it’s regulated by the FDA—so you can ensure consistent acidifying. This isn’t true with fresh lemons, which can have a wide range of acid levels based on variety, growing conditions, and other factors.

Canned Spaghetti Sauce Ingredients

Because this is a tested recipe that is safe for water-bath canning, it is vital not to alter the type of ingredients or the amounts here to keep the pH level consistent. Here’s what you’ll need for each batch of sauce:

  • Fresh tomato puree—We recommend using the very best paste tomatoes you can find. San Marzano-style tomatoes are our favorite. You can make the tomatoes into a puree by following the steps in this Homemade Tomato Sauce recipe.
  • Onion, celery, carrot, and garlic cloves—These aromatic veggies give tons of flavor while being used in amounts that don’t impact the acid level of the sauce.
  • Bottled lemon juice—Like we talked about above, bottled lemon juice will give consistent acidifying results to make this recipe safe for water-bath canning.
  • Salt, pepper, and hot pepper flakes.

Wholefully Protip

This recipe leaves out the classic spaghetti sauce herbs like oregano, parsley, and basil to keep the acid level safe for water-bath canning. Also, herbs sometimes can become bitter when cooked at high heat. We recommend adding a handful of fresh or dried herbs (this is a great use for herb cubes!) and a drizzle of olive oil when reheating before serving.

A fork holds a bite of spaghetti with sauce and fresh basil

Steps to Making Canned Spaghetti Sauce

Make sure you’ve got all your tools and ingredients ready when you begin canning spaghetti sauce (check our Canning 101 article for more info). When you’re ready to start canning, here’s how:

Collage of images showing the steps for canning spaghetti sauce

  1. Make your tomato puree following the steps in this Homemade Tomato Sauce Recipe.
  2. Prepare your boiling water canner, jars, and lids (per our Canning 101 guide).
  3. Combine a cup of tomato purée, onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and boil gently until vegetables are tender.
  4. Add remaining tomato purée, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, and hot pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, and simmer until mixture is reduced by one-third.
  5. Ladle sauce into jars, leaving proper headspace of 1/2-inch. Remove air bubbles.
  6. Wipe rim of the jar and then place lid and ring on jar, tightening just until it’s fingertip tight.
  7. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes. Remove jars and cool.
  8. Check lids for seal. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Wholefully Protip

We used Ball® Regular Mouth Stars & Stripes Keepsake Pint Jars for this recipe, but any Ball® Pint Jar will do the trick!

A full glass jar of spaghetti sauce sits on a dish towel on a cutting board.

Do you have to add lemon juice when canning spaghetti sauce?

Yes. Adding lemon juice makes this tomato sauce safe to water-bath can. This takes the pH level to a safe range.

But wait, doesn’t adding lemon juice make it taste super acidic?

Nope, and that’s thanks to the carrots in the recipe! They cook down and add a wonderful sweetness to the sauce that balances out the flavor of the added acid.

A hand holds out a bottle of lemon juice

What kind of salt do you use when canning tomatoes?

Any kind of salt works for canning tomato sauce. Unlike canning pickles, where you need to use a special kind of salt without additives to achieve a clear brine, any salt you regularly use in your kitchen will work in this recipe.

How do you keep homemade tomato sauce from separating?

No worries about the sauce separating in the jar—it’s perfectly safe to enjoy even if it has separated. Just give the jar a good shake before using.

Wholefully Protip

When reheating your sauce, if it seems like it’s separating, you can whisk in 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum per pint of sauce to stabilize the sauce before serving. A small slurry of cornstarch (3 tablespoons water whisked with 2 teaspoons cornstarch) will also work in place of the xanthan gum.

A black bowl is filled with spaghetti, sauce, and basil. The bowl is surrounded by fresh herbs, fresh tomatoes, and a jar of sauce.

How long does canned spaghetti sauce last?

Properly sealed preserves are best used within 18 months. However, as long as the jar still has a good seal, canned goods can be stored almost indefinitely. The quality of the food might decrease (you might lose flavor, color, or texture), but it will still be safe to eat.

A ladle pours spaghetti sauce through a funnel and into a glass canning jar.

Can I use this spaghetti sauce fresh instead of canning it?

Absolutely! This sauce is delicious ladled right out of the pot it’s been simmering in. In fact, we tend to make sure spaghetti is on the menu on days when we’re canning spaghetti sauce—we grab a few scoops for dinner and the rest goes into jars for long-term preservation.

How can I use canned spaghetti sauce?

You’ll find that having a pantry full of spaghetti sauce is incredibly handy! You can, of course, toss your sauce with some hot spaghetti for a wonderful, simple dinner, but you can also use your homemade spaghetti sauce in these dishes:

 
Two full canning jars of spaghetti sauce surrounded by fresh garlic, tomatoes, and herbs.

Canned Spaghetti Sauce (AKA: Italian-Style Tomato Sauce)

Yield: 3 (16 oz) pints
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Homemade spaghetti sauce is not out of your reach, and it tastes so much better than the stuff from the store! These simple steps will guide you to canning success.

Recipe courtesy of Ball® Home Canning Fresh Preserving.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups fresh plum tomato purée
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp bottled lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 3 Ball® (16 oz) pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands
  • Optional: Ball® freshTECH Electric Water Bath Canner + Multicooker

Instructions

    1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
    2. Combine 1 cup of tomato purée, onion, celery, carrot and garlic in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. While maintaining a steady boil, add remaining tomato purée, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Stir in lemon juice, salt, black pepper and hot pepper flakes. Increase heat to high and bring to a full rolling boil; boil hard, stirring frequently, until mixture is reduced by one third, about 15 minutes.
    3. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and re-measure headspace. If needed, add more sauce to meet recommended headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
    4. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
YouTube video
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 75Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 448mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 3g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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21 Comments

  1. This post has been nearly impossible to read. The page keeps refreshing as I scroll, and there’s are several ads that I have to close. After several attempts, there are still portions that won’t display. I thought you’d want to know.

  2. Great recipe, family likes ìt. To doctor it up to my individual taste, I added one green pepper, 1 top of basil flates and 1 top of oregano.
    Perfect!

    1. Hi Mike! We’re so glad your family likes the spaghetti sauce! Please note, though—we don’t recommend making any changes to the recipe for safety reasons. Adding dried seasonings is generally okay, but if you’d like to can the recipe with added green pepper, we recommend seeking out a tested recipe that specifically calls for that ingredient. If you’re not canning the recipe and instead are storing it in the freezer, then you’re good to go with whatever adjustments you’d like to make!

  3. I’m allergic to garlic and onions. Can I safely remove them from the recipe and replace the volume with tomatoes? If I remove the garlic and onions should I pressure can instead or water bath can to ensure it is safe?

    1. Hi Morgan! This is a tested recipe from a trusted source (Ball Home Canning), so to ensure safety, we can’t recommend any changes to the recipe as written. If you’d like to can a spaghetti sauce without garlic and onions, we recommend seeking out a tested recipe that doesn’t use them.

    1. Hi Marcy! If you’d like to use citric acid in instead of lemon juice, we recommend seeking out a tested recipe that specifically calls for citric acid. Ball recipes and the National Center for Home Food Preservation are both great resources for tested recipes!

    1. Hi Sally! You can find this information in the post under the heading, “What kind of salt do you use when canning tomatoes?” You can either use the table of contents links to click straight there or scroll down to that section. But I’ve included the text from the post here to make it easier!

      “Any kind of salt works for canning tomato sauce. Unlike canning pickles, where you need to use a special kind of salt without additives to achieve a clear brine, any salt you regularly use in your kitchen will work in this recipe.”

    1. Hi Heidi! This is a tested recipe from a trusted source (Ball Home Canning), so to ensure safety, we can’t recommend any changes to the recipe as written.

    2. I understand you should not alter the recipe b/c it is tested for acidity levels- but can I leave out the black pepper & red pepper flakes? Thx.

      1. Hi Carla! You can leave out the black pepper and red pepper flakes when making this, and it will still be safe for canning!

  4. Can you safely double or even triple this recipe? I have a ton of tomatoes to use and would love to can more than three pints. Thanks!

    1. Hi Hanna! Spaghetti sauce should be fine to scale up. It’s just jam with added pectin that you have to limit your scaling or it won’t gel properly. Happy canning!

  5. So you put the lemon juice in while cooking it? I was always told to put it in each jar? New to this. I’m getting ready to make this. First timer here

    1. Hi Cheryl! Yes—in this recipe, you add the lemon juice during the cooking process (where it’s indicated in Step 2). You always want to follow a tested canning recipe as written to ensure safety. We’re so excited to hear about your first time canning! Please come back and tell us how it turns out for you. We hope you love it!

    1. Hi Sherry! This recipe was only tested for safety in pint jars, so we can’t make any recommendations regarding jar size, processing time, etc. other than what’s in the recipe. If you’d like to can your salsa in quart jars, we recommend finding a tested recipe for that specific size jar.

  6. When making the tomato puree for the spaghetti sauce recipe, did you add all the salt and lemon juice for that step as well? Or did you just do the boiling and straining part and than added in the lemon juice, salt, veggies, etc in the spaghetti sauce section?

    1. Hi, Tracey! You’ll be adding the lemon juice, salt, and veggies in the spaghetti sauce section so you don’t need to add it when making the puree. You’re only following steps 2, 3, and 4 in the puree recipe to prepare your tomatoes. I hope this helps!