Tomato sauce day also known as “sugo” day is the most important and special day to my family. This sauce is what I use in every single one of my recipes and the most requested tutorial over the years. Gathering and making sauce to last us a year is a tradition that I hold so close to my heart. This Italian Tomato Sauce making tradition, has been a tradition for generations. Steve and his family are from Cardinale, Calabria and have been making sauce this way for decades. His uncle (zio) Iginio is from Trento, Italy and he also made sauce this exact way as well. This is by far the most incredible sauce which we use for soups, stews, and use as a base when we make pasta with meatballs, with ribs, cutlets, and many other recipes. Traditions are extremely important to me and in Bulgaria we have many that we follow. We have been preserving and canning food for as long as I can remember. In Bulgaria, we never had any fancy machines like we do today, so we always did everything by hand. We would make jam, string bean soup in jars, pickled veggies, fruit compote, vegetable spreads, and so much more. Tradition means everything to me, and I hope I can inspire you. I know that every family makes sauce differently depending on the region, so please let me know how you make yours in the comments and share your tips with our amazing community on here so that everyone can learn. Our sauce truly tastes like liquid gold, so I hope you make it and enjoy.
Buy the bushels of tomatoes. Take each tomato and cut off the green stem at the top. If anything is rotten on the tomato, we cut it off as well. Place the tomatoes in clean cold water and set aside.
In the meantime, we get the gas burner ready and hook up the propane tank to it. Light the burner and put a big pot on top with water. Boil the water and once boiled, we add in the clean and cut tomatoes. Let them boil for 15 minutes or until they are soft, and the skins are falling off.
Once the tomatoes are boiled, we take them out with a big metal strainer and place them in a basket that has holes. You can use anything that has some holes so that the water drains out.
In the meantime, we get the electric tomato squeezer machine set up with two buckets on each end. One bucket will catch the peels and seeds and the other will catch the tomato sauce.
We put the boiled tomatoes in the top funnel of the machine and press down with the tamper. You will see the sauce come out of the spout and the skins come out on the side. Once all the tomatoes have finished, we take the bucket with the peels and pass those through as well. We do this one time, but you can do it twice as you will get a lot of sauce out of the peels. We compost the peels after we have passed them through.
Once the sauce is in the pails, we like to add salt to taste but you can also leave it plain as well. Always add salt a little at a time and taste and adjust.
Now you can wash the basil leaves and dry them as well. I put mine through a salad spinner and add a small handful in each mason jar. We take a funnel and put it on top of the jar and use a small pot to scoop the sauce into the funnel filling each jar to the rim. You can also use a milk jug as well if that’s easier on you.
Wipe the rim clean with a paper towel and tighten the lid. We dump out the water that the tomatoes boiled in and add fresh new water. We put a thick cloth inside the pot and fill it with water and let it boil. Once it’s boiling, we take the closed jars and put them in the hot water with heatproof cloves. You can also use canning jar lifter as well to place the jars inside if you have it on hand. The jars boil for about 30 minutes, we then take them out and place them lid side down onto a blanket. You should hear a “pop” and that’s how you know the lid is fully sealed.
Cover the jars with a blanket (or a few) and let them rest overnight. The following day we flip the over and store them away. Enjoy for soups, stews, pasta, chilli, or anything you wish.
Where can you buy a bushel of tomatoes: when tomatoes are in season you can buy it at any Italian store, farm, or grocery store. Some examples here in Toronto are Cataldi’s, Longo’s, and Fortinos.
How many jars does a bushel make: this will depend on the bushel and how many times you pass the tomato skin through the machine. We usually get 15-20 one litre jars per bushel. So, if we get three bushels, we make around 60 large one litre jars, but this all depends on year to year.
Do I need new lids and rings each year: yes, we always buy new lids and rings. We re-use the same jars but re-use our mason jars. It is important to always use new lids so that they seal properly, and you prevent botulism as well. A lot of times the lids and rings will be rusty as well, so we always make sure to purchase new ones.
Where can I purchase the jars/lids/equipment: You can purchase the one litre wide mouth jars and lids at any store like Canadian Tire, Walmart, and most grocery stores when tomatoes are in season. You can also look online as well. We always use the wide mouth jars and lids as they are easiest to fill. Our equipment is decades old but please go to a kitchen appliance or restaurant supply store like Nella as you will most likely find everything you need there. You can also call your local Italian stores as well and ask. Tell them you want to make Italian tomato sauce jars and they will direct you and tell you everything you need. You will need a big pot, a gas burner that hooks to the propane, the tomato sauce machine, the big tomato strainer, and everything you see in my video like pails, funnel, etc.
Where did you buy your machine: We purchased our machine at Nella Toronto, but you can also look online or go in store and they will direct you best. I will link the website and our electric tomato squeezer here Nella 0.40 hp Electric Tomato Squeezer — Nella Online
How can I make 1-2 jars at home: you will have to purchase Roma or San Marzano tomatoes when they are in season as they are cheapest that time and simply take the stem off the tomato or any of the rotten parts (if any) and boil them until they are soft, and the skins are falling off. Once they are boiled you can pass them through a handheld tomato machine like this one OXO Good Grips Good Grips Food Mill : Amazon.ca: Baby which will discard the skins/seeds as much as possible. You are going to salt the sauce to taste (or leave it plain) and add it to a mason jar which has fresh basil in it. Wipe the rim clean and close it with the lid and ring. Boil those 1-2 jars for 30 minutes in a pot of boiling water that is lined with a towel or paper towel so that they don’t move around or break. Take them out and flip them over lid side down. Cover them with a towel and let them rest overnight. They are perfect for 1-2 years in the pantry. P.s make sure you hear a “pop” which is how you will know the lids are properly sealed after boiling.
I thought Italians simmer their sauce before jarring: many Italians simmer and cook their sauce first with other ingredients like garlic but we don’t. We like to leave ours plain because we like to use each jar for different purposes like soups, stews, chilli, and flavour as we cook. When we make pasta with meatballs for example, we take our sauce and simmer it on the stove with garlic, oil, onions, tomato paste, and make the “sugo” that way instead. Our sauce only has tomatoes, salt, and basil in it, and we add onto it as we cook.
Why do you put a cloth or blanket in the big pot when boiling the jars: we put one so that the jars don’t break or move around.
How long do the jars keep, do you refrigerate them: If you make them like us, they will keep fresh in the pantry or cantina for 2 years. We still have sauce from 2019 and 2021 that’s perfect. Make sure you store them in a cool dark place.
Why do you boil the jars after you add the sauce in them: we boil them for 30 minutes so that they seal properly and so that the sauce inside can cook more. Boiling is canning which makes the lid collapse and seals them.
What does the blanket do after they are boiled and flipped over: the blanket retains the temperature of the sauce; this method has been used for generations which is most effective for us.
What can I do with the leftover tomato skins: you can feed it to chickens, compost it, or even dehydrate it and make a tomato seasoning out of it. You would be surprised how much more sauce you can get if you pass the tomato skins through the machine 1-2 times.
Do you need to sterilize the mason jars before you add anything to them: Technically jars do not need to be sterilized before canning if they will be filled with food and processed in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes or more. Filled jars that will be processed in a boiling water bath canner for less than 10 minutes need to be sterilized first. With that being said, we always wash and make sure the jars are clean regardless.
How many times do you pass the peels: we pass them once as our sauce is thick, but you can pass them 2 times maximum if you wish.
Where did you get the buckets or pails from: you can get food grade pails anywhere, but we got ours at Nella and some at Rona. I will link one here Cambro PWB22148 22 Qt Pail with Bail – Natural White — Nella Online
Do I need to salt the tomatoes after they pass through the machine: no, you do not need to but we like to. Some Italians do and others don’t. Some also add garlic to sauce but we don’t.
Can you make this sauce without a machine: yes, but it won’t be the same. You can roast the tomatoes in the oven and peel the skin. It will be more watery and have seeds without a machine but it will still be delicious. You can also boil the tomatoes, remove the skin and seeds and pass them through a mesh strainer as well.
Do you add lemon or citric acid to balance the PH: we don’t and haven’t for generations. I will leave the USDA guidelines here which states to add it in to balance the PH level for anyone that wants to National Center for Home Food Preservation | Seasonal Tips (uga.edu)
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