Simple, easy to cook meals with minimal preparation and cleanup are ideal in a survival situation. Pasta cooks quickly with just heat and water, and it can last for decades if stored properly. Canned pasta sauce doesn’t last a lifetime, but it’ll retain peak flavor for about 2 years after canning, and will be perfectly fine to eat for at least 5 years, likely much longer.
The addition of a flavorful and hearty pasta sauce not only adds variety to your pasta, it also adds much needed calories and nutrition. Rather than canning up a simple light low calorie marinara, I like to make a hearty sauce that transforms simple pasta into a feast just by popping open one shelf stable jar. Even if you have nothing else at hand, just a single quart jar and a pound of pasta is a full satisfying meal for four adults in an emergency.
Consider adding mushrooms, onions, peppers or other vegetables to your sauce to increase the nutrient content. Sauté vegetables briefly in olive oil to improve their flavor, and ensure that you’re incorporating a bit of olive oil into the sauce for both flavor and calories. Also consider adding in half a bottle of a full flavored dry Italian wine.
Pasta Sauce Canning Safety
Pasta sauce can safely be canned using the water-bath method if you take the necessary steps to ensure that there’s enough acid in the sauce. While most people think of tomatoes as an acidic food, they’re actually much less acidic than most fruits that are being water-bathed canned. Your average tomato is right on the borderline for acceptable pH level, and once you add in other high pH ingredients like onions and mushrooms, the sauce will have to be acidified to ensure safe canning.
Most canning instructions will have you put a tablespoon of lemon juice into the bottom of jars before filling. The lemon juice acidifies the sauce, and ensures that it’s within the acceptable range for water bath canning. The juice is put directly into the jar because it’s hard to estimate exactly how much sauce you have in your sauce pot, and it’s safer to directly add a tablespoon to each pint jar or 2 tablespoons to each quart. I prefer to add balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice because the flavor in the balsamic vinegar complements the sauce.
If you’re worried about whether or not your recipe is acidic enough and don’t want to change the flavor by adding additional acid, pressure canning is a sure fire way to sterilize just about any pasta sauce recipe. Keep in mind that any recipes that contain meat must be pressure canned, as you cannot water-bath-can meat products. But to be sure your food is safe for consumption, you should check the government’s instructions and recommendations here.
How to Water-Bath Can Pasta Sauce
Fresh or canned tomatoes are both acceptable for home made pasta sauce. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, they should be peeled and seeded. The peels and seeds cause the sauce to be bitter and will give it an off flavor over time as it’s stored in your pantry. Peel the tomatoes by dropping them into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds and then removing them into a sink full of cold water. The heat shock will make it very easy for you to slide the skins off with your fingers.
Once the tomatoes are peeled, slice them in half along their equator to expose all the seed pockets. Hold them over a bowl and squeeze the tomatoes half in your hand to squeeze out the seeds. Chop the remaining tomato into chunks and put it in a pot.
If you’re making a smooth marinara instead of a chunky sauce, using a home food mill saves a lot of time and effort. Chop the tomatoes with skins and seeds intact and process them through your food mill which will separate out the skins and seeds for you, leaving nothing but smooth tomato sauce.
Add the tomatoes to a large pot and simmer with herbs, spices, salt, red wine and sautéed vegetables of your choice. Cook on low until the sauce reaches a serving consistency. Cooking time will vary based on the type of tomatoes used. For a shorter cook time and higher yield, choose roma or sauce tomatoes which have a lower water content.
Ladle the sauce into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Attach lids and bands, and process in a water bath canner 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts.
Allow to cool, and remove canning rings for storage.
Choosing a Recipe
Taste in sauce varies dramatically from family to family. Try out a few different recipes for home use without canning them and once you’ve found a version you enjoy, increase the batch size, add enough acid for safe water bath canning and get to preserving. For a place to start, try this recipe below:
Pasta Sauce Recipe for Canning
Yield: Roughly 9 Pints
- 30 lbs tomatoes (peeled, seeded and chopped)
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup chopped celery or green peppers
- 1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 4-1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 4 tbsp minced parsley
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1-2 cups dry red wine
- 1 T lemon juice or balsamic vinegar for each pint canning jar
Add peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes to a large pot and simmer.
In another pan, sauté onions, garlic, peppers and mushrooms until browned. Add sautéed vegetables to the tomatoes, along with remaining herbs, spices, salt, oil and wine. Simmer on low until it reaches the desired consistency. Process for canning.
And here’s the finished product:
Don’t forget to give yourself a big pat on the back. This is a lot of work, but nothing better than popping the seal and enjoying the fruits of your labor or even sharing them with friends and family!
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