Canned Tomato Sauce - Sugo

My mother-in-law, Maria, makes this sauce every year. No matter how many jars we make, we always go through it quickly. It's made from fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, onions, and olive oil. You bring all of this to a hearty simmer, let it cook down a bit, then run it through a food mill. The you put the sauce in prepared canning jars and your set. Simple and delicious.

Making sauce with Maria is sort of the official way to bring in the fall. We make it outside on a cool Saturday or Sunday morning.

This sauce is great with any surplus tomatoes, but it's obviously 1000% better with home-grown tomatoes. The last couple years we've gone out of our way to get home-grown, organic tomatoes. And this year, Maria grew her own. So as the tomatoes ripened, we threw them in the freezer. We also scored about 20lbs of home-grown tomatoes from a friend named Joe, who is an old dude that has been growing organically his whole life, before there was a non-organic way to grow stuff.

Maria also grows basil all summer long, picking down the plants and encouraging more leaves. She freezes the basil too.

The amounts on the ingredient list here are guesses based on watching Maria make this sauce. I think it would be hard to screw this recipe up. Since you run all of this through a food mill in the end, the garlic and onions don't need to be peeled. We typically do about 3 batches of this at a time.


  • 25 lbs of tomatoes, halved or quartered, then squished/squeezed
  • 2 heads of garlic, separated, quickly crushed
  • 2-3 large unions, quartered/eight'ed
  • 1-2 cups of olive oil
  • 3 big handfuls of basil leaves
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup of salt


  1. Put it all in a giant pot and bring it to a boil.
  2. Keep it at a good simmer until some of the water cooks out and the sauce thickens up a bit.
  3. Run it through a food mill.
  4. Pour the sauce into hot jars, put the lids on, and turn the jars upside down. A day later, set them upright and store them.

Note on canning: Maria puts the canning jars in a 250F oven for about 10-20 minutes, then pours the hot sauce right into the hot jars -- she also boils the lids. This method is not approved or recommended by any authority that is in charge of approving or authorizing such things, but Maria has done it like this for years and we've eaten sauce that is over 6 months old many a time without any ill effects. You can of course, process the jars as you would any other canning deal.

The best time to enjoy this sauce in the dead of winter on home-made pasta and a sprinkle of the parm that comes in the green cans.

Updated Sept 08
Here are some pictures that our neighbor, Kelly, took of the 2008 Sugo Session.
While we waited for the sauce to cook down, we made gnocchi.

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