Veggie-Loaded Homemade Marinara Sauce (Large Batch for Freezing)

Homemade marinara sauce chock full of homegrown veggies and tomatoes is hands down one of the BEST things I’ve ever preserved! And in the middle of the cold Winter, pulling a bag full of homemade marinara from the freezer is like pulling out a bag of sunshine! We’ve been enjoying this sauce immensely, and we’ll be making even more this season!

I can’t take all the credit for this homemade marinara sauce, as the idea came from our neighbor. She gifted us a quart of her homemade marinara sauce from her homegrown veggies and I was blown away! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t made anything like this before, and what a fantastic way to use up and preserve all the goodness coming out of the garden at the same time as the tomatoes!

This is one of those “sort of” of recipes. It’s more of an idea, a guideline, a technique than a hard and fast recipe. That’s the thing about homemade food from homegrown veggies- there’s always an element of winging it. And I promise you that if you follow these basic directions and add your own touch, your homemade marinara will turn out absolutely wonderful!

It’s also very forgiving! Don’t have quite enough tomatoes, or maybe you have a few more, no problem! Want to add eggplant, or spinach- go ahead. Don’t like green beans- sub them for something else!

Homemade Veggie-Loaded Marinara Recipe

12 quarts of fresh tomatoes*
1-2 Tbs sea salt, to taste
4 cups thinly sliced zucchini
3 cups green beans, cut into pieces
3 cups sliced bell peppers
3 cups chopped onion
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup thinly sliced garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

*Regarding Tomatoes
– I recommend using at least 50% roma-style “sauce” tomatoes. I used about 60% romas and 40% other large heirlooms of various colors and shapes. I don’t recommend using cherry tomatoes for this sauce, they are too seedy and not meaty enough.

-If you have a method for prepping tomatoes for sauce, go ahead and use it. I don’t mind the skins in my sauce, so I don’t bother removing them, nor do I mind a few tomato seeds, so I don’t fuss too much over getting every single seed out.

-For the roma tomatoes I cut the stem part at the top off, then cut them in half from top to bottom, quickly scoop out the seeds with my finger and give the tomato halves a rough chop. I chop them because it helps to break the skins up into smaller, more undetectable pieces.

-For larger beefsteak-type tomatoes I cut them in half through their equator, then squeeze as much of the juice and seed guts out of each half as I can without totally squashing the tomato, and then I roughly chop the halves, taking care to remove the stem and core at the top.

*Regarding Freezing Tomatoes
-You can absolutely freeze your tomatoes as they become ripe and gather them over time until you have enough to make a batch of homemade marinara. I made several different batches of this sauce, some with fresh tomatoes and some with thawed, previously frozen tomatoes- both were very good.

-If you do freeze them whole, once thawed the skins tend to peel off easily, which is nice. Once thawed, a lot of liquid will have come out of the tomatoes… which leaves you with a choice. If you discard the orange-tinged tomato liquid, you can shave a good hour or more off of your cooking time, however that liquid has a lot of flavor in it, and your finished sauce won’t be quite as flavorful. It’s up to you: save time, or have a tastier sauce. My vote is always for flavor!

-Once the tomatoes are thawed, it is nearly impossible to squeeze the seeds out of them, so if you freeze your tomatoes whole, your finished sauce will have more seeds in it (which I don’t like). There is a way around this.

-If freezing your tomatoes, my best recommendation is to take the time to process them a bit before freezing them, rather than just throwing them into the freezer whole. I would cut the tomatoes in half, remove the stem and core, scoop out the seeds, and then freeze. Once thawed you can remove some of the skins and chop them up and put them right into the pot. Take it a step further and chop them before freezing, then you’ll be ready to thaw and go!

Homemade Marinara Sauce Instructions:

Once I work through the tomatoes squeezing out the seeds and chopping them up, I pile them into my big stock pot. I use a 16 quart stockpot, which is a nice size for 12 quarts of tomatoes. (This is how I measure the tomatoes, just fill my pot until it’s roughly 3/4 full.) If you’re trying to visualize how many tomatoes this is, picture a very full plastic grocery bag full.

Cook the tomatoes over medium heat, a gentle simmer, until the tomatoes are about half the volume you started with, which should take around 3-4 hours. Stir occasionally to make sure they aren’t sticking to the bottom and burning.

Allow the tomatoes to cool a bit before blending. Use an immersion blender, or transfer to a regular blender to puree the tomatoes. No need to make them completely smooth- some texture is great!

Once I’ve blended all the tomatoes (I use a Vitamix blender) I pour them back into the pot and start cooking again. This is where the art form comes in… I cook the tomato puree down until it looks like a nice, thick perfect marinara sauce, which takes about 1-2 more hours. Your times may vary some. Shoot for similar to the consistency of a jar of store-bought spaghetti sauce.

While the marinara is boiling down, I get chopping! Lots and lots of chopping…

When the sauce looks like a perfect marinara sauce, I add in the salt and all of the chopped veggies. Don’t add the herbs in yet, we’ll save those until the end.

You guessed it, cook the now veggie-loaded sauce some more, nearly an hour, until all the veggies are soft. Taste the marinara to see if you have added enough salt.

Turn off the heat and stir in the basil and parsley. Allow the sauce to cool completely before ladling into freezer bags or these shatter-proof reusable freezer containers that prevent freezer burn (my favorite!).

*I typically make this a two-day process otherwise it gets to be a long day. I’ll cook the tomatoes down on day one, then allow them to sit on the stove overnight and cool. The following day I pick up where I left off, starting with blending the tomatoes while they’re cool.

Happy preserving!

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