Freezer Tomato Sauce

This freezer tomato sauce is a simple homemade spaghetti sauce made with that glut of garden tomatoes. Stash it in the freezer now and thank yourself later.

Three resealable plastic bags filled with freezer tomato sauce.

This freezer tomato sauce is something you make once and indulge in for months afterwards. Consider it an investment in your future winter self. Editor’s Note: Tthis recipe makes ample tomato sauce, which in turn equates to quite a lot of freezer space. Although we’re proponents of big batch cooking, you could easily halve this recipe and still have an adequate stash to see you through until next tomato season—well, okay, maybe until next month.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Freezer Tomato Sauce

  • Quick Glance
  • 10 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes 3 quarts
5/5 - 1 reviews
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Ingredients

  • 8 pounds cherry tomatoes or small plum tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 4 to 6 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste with 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 large basil or rosemary sprigs
  • 3 large flat-leaf parsley sprigs (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)

Directions

  • 1. Plop the tomatoes into a large pot or Dutch oven and add the water. Dampen a large piece of crumpled parchment paper with cold water, open it, and place it directly on the tomatoes. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes, shaking the pot occasionally to keep the tomatoes from sticking to the bottom.

    TESTER TIP: Don’t remove the lid during cooking. The tomatoes are cooking in the steam and you don’t want any of that precious heat or liquid to escape.
  • 2. Transfer the softened tomatoes to a food mill or food processor, working in 2 or 3 batches if necessary, and process until smooth. If using a food processor, strain the purée, discarding the skins and seeds.
  • 3. Place the strained tomatoes, oil, shallots, garlic, and herbs in a pot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, until reduced to about 12 cups.
  • 4. Taste and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, the sugar. Use immediately or freeze for later.
  • 5. To freeze: Let the tomato sauce cool completely to room temperature. Divvy it among six 1-quart plastic freezer bags—each bag will contain about 2 cups sauce, making each bag only half full. Place the bag on its side on a flat surface in the freezer until solid, at least 1 hour. Then stand the flat bags of frozen sauce on end, as you would books on a shelf, to minimize the amount of space they take in your deep freeze.

    To thaw: Thaw the frozen bags of sauce by completely immersing them in a bowl of cold water, about 1 1/2 hours to partially thaw. Or place the bags of tomato sauce on a plate and thaw in the refrigerator for about 4 hours. You don’t have to completely thaw the sauce before you rewarm it.

    To serve: Transfer the thawed sauce to a pot, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and gently simmer until warmed through, 5 to 10 minutes. If a thicker sauce is desired, continue to simmer until reduced. Originally published August 20, 2016.

Recipe Testers Reviews

This freezer tomato sauce recipe is a great and easy way to bring summer tomato flavor to the doldrums of winter without the scary canning part!

If you have a food mill, use it instead of a food processor because you won’t have to strain the sauce to remove skins and seeds. I didn’t reduce it as much as they said; I like to reduce the sauce instead when I defrost and use it. I used basil instead of rosemary, which makes the sauce more versatile later on. I omitted the parsley, as it browns quickly when cooking and is better added either when putting the cooked sauce in the bag, or just before use, since parsley is available year-round.

This is a very simple tomato sauce. This sauce is full of flavor and timely ingredients with numerous tomatoes available at markets.

This freezer tomato sauce is sweet yet tart. I'd reduce it even further after defrosting, as ice crystals may build up during freezing and thin the sauce.

This freezer tomato sauce was easy and tasted delicious. It’s the height of summer and tomatoes are pretty good. It was nice and thick and didn’t lose its taste after defrosting. I would only use 2 cloves next time.

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Comments

  1. Hi. This looks wonderful and I would love to try it. Is it necessary to add lemon juice when freezing the sauce in bags? I see that it is called for when canning to prevent botulism. Thank you.

  2. I am so happy to have found this recipe as I have tons of cherry tomatoes and basil I need to do something with (other than dehydrate the tomatoes and make pesto with the basil :-)). Could you just offer some clarification on what you refer to as a “sprig” of basil? Is there an approximate number of large/medium/small leaves you could translate this to? Many thanks.

    1. Emily, we, too, are so glad you found this recipe! Great question. A lot of it depends on personal preference and just how pronounced a basil flavor you’d like in your final sauce. I tend to veer on the side of less is more, so I would go with maybe 6 small leaves. But again, it all depends on how you like your sauce and how you intend to use it. If you do plan to freeze some for random uses in the future, I would definitely use less basil so that the flavor isn’t too pronounced and doesn’t overwhelm whatever recipe you make in the future. Because you can always add more basil to the final dish, but you can’t take it away! Good luck and kindly let us know how it goes…!

  3. Can you just freeze the tomatoes once puréed and not make a pasta sauce? I wasn’t sure if it needed cooking before freezing.

    1. Cheryl, a friend of mine just tried this freezer tomato sauce with “regular” tomatoes. Because larger tomatoes contain more juice, the resulting sauce was more liquidy and, as a result, a touch diluted. You could however, try it and simply simmer the tomato sauce, uncovered, a touch longer than the recipe indicates to reduce the liquid and concentrate the flavors until you’ve got the desired consistency and flavor. If you do try it, kindly let us know how it goes!

  4. I love having this on hand throughout our winter for any number of dishes. A favorite is putting this sauce in vegetable soup. It’s so bright and fresh tasting. I skip the sugar.

  5. Please do not disregard this recipe if you do not have the requisite 8 pounds of tomatoes! Since tomatoes have been coming on this summer, every other day or so I end up with about 2 pounds more of lovely Roma beauties than can be consumed fresh; consequently, I have been using this technique to preserve them. Simply scale down the ingredients and make personal-preference adjustments to the seasonings and herbs.

    Some might comment “Why bother for such a small output?” My response to that position would be that anyone who loves to cook will not find the preparation of this freezer sauce onerous. What a great way to preserve the brightness of fresh tomatoes without the unbearable chore of canning.

    1. Great advice, Ozma. So glad that you are able to sock some of those tomatoes away for a rainy day, so to speak.

  6. I remember seeing the ‘parchment lid’ method in a few Thomas Keller recipes. I’m curious, why parchment instead of the actual pot lid?

    I have an abundance of tomatoes, and I’m looking forward to freezing sauce for the winter.

    1. My understanding is that the parchment adheres to the surface of the liquid, thereby trapping the moisture and flavor that may otherwise evaporate into the air. Whereas a lid does much the same, the intervening air allows for dispersion of said moisture and flavor. That’s a very non-scientific answer. Anyone care to posit a more technical response?

  7. This will be one to store in my memory banks until our summer down here in Oz. I especially like the idea of freezing it flat in bags for easier storage – inspired!

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