Pasta Sauce & Oregano Harvest

Last year I planted one itty, bitty oregano plant.  You know, one of those little 2″ x 2″ cubes you get at the nursery with a little sprig coming out of the top.Then I planted some basil this spring.  I also have my volunteer tomato plants.  So…  I have a pasta sauce garden!

Well, I was just a little disappointed with the oregano last year.  It didn’t grow as fast as I thought it should, and by the time I was harvesting basil, peppers and tomatoes, the oregano didn’t look very promising.  Even though it likes to dry out between waterings, I don’t think it was getting enough water.

This year, I have this:canning pasta sauce with meat

It’s starting to get leggy and the buds are just about to bloom (some are blooming and the bees are loving it), so now is the time to harvest some of the oregano – both for dehydrating to use later in the winter and also to make some fresh pasta sauce.

Finally! 🙂

For the pasta sauce, I set aside 2 tablespoons of the fresh oregano to make the sauce and processed the rest for my spice cupboard.  Since I don’t use pesticides, I know my herb is perfectly safe.  I also harvested some of my basil for the pasta sauce. Harvesting basil by cutting off the top three or four sets of leaves depending on how big the plant is, or in the case of oregano cutting the stems in half, is actually good for these herbs.  If you keep loping off a little of the basil now and then, it will branch out, get bushier, and you will have loads more to harvest!  Same with the oregano.

The remainder of the oregano was washed in cool water several times to make sure I got all of the dirt, spiders, etc. off.  Once that was done, I stripped the leaves from the stems and spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment so the oregano could dry.  Make sure you don’t put it in the sun – that’s not good for herbs that you are dehydrating. If you want to use a dehydrator, follow the manufacturer’s directions.  I prefer to dry mine the “no power” way because the oils and flavors in the herb are very delicate and heat sensitive – and why use power if you don’t need to!  It only takes a day or so for the oregano leaves to dry. Once the leaves are leathery (almost crumbly) dry, they are done. Pack into an airtight container and, as with all herbs, it is preferable to keep out of light.pasta sauce with fresh oregano and basil

Alternatively, you could harvest your oregano, clean as above, then bunch together with a rubber band.  This can then be hung in a warm, dry area to dehydrate right on the stem.  Purists say this is the best way because all the oils follow gravity down the stem and into the leaves, which makes the most intense flavors in the herb.  I don’t really know for sure.  I have done it both ways and don’t really see a difference.Fresh basil and oregano pasta sauce

So – onward to my pasta sauce!

ground chicken in pasta sauceFirst comes the tomatoes.  I had some regular old slicing type tomatoes and some grape tomatoes in my freezer and I bought a couple pounds of Roma tomatoes to make the sauce.  Last year I discovered that the easiest way to peel tomatoes is to freeze them. You can see the entire instructions HERE. Once they begin to thaw, their skins start to break.  Once thawed, all you have to do is tug on a peel and it comes right off!  No boiling water to scald your fingers!  If you click on the picture, you will see that some of the tomato skins are starting to crack.


Once the tomatoes were peeled and quartered, I placed them into a large pot and let them come to a boil.  I didn’t bother making sure all the seeds were out.  I don’t mind seeds.  The tomatoes simmered for an hour or so, to cook down, get soft, and concentrate some of the juices.  Then, I cheated – I poured the tomatoes into my blender to make a smooth tomato sauce.


The sauce was poured back into the pot and then I added 2 tablespoons of chopped basil,Pasta sauce with ground chicken 1 tablespoon chopped oregano and 2 tablespoons of minced garlic.  Those were the fresh ingredients.  Since hubby and I like just a little bit of “kick” in our pasta sauces, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of the red chili pepper flakes that I dehydrated and ground up last year, plus a generous grind of black pepper.

While the pasta sauce was simmering again, with the fresh herbs, getting nice and thick, I browned some ground chicken in a skillet, then added it to the pasta sauce.  I let the pasta sauce (all ingredients now in) happily bubble away on my stove top while I prepared the jars, lids, and pressure canner.Fresh basil, oregano and garlic pasta sauce

My pressure canner is a heavy one, and it isn’t recommended that I use it on top of my glass cook top range, simply because of the weight.  Happily I have an outdoor kitchen.  Unfortunately, we are in the process of re-doing the granite top of the outdoor kitchen.  Luckily, dear hubby had a better idea, anyway.  Our middle son gave us one of those outdoor turkey cookers several years ago for Christmas.  Though we have used it a couple of times to cook turkey, and once to process a bunch of crab, I think we have found it’s best use yet:  Canning!  The pressure cooker fit perfectly into the stand – just like they were made for each other!  I even realized that the large pot that came with the turkey cooker will double very well as a water bath canner!  This is ideal because I won’t have to heat up my kitchen ever again!  Wahoo!spaghetti sauce with ground chicken

Once the hot jars were filled with the hot pasta sauce to within one inch of the top of the  jar, they were placed into the canner that already had hot water.  Did you pick up on the term hot?  Always remember, hot jars for hot food into hot canning water.  Cold jars for cold foods into cold/warm canning water.  If you don’t follow this rule you may just end up with a lot of cracked jars and a mess in the canner! 🙁

The pasta sauce was then processed (after venting and bringing up to 10 pounds of pressure) for 75 minutes for pints (90 for quarts).  You must always process any low acid food in a pressure cooker – that means all vegetables and meats, and even some fruits!

After the 75 minutes were up, the gas was turned off and I let the jars just sit in the hot canner for about 5 hours, so they could cool down.  If you don’t do this, you risk having bad seals or even cracking a jar.  It’s even better to just let it sit overnight.

This is what I ended up with:

Spaghetti sauce with ground chicken, basil, oregano

Now, when I want to serve spaghetti, I will pour the contents of the jar into a pot, heat it up to a simmer, and then add whatever I want – mushrooms, fresh tomatoes (to make it chunky) olives – or nothing at all!  Then it can be poured over freshly cooked pasta. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan.  Mmmmm…

Or this could be as the base sauce of a home made pizza.  Yum!  What is your favorite way to use pasta sauce?


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44 thoughts on “Pasta Sauce & Oregano Harvest

  1. nomnomnom! Love the recipe and the tips on canning. I did the no-no – cold jars in hot water – had loaded one can, went for the 2nd and heard the oddest sound, looked in and the jar had broken. So while cleaning up realized the error and canned the rest correctly. Whew. Complicated but such a valuable skill!!

    • Yeah – been there, done that. I think almost everyone who has been canning for a while has had this happen at least once. Sometimes it isn’t even a temperature differential, but some unseen, unknown nick in the jar. Anyway, this recipe can also be done with ground beef or ground turkey. The general directions are in the Ball Blue Book, and they say that you can change out the herbs and spices however you like, which is what I did. The only rule if you have several different ingredients in your jars is to pressure cook the amount of time called for on the recipe that takes the longest processing time – in this case it was the ground chicken. Have a wonderful and memorable weekend!

  2. Sounds so good! Our tomatoes are still green -you are so lucky to already have ripe ones! Love the idea of the canner outside in the hot weather.

    • Actually, I had to buy some tomatoes to get enough for a batch, so I bought some Roma. It is so nice to have the canner outside! When it’s still fairly early in the morning, I get to hear the birds singing and it isn’t too hot. A good book and a cup of coffee (or iced tea if it’s starting to get hot), and canning isn’t a chore anymore! Thanks for stopping by, Vickie.

    • You are so right – summer is wonderful! Sometimes I worry if I am being too wordy or not precise enough with instructions, so, thanks for the compliment, Heidi.

    • Thank you, Marla. I love adding fresh herbs into my sauces. When I use herbs and spices (like the red chile pepper flakes) that I have grown and processed myself, it gives me such a feeling of satisfaction. Using foods that I grow and preserve, I get a feeling that hubby and I will be able to live a very self sufficient life once we are living on the future homestead.

  3. I usually ties my oregano up 😉
    I have to ask, when you say oregano, do you say it orEgano, or oregAno? I stress the a when I say it, but my husband stressed the e!

    • I am like you, I stress the A. My mom ties her oregano up also, but I rather like the spreading nature of the plant over the landscape rocks in the back. When we move up to our future homestead, I will be planting a lot of herbs around our vegetable garden and orchard, as they apparently repel deer! Thanks for visiting today – see you again soon!

  4. What a set up you have there. I would love to learn how to can veggies…on my want-to-do list!
    Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY…

    • Yes, canning outside is actually quite an enjoyable task – I wouldn’t call it a chore! Canning vegetables and meats are probably one of the most sustainable things you can learn, and once you get the hang of it, canning gives you such a wonderful feeling of self-reliance. Not having to take up space in the freezer lets you have room in there for other things… like ice cream! 🙂

    • Yes, Jessica – you should try your hand at canning! It really isn’t very hard and if you have a recipe you really love, you could can lots and lots of it for future use. Thank you for your comments – come back soon!

  5. I loved this post! Many times I wondered if I could do it. I bet your sauce taste amazing. Thank you for sharing at Tuesdays at Our Home! Have a great week! Maria

    • Good morning, MariaElena! Yes, you can do it! And yes, I think the sauce tastes amazing! Thank you for your kind comments and for hosting the party.

  6. Oh, yeah! We started using the turkey fryer to can outside 3 summers ago and wouldn’t dream of heating up the kitchen ever again! It works great! I tried my hand at spaghetti sauce last year for the first time, and oh my goodness-nothing compares to what you can make yourself! And we also use the putting the tomatoes in the freezer trick! People look at me like I’m crazy, but when the tomatoes are getting ripe, seems like everything else is too, so this way I can pop them in the freezer, then take them out to process on my time schedule! 😉

    • You are right about that – don’t think I will be canning indoors anymore – unless it’s wintertime! 🙂 That trick with the tomatoes is so cool. I wish I had known about it years ago when I would burn my fingers peeling the tomatoes. I don’t think I will ever do that again! It was good to hear from you, Susie.

  7. Very nice. One of these days I’ll be brave enough to do a little pressure canning. Love your set up outside. Thanks for stopping by at the wonderful Wednesday Blog hop. Sharing.

    • I was kind of scared when I started pressure canning. I’m still a bit nervous, but nothing disastrous has happened yet, and each time I do something new, I get a bit more confidence. You should try it!

  8. Once we move to our new place I will start working on a game plan to grow, can, cook (well the cooking part I already do), bake the way I love to, from scratch and abundance. But you are the first wonderful blogger (I have to say I truly appreciate all you folks in the blogging community who share all your hard earned knowledge with us) that every mentioned canning using meat. I thought it was a no-no. I am so happy to find out it doesn’t have to be a no-no and is has turned into a you-bet-your-bippy you can can meat. But I want to double check, the meat can be meat not just poultry right? Please please please say yes pork and beef can be canned as well.

    Also do you happen to know the approximate shelf life of your sauce. I am looking forward to making your version of sauce. I make what I was taught from mom. Since I am changing the way I live and do things It would only be the right thing to do is try another version of tomato sauce for the pasta. Have a great day! Thanks!

    • Of course you can can beef and pork! And chicken, turkey, fish… In fact, I have canned beef, chicken and salmon – the instructions are on the website in the top tabs in Preserving Food – Canning. A lot of people shy away from canning meats, fish and poultry because of the mechanical fear (will my pressure canner blow up?) and/or the disease fear (botulism, salmonella). I will tell you that very few people get sick from botulism anymore. If you follow the recipes and recommended processing times, the chances of you getting sick from your canning are next to nothing! And modern day pressure cookers have safety devices on them. I just got a new pressure cooker – the All American 921 and I will tell you, I am in love! It costs a bit more, but I will never have to worry about having good rubber gaskets again because there aren’t any on the All American models. If you want to get excited, look at “The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving”. There are recipes in there for Beef in Wine Sauce, Chicken Soup and even Chili! This is a great way to store food without taking up freezer space. Most canned foods are good for at least one year and are safe for many years after – as long as there is a good seal. The bad thing about keeping canned goods for a long time is that some of the quality of the food will decline, such as nutritional value, texture and color. So you see, you can can meats!

  9. Oh your pasta sauce looks so delicious! I make ours also and it is so rewarding in the Winter months to have pasta sauce with ingredients from our Summer garden. So glad to have discovered your blog and look forwarding to reading more of your posts!

    • Thank you for stopping by, Alicia. I already slid over to your blog and I love it! So glad to meet you! We have already gone through two jars of this sauce. I know, I know, I’m supposed to save it for winter meals, but the tomatoes are coming on really strong now and so is the basil and oregano (need to harvest again!), so I will be able to make plenty more. Besides, having this sauce in my pantry is like having a fast food restaurant in my pantry because all I have to do is heat it up, boil up some pasta and, presto, dinner! I read your latest post and some day I would like to take you to my favorite farmer’s market! I know there are some really good ones where you are from – especially the one on the pier. My hubby and I like to visit farmer’s markets wherever we travel. It’s so much fun to see the differences and similarities in the regional markets! See you again soon.

  10. This looks great! I definitely have plenty of oregano and basil in my garden, and our tomatoes are just now ripening. I hope that we have enough to make some sauce this summer. Thanks for sharing! Pinned and tweeting!

    • Thank you for pinning and tweeting, Blair! The mixture of the oregano, basil and garlic is classic for a pasta sauce. I added in the crushed red pepper flakes for that extra umph – you can’t really taste it, but you know it’s there. I’m sure there are other great recipes out there, but I wanted to post one where I can grow and/or raise everything needed to make the sauce. I’m all into self sufficiency, you know! 🙂 Thank you for your kind comments.

  11. Your sauce sounds so wonderful! There really is no comparison between store-bought and homemade pasta sauce. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this at Savoring Saturdays! Hope to see you back this weekend!

    • I know… right? Nothing tastes as good as stuff you can make yourself. Especially when you can grow everything also! Just knowing that my food isn’t filled up with pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, GMO’s, high fructose corn syrup, etc., makes me feel so much better about it! I would like to thank you, Raia, for being a host for Savoring Saturdays. I don’t always get to participate on weekends, but when I do, yours is one I like to participate in!

    • Thank you very much, Theresa! Pressure canning is starting to become a fun hobby of mine. Right now I am experimenting a bit more with the Tattler lids in the pressure canner. Some work, some don’t. Thanks for hosting your wonderful party, and I will see you again soon!

  12. Wonderful tutorial! Thank you for the tip on tomato peeling, I feel you have changed my life significantly with that information 🙂 We have used the same burner for pressure canning outside too, it is perfect!! Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week! I hope to see you again next Monday 😉

    • That tip on tomato peeling tip sure changed my life! Now, I can spend time canning everything else and just wait until a cold winter day to thaw the tomatoes and can them. It was my husband’s idea to use the turkey cooker propane burner – I had never thought of it before. In fact, we have a propane stove right next to our BBQ in our outdoor kitchen, but it’s pretty high off the ground and the first couple of times I tried to can on it I had to use a step ladder! I think I like having the burner lower to the ground – especially since those suckers can get pretty heavy. See you again on Monday!

    • Good evening, Uwe. The sauce is very good, but it could be made the way you like it, and then put into the canning jar. Are you harvesting vegetables from your garden yet?

      • Hello Vickie,
        yes, we are now beginning to reap.
        Until now there are beans, peas.
        The garlic, we put in last winter, we have now harvested.
        The same with onions, which we have sown last year.
        Soon there will be with us also fennel, roots, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn ….

        I wish you a nice week



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  14. Wow, great harvest! I wasn’t so lucky with oregano this year. My basil did good though, so I guess I really can’t complain.

    Thanks for linking up with Green Thumb Thursday. I hope you join us again this week!

    ~Lisa M

    • Haha – my oregano did great, but my basil has seen better days! It sounds like we have the same problem, just different herbs. 🙂 I love the combination of garlic, basil and oregano in my pasta sauce, so it’s a good year when all three do well. Thanks for your kind comment!