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Do I have to peel and seed tomatoes to make marinara sauce from scratch?

I've got a ton of tomatoes left over from canning....I can't stand thte thought of peeling and seeding them to make a pasta sauce. Do I have to?

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  1. I don't mind not seeding tom's for sauce, but I don't like peels. Depending on the quantity that you are making if you cut a tomato in half and grate the pulpy side on a cheese grater you easily separate the skin from the rest. It doesn't take long (+- 5 min) to go through a couple pounds of tomatoes, but if you are making a huge batch to freeze it would be a PIA.

    2 Replies
    1. re: corneygirl

      We had used a tomato processor for years - it removes the seeds and the skin and the pulp remains. Also, my father thought that the best way to remove the liquid was to drain the water off by putting the pulp in a bag and let it hang. Bad idea because a large amount of flavor is in that juice that is draining from the tomatoes. Always cook it down - good things come to those who wait!
      First, using the tomato processor with raw cut up tomatoes is not an efficient way to use the processor as uncooked tomatoes run through the machine still leaves quite a bit of pulp behind.
      So, we decided to cook the tomatoes first and then run them through the mill. That works well and is easier to get them through because the tomatoes are soft.
      Over the years, the mill (which was enameled 'cheap' white metal) became delapidated. We were stuck on weekend with lots of cooked tomatoes and no tomato processor. What we ended up doing is to put the cooked tomatoes - skins and seeds and all - into the food processor and grind everything up. People talk about the skin and 'cellophane', but I would challenge anyone to find tomato skins in cooked tomatoes that had been run in a food processor. The sauce when cooked down is superb. I believe that the skin acts as a thickener and what results is tomato sauce that is less watery than 'skinned' tomato sauce and is thick and rich. It is quite good.
      It is probably better for you in that everything is still in the sauce - seeds and skins and pulp.
      As far as being more bitter than 'normal' - I have not noticed this. I tend to put red wine in sauce and if it is at all bitter, I'll put some sugar in. I usually don't have to since the sauce that we make usually has some onion, basil, oregano, etc...things that would tend to balance the sauces bitterness and acidity.

      1. re: tomatoizer

        I agree about the skins.My super simple way to make my marinara is to cut the tomatoes in half.Put a little olive oil in a stock pot with one garlic clove and saute for a minute add your tomatoes,salt and cook down to when it starts to thicken.Turn off heat and add fresh basil. Cover for ten minutes. Then I pour the tomatoes into a sieve and use a large spoon to push the tomato sauce through leaving behind the skins and seeds.No need for expensive equipment.

    2. You don't have to but I'd at least remove the skins...just boil a pot of water, blanch for two minutes and peel. I don't normally remove the seeds when I make sauce.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Cherylptw

        this is the best method -- and easier than the food mill.

        1. re: alkapal

          I don't think anything is easier than the magic plastic machine I use. Cut'em up, drop 'em in, turn the crank and let the pulp and juice go this way and the seeds and skin go that.

        2. re: Cherylptw

          I agree, no need to seed, but absolutely peel. Also, if you cut a shallow "X" into the base of the tomato before blanching, the skin peels off even more easily.

          1. re: RealMenJulienne

            I just peeled a dozen roma tomatoes for gazpacho. Took no time at all. The X is key to making it easy to pull off the skin. I don't think it even takes two minutes.

            1. re: scubadoo97

              I've not tried it, but have read that an easy way to peel is to freeze the whole tomato. The skin will come off easily when run under warm water. Sounds more pleasant than boiling water in hot weather.

              1. re: greygarious

                Interesting, but it takes way more planning to freeze and then you have skinless frozen tomatoes. I most recently use a small pot of water, hey I'm not making pasta, which took little time to boil and did 4 romas at a time. It really doesn't take more than 1 min to loosen the skins. While I peeled the first 4 the next were in the water.

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  I do the X, boiling water for just a minute, then drop into a bowl of ice water. Skins practically peel themselves.

                  1. re: pine time

                    I don't do the X, put in boiling water for 10-15 secs, and don't bother with the ice bath (no need to stop cooking when they haven't even started). I just start peeling at the vine end by using my fingernail to get started, if necessary.

                    This is the quickest way I've found to peel tomatoes.

                    If you cut the tomato in half "equatorially" you can get a bunch of seeds out with a bit of a squeeze. I don't worry if they all get out or not though.

                  2. re: scubadoo97

                    Won't the peel come off in the food mill when you pass them?

            2. re: Cherylptw

              I used to peel tomatoes with the boiling water method, but it's too much work. Now I just rinse the tomatoes, dry them off a bit (not really necessary), then line them up on my cooktop all in a row and hit them with my kitchen torch. I do have to turn them to get the back, then roll them over to hit their stems, but it's a LOT easier and quicker than boiling water and I happen to enjoy the slightly smokey flavor the torch gives them. It also makes it really easy to seed the naked tomatoes. Just slice them across the middle and squeeze!

              If you want to know how to do things the easiest possible way, just ask a lazy cook! That's me... '-)

            3. Why don't you cook the tomatoes and run them through a food mill? Or a blender and then a sieve/china cap?

              1. Seeds and skins are not a problem if you're using something like a Vita-Mix set on high for a couple of minutes per batch. Without one, I'd suggest a food mill.

                1. i know im going against the wisdom of the ages, but - no. you do not.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: thew

                    I'm with you, thew! I'll let you know how it turns out...no food mill, no peeling, no nothing.

                    1. re: momskitchen

                      A lot of the tomato's flavor is in the jelly encasing the seeds, so use a food mill if the skins and seeds bother you - you'll still get the jelly. I don't mind the seeds at all. The skins can be a little unpleasant if the tomatoes were in large chunks, so chopping them into half-inch pieces is a good idea. Be sure to have tomato paste on hand. You MIGHT like a sauce made with fresh tomatoes only, but chances are you will not be happy with it and will need paste to rescue it. I would include it at the start, sauteeing it with the garlic.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        I am going to crock pot this marinara all night....I don't care about peels or seeds. Stay tuned for news!

                        1. re: momskitchen

                          There's not really any mystery about what you'll end up with: lots of tough indigestible little tomato skins curled into threads throughout the sauce. Some people notice them more than others. You can crock pot them for a month and they won't break down. It's mainly a texture issue.

                          Seeds do add bitterness. And tomato paste should be mandatory to round out the taste.

                          1. re: LiviaLunch

                            The seeds and "juice" in a tomato has been scientifically proven to be the most "tomato"-y tasting bit of the tomato. I have to profoundly disagree that they are bitter on that basis.

                            I never peel my tomatoes either, and I've NEVER had "tough indigestible little tomato skins" in my sauce. When they're chopped finely, they rarely are noticeable.

                            1. re: guster4lovers

                              Same here guster. I've been making sauce 7 or 8 times a year for probably 20 years and have never peeled and/or seeded.

                        2. re: greygarious

                          The thought of "rescuing" a fresh tomato sauce with paste is appalling- if the tomatoes are that bad (and if you got them at the supermarket they probably are) far better to use canned. It's clear from comments on this board that there are a lot of really bad food mills out there- a good one is a real joy.

                    2. How about oven roasting the tomatoes cut in half or thirds?
                      Add some fresh herbs, olive oil and garlic (sort of like Bruschetta) and bake on a cookie sheet for about an hour at 350-375F.
                      After that you can puree and freeze.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: dave_c

                        That was going to be my reply....
                        I put halved seasoned tomatoes in a preheated 375F oven, roast 2 hours, basting two or three times with the oil and juices that collect in the pan. I don't peel or seed the tomatoes, but I do take out the core just at the stem end with a sharp paring knife. Cook the pasta and add it to the pan when the tomatoes are done.

                        1. re: Gio

                          Sometimes I don't even wait for the pasta to cook. I just spoon onto some toasted baguette rounds, especially when the tomatoes are nicely browned. :-)

                          1. re: Gio

                            I'm trying a new recipe of roasting the halved tomatoes, with spices, on a low and slow method--7 hours at, I think, 200 degrees. Anyone do this?

                            1. re: pine time

                              Yes,pinetime,all the time.

                              Doesn't take 7 hours either,more like 2-2 1/2.

                              Good luck!

                              1. re: grangie angie

                                I think my oven calibration must be off, 'cause it was closer to 8 hours. Either that or extra-juicy tomatoes. I've done 2 1/2 hr roasts at higher heat, but this was the first low-and-slow. Delicious, sweet, and will blend some for pizza sauce today.

                              2. re: pine time

                                Yup. I cook them for many hours too. After 2 hours at 200 degrees, the tomatoes look pretty much like when they went in the oven. I like mine to shrink a bit.

                            2. re: dave_c

                              I'm with Dave & Gio. Just did this last night. . .I had 4- 9"x13" pans of halved tomatoes, skin on. Roasted with with garlic cloves (skin on), olive oil and zinfandel for about 2 hours. Took the skin off the garlic, left the skins on the tomatoes put it all in a stock pot. After blending w/ the immersion blender I finished the sauce in a 185 degree oven overnight for about 7 hours. Such a revelation in flavor and ease of prep! For everyone who says "just blanch and peel"--not so easy with hundreds of pounds of heirloom tomatoes (which can be wrinkly or not perfectly round like a beefsteak).

                              1. re: gourmanda

                                Same here. I roast the tomato halves (low and slow) with lots of garlic cloves, onion and a carrot. Blend them all together, add fresh basil (if desired) and done!

                            3. I just chunk them, throw them in the pot with seasonings and cook until tender. Then I hit them in the pot with the stick blender, not until smooth but til well broken up. After that I run it all through the food mill. Takes no time at all, gets rid of the seeds and bits of skin and makes everything nicely smooth. If you like, return it to the pot and simmer to thicken up a bit.

                              1. DW makes many qts of sauce a year with ingedients from the garden and cans them. She simply rough chops tomatoes and zooms in food processor. Ditto witn onions, herbs, etc. No oil. Cooks, adds paste, cans., and we're set for a year. No peeling, no seeding, delicious.

                                1. Lynne Rosetto Kasper makes the case in "The Italian Country Table" for NOT peeling / deseeding. She says that a lot of compounds make the taste of a tomato, and many of those are in the peel, seeds, and the pulp surrounding the seeds.

                                  I've never peeled / seeded a tomato for ANY application; it seems to be needlessly "fussy" to me.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: jmckee

                                    Here is how to get all the flavor with none of the "texture" of peels and seeds. Put both the skins and seeds in separate bowls as you work instead of washing them down the drain. Then, squeeze the peels into a sauce pot, you won't get much liquid, but what you do get will be loaded with flavor once it cooks down. Next, put a fine mesh strainer over the pot and dump in the seeds. Swirl them around and around with your fist, until they are pretty well stripped of all the gel surrounding them. You can press the seeds against the side of the strainer, but don't get too focused on getting every bit of liquid, the seeds are bitter, and if you work them too much, you will get that element in the sauce. Then, boil down what is in the pan until it isn't watery anymore. It doesn't take that much time. Add this to your sauce. it is pure tomato flavor.

                                    1. re: jajjimm

                                      The ATK people say the seeds are not bitter and can stay in.
                                      They also have an additional way to get rid of the skin, which is to halve the tomato from pole to pole, then, keeping your hand flat and the skin against your palm, grate them on the large holes of a box grater.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        Neither of those scenarios apply when working with 50+ pounds of tomatoes. Way too much of a PITA.

                                        Seeds, peels and an immersion blender are your friends.

                                        1. re: gourmanda

                                          "Seeds, peels and an immersion blender are your friends."

                                          And then run the tomato product through a food mill.

                                            1. re: gourmanda

                                              Absolutely agree. I don't have a food mill. Never needed one. Especially for this.

                                  2. I do not peel or seed, but I do hit the pot with an immersion blender. After someone brought it up, I examined my sauce and there are tiny rolled up pieces of tomato skin, but they don't bother me.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: jvanderh

                                      Thanks to all that replied. Yes, I do know how to peel a tomato by cutting an X in the bottom and dipping in boiling water. Pardon me if I didn't want to do it - I just peeled a half bushel of them to can salsa and I personally didn't want to do even one more! And a food mill is a huge pain in the butt, too. In my experience with not peeling and seeding proved to me that it doesn't need to be done. I cut the tomatoes in large chunks, seeds, peels and all, cooked them up with some onions, basil, oregano and lots of garlic overnight on low in the crockpot, and then this morning, I put them in the blender and it came out beautiful! I could see adding some tomato paste to it, too. You should try it sometime @LiviaLunch. Also, I have slow roasted and pureed them with their peels on and that comes out well, too! No need to add tomato paste to that....

                                      1. re: momskitchen

                                        I respect your experience and might try your approach--would that I only had enough tomatoes!--but your original query was whether you "have to do" something (peeling and seeding) that, in this post, you say you've already proved does not have to be done.

                                        Were you in fact looking for a discussion of the differences between the two approaches?

                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                          Actually, I just performed the experiment myself....I originally posted asking whether I had to peel and seed, and then I tried not doing it. Read all my comments for the complete story...

                                        2. re: momskitchen

                                          I agree with the hassle factor in peeling tomatoes. By your username, I'm assuming you have kids, but how old are they? Do you have a gas stove or fireplace? Sometimes when I'm too lazy or hot to boil a pot of water and turn my kitchen into a sauna, I'll put a tomato on the end of two-pronged fork thingie (don't know the name) and turn it a few times over the open flame of our gas burner. The skin will peel right off. I've also enlisted the help of some older children I was looking after (with appropriate supervision of course), and they for some reason thought it was highly fascinating.

                                          As to the actual question, if I'm making a "fresh" tomato sauce, I'll peel a few either by blanching or the above method and then just squeeze out most of the seeds/juice. A little peel or a few seeds don't bother me in the least, so I'm not usually too careful about it. If I were trying to make a true marinara to impress/can/serve, I might do something more.

                                          1. re: momskitchen

                                            but that's chowhound for you. you ask a simple question, and get techniques with the implication you're not doing it right as an answer. i've seen it a million times, and i no longer sweat. nature of the beast. i asked about which deep fryers, eg, have bottom drains for easy emptying, and any experiences - i got many posts about why cooking in a pot with a thermometer is better than a deep fryer - all ignoring that cooking pots do not have bottom drains, and thus have nothing to do with what i asked. I've seen it on threads about cooking duck, cookware, and every sort of technique under the sun,

                                            this is what happens when people - myself included - think we are experts at something. it's a common disconnect - and an endemic one here at CH

                                        3. I don't peel and most of the time I don't seed either - especially if they're Roma tomatoes. If not, I seed about half of the tomatoes. You've gotten a lot of replies. I hope this helps.

                                          1. It really depends on your tolerance. I can't stand the texture of tomato peel, so I usually use the concasé method for things like gaspacho. However, last year I decided to make a rather large quantity of tomato sauce on a rather hot day, so I ended up peeling with a a tomato peeler. Not the most efficient way, but it was pretty cool.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: hala

                                              <<<I ended up peeling with a a tomato peeler.>>>

                                              Is that easier than the boiling water method?

                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                We have one of those peelers and if you only need to peel a few, less than 5 or 6, then the peeler is easier. (I use ours on fuzzy peaches when peeling is needed). Otherwise, if you have a lot of tomatoes to peel, the blanching and ice water bath is the way to go. I stopped canning tomatoes a while ago and now use a food mill for everything except when making salsa, then I peel and seed roma tomatoes. It's a lot of work, but worth the effort. I much prefer seeded tomatoes over watery salsa with tomato seeds.

                                                1. re: John E.

                                                  Will admit: have never used a food mill. (1) looks like it would be a pain to clean, and (2) looks way too big for my 2 person household. Do they make different sizes? Any tips on cleaning?

                                                  1. re: pine time

                                                    I have to clarify that we actually use a Chinois rather than a foodmill with a disc, which can be a PITA to wash. If making tomato sauce we just wash the tomatoes and remove the stem and any bad spots, cut them in half and cook them. Then carefully put the cooked tomatoes in a blender and then through the Chinois and back to the stove another kettle to cook to the desired consistency and adding salt and other spices that you wish to include.

                                                    I remember my parents (actually my mother) canning tomato sauce a lot during August and September. My father had a huge garden (it gets bigger every time he talks about it now) and he usually had at least a hundred tomato plants. We actually do not can a lot of tomato sauce anymore because we don't grow enough tomatoes and if I'm going to buy tomatoes to make sauce I'd rather just buy the tomato sauce. I do however make salsa.



                                                    Oh, I forgot to mention that I have only seen the one size and it is made out of aluminum and might be a little different than the link I provided because I think that one is SS. they are not anymore difficult to clean than an aluminum or SS colander (the plastic colanders I found can be difficult to clean).

                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                      Thanks, John E. A chinois I can do. :)

                                                    2. re: pine time

                                                      I have seen several sizes of food mills. My mom uses hers quite a bit, but I never got into the habit.

                                                  2. re: Jay F

                                                    No. The blanching in water is the easiest way to peel a tomato. I added one plum tomato to dish I was making last night and used my gyuto knife to peel it. It's really sharp so it did cut the peel without losing flesh. I did this only because I didn't want to boil a pot of water for one tomato. I have a half dozen plum tomatoes that will be used for a pasta sauce and I will definitely blanch them to peel.

                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                      Well, I did not want to deal wtih a huge pot of boiling water on a hot day, so yes, it was easier. Usually, it's not easier.

                                                      1. re: hala

                                                        My kitchen is also extremely hot in the summer.if u don't need many tomatoes. What I do is slice an X in the bottom of the tomato and use a cheese grater all ur left with is the peel in ur hand. Works with peppers too,its how u start a basic sofrito.

                                                  3. I think the issue with seeds is not the seeds themselves,but the fact that there is a lot of juice surrounding them. If you don't remove them, then depending on the tomato, the sauce might be too watery and not reduce enough in a reasonable time.

                                                    As for skins, I think they detract from the appearance of the dish (unless you're pureeing--then they don't make any difference), but I don't mind their taste or texture.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: sushigirlie

                                                      That goop surrounding the seeds is the best-tasting part of the tomato. Well worth the extra reducing time. If you're really in a time crunch, spread the tomatoes out across a big skillet and crank up the heat.

                                                      1. re: jvanderh

                                                        "tomato caviar," says josé andrés.

                                                        i agree. one of his tapas uses the excised, intact seed "filets" as the tomato component of a dish. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          I admit to cutting out seed sacs more often than not but here is a tapa I made from harvesting the seed sacs

                                                    2. Use a food mill, it takes care of skins and seeds.

                                                      1. When it's summer and the tomatoes are nice I never do it. However, in the winter you might want to take the time to peel the tomatoes because the skins seem to be tough and bitter then. I don't usually bother with the seeds, though. I've heard it can make a sauce bitter, but I've never had that happen to me or I just don't pick up on it. I kind of like what the seeds add myself. Romas are generally a good bet year round. Those were not appetizing the last time I went shopping so I went with hot-house and the sauce was actually pretty good, for a fresh tomato winter sauce. Best bet in the cold months is to splurge on a can of San Marzanos. You won't regret it.

                                                        1. Not if you have a food mill proper, or make-shift.

                                                          1. Cut them in quarters. Simmer them uncovered for a few hours. The longer the more flavor under VERY low heat. NO SALT! When they have reduced to a thick paste strain them to remove the skins and seeds. Now you have the base for an incredible.....whatever.
                                                            I add a little good olive oil at the beginning to help them not stick.
                                                            No water.

                                                            1. I just made the cherry/grape Puttanesca Tomato Sauce in this month's CI--chopped the baby tomatoes in a blender, as directed, and while you do drain the juice & reduce it, you just add all the tomato skins/seeds/pulp back into the sauce. I wasn't happy with that texture. Guess I may dump it all (leftovers) back into a blender & whirl some more.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: pine time

                                                                I think the skin on the cherry and grape tomatoes is thicker and wouldn't be as easily incorporated as a full size tomato.

                                                              2. It depends. Is the Queen coming for dinner?

                                                                1. I've used a immersion blender after removing the white pithy part of plum tomatoes - I don't remember tomatoes as having as much of that pith as they do now. I do not peel them but cut them in half and into smaller pieces and then use the blender on them. Pour them into a skillet that has the garlic, onion and whatever herbs and spices you like already softened and cook for 30 min. I sometimes add a small can of tomato paste. When it has cooked you would not know the peels were there. It's a smooth sauce.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: rem.rev

                                                                    I just give them a good wash. Then into the food processor. A few quick pulses. Then into a large SS pot. No additional liquid added. Nice long low and slow simmer.
                                                                    Then poured through a colander to remove the largest bits. Then into a fine sieve to remove any remaining seeds and skin bits. It's the skin and seeds that make tomato sauces etc bitter.
                                                                    Then when cooled into small Zip locks. I adjust to taste with S&P/salt/herbs/wine etc when I'm going to use the tomatoes.

                                                                  2. Would it be possible to just blend the tomatoes whole in a blender than cook so you don't have to peel. I am the same way about the peeling- don't want to bother.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: jstslinda

                                                                      I actually wrote that first post incorrectly - I usually do peel them - but first put them in almost boiling water for a minute or so - the peels are easy to remove that way. I am not sure about blending whole tomatoes. Tomato skins can be quite tough - the skins may not emulsify. Sorry about that first post.

                                                                      1. re: jstslinda

                                                                        Depends on the size of your tomatoes of course, but it sounds like blending them raw and whole would take a long time. Wash, core, cook then blend (with an immersion blender is easiest). If you are talking a few tomatoes and want an elegant sauce then peel first. But when I'm doing 40+ pounds of raw tomatoes at a time there is no way I'm taking the time to peel them for spaghetti sauce.

                                                                        1. re: gourmanda

                                                                          I would make a party out of peeling 40 lbs of tomatoes! Loud Italian music and wine Once set up, it is pretty easy....perhaps peeling just a few is more of a pain. Heck, I wish I had 40 lbs of tomatoes ;-)

                                                                          To me, it is even more important if one is spending the day making a tomato mother sauce from which to make the many derivatives for six months.

                                                                      2. Roast them in the oven on the vine along with red onion wedges (dont peel) & whole unpeeled garlic cloves, remove the vines, garlic & onion skin then put through the blender. Gives you more nutrients & a lovely roasted flavour.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: psycho_fluff

                                                                          Only after you put them through a blender make sure to fine sieve out the skin bits and the seeds. These parts of the tomato are the bitter parts.

                                                                        2. what about removing the little top part where the stem attached? what do people think of that? if i crock pot and immersion blend, I'd think that patch would go the way of the seeds and skin: invisible to most, disguised under all the tomato flavor...

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: alegramarcel

                                                                            I think you have to remove the core, whether you peel or not.

                                                                            1. re: gourmanda

                                                                              i did not peel, did not seed (de-seed?), did not even cut out the core/stem place!!!!! i just put it into my crock pot with roasted garlic and fresh basil and EVOO (first batch), and just totally plain (second batch).

                                                                              so, what is the result? core/stem absolutely undetectable. skin undetectable (to me anyway), seeds visible, but i did not notice in texture/taste. definitely not bitter. however it was not particularly tomatoey, was overly watery, and --since i had to puree it (because i did not peel)-- it was smooth (and i prefer a chunky tomato sauce, i've come to realize after this experiment).

                                                                              i'm going to try to use this sauce in no-boil lasagna because often they call for extra wine or water added to the sauce, so i'm thinking the watery-ness will be a benefit.

                                                                          2. Two things. 1) See Foley Food Mill on amazon, about $ 30 and will make your life much easier if you want to take out peels and seeds. 2) If you do want to peel tomatoes, get out your widest pan and lay a double layer of tomatoes in it then about an inch of water. COVER THE PAN. Bring the water to a boil and promptly remove pan from burner. Leave cover on as you peel one tomato at a time---just slit the skin with a criss-cross cut going north-south and east-west with a serrated paring knife and the whole skin will slide off---the work goes very fast.

                                                                            1. It's a personl preference thing ... some people always peel and seed. Some never do. Some people always peel broccoli, artichokes and asparagus. Some never do.