In the glut of summer tomatoes, I put up several dozen cans of marinara sauce and whole tomatoes. When winter sets in though I tend to forget about them quietly waiting on my shelves. I just adjust to knowing tomatoes do not grow in winter, so I plan meals using seasonally available ingredients for the most part instead.

Seed catalogs pouring into the mailbox are a reminder that the next growing season is not too far away. I have been revisiting the cupboard of canned goods pretty diligently to meal plan around my preserves.

We recently had my siblings and their families over for a big dinner. I “shopped at home” first to plan the menu. The result was a make-your-own-pizza party using the delicious herb marinara sauce we have stored. Each family brought over about 2-3 toppings. We set them out in little bowls and everyone topped their own pie.

The kids had their own little pizzas, which was hilarious to watch them top. One of my little nephews had to carefully place each single olive slice.

Meanwhile the parents split a larger pizza – also quite entertaining. Some couples worked together more than others. I have to admit that I made Jay stay on his “line” of the pizza. I didn’t want the salami, mushroom, olive and basil toppings getting mixed in with my fabulous goat cheese, pre-roasted beet and caramelized onion concoction.

This next week we are looking for good lasagna recipes for the canned marinara sauce and perhaps some yummy stews that we can stir our whole tomatoes into. It sure does make the short winter evenings last a little longer when all that sauce prep has done ahead of time!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson