I know that may not seem like much, but my mom has always been such an amazing cook and for awhile I seemed to have inherited NONE of it. I think I was just untrained and afraid. I couldn’t wrap my head around how people get such delicious food onto a plate, so I just never even tried for a long time. As a kid, one of my favorite recipes that my mom made was lasagna. I couldn’t get enough – warm noodles, cheese, sauce and more? What could be better? It’s a special occasion meal.
It’s more than that, though. It’s a connecting meal. It’s good friends and family sharing a traditional meal with warm bread and salad. It’s so many memories of my childhood – winter, spring, summer or fall – gathering around an oval table with my large and loud and fun family. We all liked it differently, which inspired me to make it exactly how I always imagined it.
My dad always likes food with lots of meat. I’m not even remotely a vegetarian, but for some reason with pasta dishes, I’m often eating the cheese, sauce and noodles and leaving the meat on the plate. I’m more obsessed with vegetables. Now lasagna, and crockpot lasagna, can be altered any which way to include the meats AND vegetables you love. There’s no doubt about that. I chose Ragu Chunky Garden Combination because I love the little chunks of vegetables that would only add to the ones I chopped and added to the mix. And I thought about what my mom would like because she doesn’t like spinach, but likes most other vegetables. Ultimately I loved what I made and the smell of the crockpot going all day was delightful.
Cooking for my mom was a blast, and of course, it’s always rewarding for the kids to eat my food too. We had a lot of plans, including the dog park and errands, so this is an easy crockpot recipe with only about 15 minutes of prep time.
Ragu pasta sauce is simmered in tradition, the same way lasagna is in our family. Assunta Cantisanto, an immigrant from Naples, Italy, brought her family recipe with her to New York City. She planted a garden in her backyard in New York and used the produce she grew to make her family’s recipe famous. For the past 35 years, Ragu has been made with 100% vine-picked tomatoes grown on family farms. It is still the same recipe that Assunta brought to New York many decades ago.