Simple, savory recipes for busy families

Back-to-school season means plenty of evening hours spent completing homework, attending extracurricular activities and preparing to repeat the school-day routine the next day. For many families, having time to prepare and cook quality, nutritious meals can be next to impossible.

Instead of choosing between valuable family time and hours spent in the kitchen, RAGU blogger, fitness enthusiast and busy mom Jamie Krauss Hess recommends stocking up on go-to pantry staples you feel good about and including them in quick, nutritious recipes everyone can enjoy together.

Try recipes such as Mini turkey sloppy joes, which swap out beef for ground turkey to provide a flavorful alternative while offering a special twist to a classic family favorite. Quinoa penne with savory tomato-basil sauce can hit the spot with just a handful of ingredients. Or, if the little ones clamor for a more kid-friendly dish and the adults don’t mind a throwback to childhood, Grown-up tomato mac and cheese can provide the best of both worlds. 

All three recipes take less than an hour to make and feature RAGU Simply Pasta Sauces, which are made with 100 percent olive oil and contain no added sugar. They’re available in four varieties including: Traditional, Chunky Marinara, Chunky Garden Vegetable and Flavored with Meat. By using simple ingredients like California vine-ripened tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, onions and spices, the result is a taste-tempting sauce with recipe versatility. 

Find more family-pleasing and simple-to-prepare recipes ideal for busy school nights at


Courtesy photo.

Grown-up Tomato Mac and Cheese

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Servings: 8

1 box (16 ounces) gemelli pasta

4 cups water

2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, divided

1/2 cup (2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk

1 jar (24 ounces) RAGU Simply Traditional Pasta Sauce

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

In a large pot, combine pasta and water. Cook over medium-high heat 20 to 22 minutes, or until pasta is done, stirring occasionally.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups cheddar cheese, Pecorino Romano cheese and corn starch. Reduce heat to medium; stir milk, cheese mixture and sauce together with cooked pasta. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and mixture is thickened, stirring frequently.

Sprinkle with remaining cheddar cheese and pepper; serve immediately.

Tip: This stovetop method eliminates the need to drain the pasta after cooking. The starchy pasta water gets stirred in and helps create an extra-rich sauce. Elevate this dish by sprinkling crushed Parmesan cheese crisps on top before serving.


Courtesy photo.

Mini Turkey Sloppy Joes

Recipe courtesy of Honey and Birch.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Servings: 8

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 pound ground turkey

1 cup carrots, finely diced

1 medium green pepper, diced

1 medium red pepper, diced

1 jar (24 ounces) RAGU Simply Chunky Marinara Sauce

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

8 mini buns

In large skillet over medium heat, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When hot, add onion and garlic; saute until onion is translucent.

Add ground turkey to pan. Break up meat and stir frequently until meat is browned. Add carrots, green pepper and red pepper. Cook 5 minutes so vegetables can begin to soften.

Add marinara sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ground mustard, kosher salt and black pepper. Stir and bring to boil. Reduce heat so it simmers; partially cover pan. Cook 10 minutes.

Serve on mini buns.


Courtesy photo.

Quinoa Penne with Savory Tomato-Basil Sauce

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 8-10 minutes

Servings: 6

12 ounces (about 5 cups) uncooked quinoa penne pasta 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large shallot, chopped

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 cup oil-packed sundried tomatoes, drained and chopped

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 jar (24 ounces) RAGU Simply Chunky Garden Vegetable Pasta Sauce

1 1/4 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped, divided

Cook pasta as directed on package.

In large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add shallots; cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Add garlic, tomatoes and paprika; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in sauce and basil, reserving small amount of basil for garnish.

Drain pasta; add to sauce mixture. Mix well. Cook 1 to 2 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle with reserved basil before serving.

Tip: For extra protein, add 1 pound sliced, grilled chicken when stirring in pasta.

Source: Family Features/RAGU

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