Zucchini, Ricotta, and Herb Pasta

My boss made this for a potluck and it was delicious. I knew I had to whip it up immediately. I liked it warm-ish and it’s great cool. I could live in a container of ricotta, but I also LOVED the mint, basil, and oregano with the lemon zest. It is so easy and so so so full of flavor! Also this is the world’s fastest dinner.

The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini, Herb, & Ricotta Pasta

It seems like everyone has made this, but here’s one more
Martha made a similar one
, though hers uses sliced zucchini & fettuccine.
Food & Wine made a similar one, with zucchini chunks.
Epicurious made a similar one, with fewer herbs.

Zucchini, Ricotta, and Herb Pasta (for 2 entrees or 4 sides)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound short shaped pasta
1 large zucchini, shredded
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup ricotta
2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 lemon, zested
Salt & Pepper

Directions:

Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dante.
While the pasta cooks, shred the zucchini and add to a medium skillet with the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add salt & pepper and remove from heat.
Mix the pasta, ricotta, and zucchini mixture.
The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini, Herb, & Ricotta Pasta
Add in the herbs, lemon zest, and salt & pepper.
The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini, Herb, & Ricotta Pasta
Serve & enjoy, or refrigerate until serving if making in advance!
The Three Bite Rule - Zucchini, Herb, & Ricotta Pasta
I like the creamy ricotta. Of course, ricotta is my fav! Zucchini doesn’t have tons of flavor alone, but with the garlic and all the herbs. I think it needed salt and pepper throughout: in the zucchini and mixed throughout. The herbs and the lemon are truly what make this special. Maybe I should turn the same flavors into a pizza!

Sweet Pickle Macaroni Salad

Mr. J wasn’t into pickles until he had a bread & butter sweet pickle a few years ago. Now he wonders where they had been his whole life! I mixed up this sweet pickle macaroni salad as a side dish using not only the pickles, but the pickle “juice” for the dressing. It was an easy side to prep the night before for a faster week-night meal.

The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Pickle Macaroni Salad

Sweet Pickle Macaroni Salad (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound of pasta, macaroni or other short noodle
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 small shallot, diced
2-3 sprigs of green onion, diced
3-4 bread & butter pickles, chopped
1/2 cup pickle juice
1/2 green pepper

Directions:

Boil salted water and add the pasta once it comes to a boil. Cook according to the package.
Mix together mayo, mustard, pickles, shallots, green onions, and pickle juice.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Pickle Macaroni Salad
Stir well and toss with the cooled pasta.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Pickle Macaroni Salad
When ready to serve, mix in the green pepper.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Pickle Macaroni Salad
Enjoy!

I almost mixed in a hard boiled egg, but ended up sending that as the little one’s lunch. This was good and the sweetness was good with a grilled dinner.

Smoky Bacon & Pork Ragu

I put one cooler/low-humidity day to good use after a beach vacation to cook comfort food! This porky pasta sauce has been on my list to make and I had just the night to make it! Get some liquid smoke or this won’t be the same at all (pssst! I get it on Amazon but some specialty food stores have it too. You’ll also use it in chili, burgers, pulled pork, etc.)

The Three Bite Rule - Bacon & Pork Ragu

I froze half, despite the fact that I’m compulsively trying to use up frozen stuff. I just didn’t want to eat it twice in a week given the warm forecast but I can see popping it out for some not-hot night for variety of the many grilled dinners we’re having this summer!

Smoky Bacon & Pork Ragu for ~4

Ingredients:

4-6 strips of bacon, chopped
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage out of the casing
1 small yellow onion
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons Liquid Smoke
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
~6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Directions:

In a dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp and drain. Then brown the sausage and drain. Then saute the onion until cooked through.
Add the crushed tomatoes into the pot, add in sausage, onion, bacon, garlic, and liquid smoke.
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon & Pork Ragu
Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes and add in the red pepper flakes, onion powder, Parmesan, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and basil. Stir well.
Reduce to low and cook for another 5 minutes.
Boil the pasta and cook to al dente.
Spoon sauce over the top and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon & Pork Ragu
I loved it. It definitely wasn’t your average tomato sauce. The salty and smoky flavor came out and I took great care for it not to be greasy. Bacon & sausage needed to cook separately to each get to their best. Each needed to be drained, for sure.

I can see pulling out the sauce for a quick dinner or putting ontop of a pizza or in a calzone!
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon & Pork Ragu

Veggie-Loaded Baked Pasta

I was wanting something beyond pasta with sauce and was thinking I’d make some tweaks to up the veggie quotient. I used wheat pasta. Gasp! I never do that. Never. This was a good spot to do so. You can’t even tell here – otherwise, I really wouldn’t have.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta

Veggie-Loaded Baked Pasta

Ingredients (for 5-6 servings):

28 oz can Kitchen Ready tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 sweet potato (fully cooked)
1 large zucchini, diced
1/2 pound wheat pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni)
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup ricotta

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
In a large pot, add in the canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning, garlic, and mashed sweet potato. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
Chop then roast the zucchini in a single layer on a sheet pan, drizzled with olive oil for 20-30 minutes – until golden. Stir a few times & leave the oven on.
Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta. Then cook to al dente, according to the package. When cooked, mix about a cup of the tomato sauce into the pasta.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon a cup of sauce onto the bottom, add a 1/3 of the pasta, then sprinkle with spinach and zucchini.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella and a few spoonfuls of ricotta.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Spoon half of the remaining pasta on top, then add remaining spinach, remaining zucchini, half of the shredded mozzarella, and remaining ricotta.
Top with remaining pasta and some more sauce (reserve the remaining mozzarella for the last few minutes of baking).
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Bake 40 minutes, covered.
Remove the cover, top with remaining cheese, and bake about 5 more minutes, until melted.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

I loved this! Count ‘em: sweet potato; spinach; zucchini. Plus wheat pasta. It is delightfully cheesy and flavorful without seeming veggie focused. The sweet potato thickened the sauce and added a bit of sweetness. It was leftover from the little one and I popped it into the freezer awhile back…not even sure what I was going to do with it!
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta

Lasagna Rolls

I make lasagnas at least once a year, and make enough to have it several times. This time, I made it as roll ups and loved how beautifully portioned it was! I made 1- 9×12 lasagna and 2- 9×9 pans of lasagna rolls. One dish of lasagna rolls got slated to my very awesome friend who is now a mom of infant twins with 2 bigger boys. The fam could prob could use freezer food, right?

The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
I made my own pasta this time too! It was so easy since it only takes the rolling on my Kitchenaid, and no cutting. I cleared a ton of room on the kitchen island and spread these out. I rolled the dough on the mixer, cut them a bit, cooked them, and then let them cool enough for the filling. I’ll totally make my own again!

Here are my other lasagnas, if rolls aren’t your thing: Traditional Lasagna or Lasagna Soup or Butternut Squash Lasagna or White Lasagna w/ Chicken & Spinach.

Ingredients:

1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked (not the “no-cook” or “oven-ready” variety this time)
8 oz ricotta
1 egg
1/3 cup chopped Parsley, Oregano, Basil or Arugula
1 cup mozzarella
~1 1/2 cups ground meat (optional)
1 cup tomato sauce (I like Pastene Kitchen Ready Tomatoes + a tablespoon of tomato paste + tablespoon Italian Seasoning)
(additional sprinkle of cheese after it bakes)

Directions:

Prep the meat, cooking through and seasoning with salt & pepper if including meat. Mix together the ricotta, egg, and herbs.
Lay out the pasta and spread the ricotta & herb mixture and top with mozzarella & meat mixture. Be sure to get the filling spread pretty evenly in a thin layer.
The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
Add on the cooked ground meat, if using any.
Gently roll up from one end to the other. Aim for each roll to be about 2 inches high, any bigger and it’ll be a massive serving. Then place into a baking dish sprayed with nonstick spray.
The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
Top with sauce and freeze (or bake to eat right away).
The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
When serving, bake frozen lasagna rolls for 75 minutes at 350, adding additional cheese on the top for the last 5 minutes. Or let lasagna rolls defrost over night, or for 24 hours and then bake for 45 minutes with cheese for the last 5 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
The pan I’ll bring to my friend was in a disposable heavy-duty pan. I topped it with sauce and covered it in plastic wrap. It has a plastic cover where I labeled what it is with heating instructions but that flimsy plastic cover isn’t great in the freezer, thus, why I go with plastic wrap. I gave more instructions than necessary, but hey- nobody wants a baked plastic-wrap fiasco when getting dinner ready for the little ones! Here are other food ideas to bring to parents of a newborn.

I seriously love lasagna, so I was very happy with these cheesy lasagna rolls. I’m the biggest lasagna fan in the house, so I was probably more into them than anyone else. Plus, we had just had regular lasagna a few weeks prior. I tried to spread ‘em out, but I also attempt to have at least 1 meal per week that is from a freezer stockpile of batch-cooking. I believe there’s also a chicken pot pie hanging out just waiting on me to call it into the line up!

Quick Tomato Basil Gnocchi

Gnocchi is a fav to have stashed in the freezer for speedy dinners, such as this! I made a really quick sauce and really focused on this dinner being meatless and flavorful!
The Three Bite Rule - Tomato & Basil Gnocchi

Ingredients:

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
17 oz frozen gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon garlic
1 tablespoon cream cheese
1/4 cup chicken or veggie stock
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
Parmesan

Directions:

Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper then roast in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes, until they blister and pop.
The Three Bite Rule - Tomato & Basil Gnocchi

Boil salted water and add in the gnocchi. Cook until they float.
In a large skillet, melt butter and add garlic, and cream cheese to a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and add in the tomatoes and the gnocchi when cooked.
The Three Bite Rule - Tomato & Basil Gnocchi
Simmer and stir in the basil. Cook for about 5 minutes to thicken and reduce a little.
The Three Bite Rule - Tomato & Basil Gnocchi
Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.
The Three Bite Rule - Tomato & Basil Gnocchi
I loved the slight creaminess from the cream cheese but the lightness from the broth. I think this is a good trick to keep up my sleeve!

Tip 1: use a slotted spoon to scoop the gnocchi out, then there’s no colander to clean. Tip 2: I had a bit too much sauce so I used the slotted spoon to dish the pasta so the excess sauce stayed in the pan.

Crockpot Meatballs

My little one is 2 years old! How did that happen so quickly?! For his birthday dinner we made his favorites: pasta, meatballs, and cake! I made meatballs to cook in the sauce which was a first for me. I mixed them, balled ‘em up, and dropped them into the sauce to cook on their own. They were great!!

The Three Bite Rule - Crockpot Meatballs
I normally like the crispy exterior of cooking meatballs, and I thought I might miss that. These turned out very juicy from cooking in the sauce. I was relieved they stayed together and would totally make them this way again. These meatballs being pork meant that there wasn’t excess oil that I’d expect if they were beef.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground pork
3 links Sweet Italian Sausage
1 cup breadcrumbs
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup baby Arugula, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups tomato sauce

Directions:

Mix together the breadcrumbs and the milk, then add all the ingredients into a bowl.
The Three Bite Rule - Crockpot Meatballs
Using your hands, mix everything together until well incorporated.
Roll into balls about 1.5 inches wide. Add into a crockpot with tomato sauce.
The Three Bite Rule - Crockpot Meatballs
Cook on high for 2.5 hours. Stir occasionally.
Enjoy!

The Three Bite Rule - Crockpot Meatballs
Meatballs are always a hit here. We all liked them and I’m glad to have some leftovers. These could cook on the stovetop too, rather than the crockpot. The size of the crockpot was great for 1 even layer of cooking though.

Speedy Dinner: Pasta with Chicken Sausage in Ricotta

‘Tis the season to totally need speedy dinners! This pasta dish involved so few ingredients. I often want leftovers for the little one, or for Mr. J to take for lunch, or for the night of the week that is “anything goes” on our menu- other times I know we just won’t get to it so I’d rather not have any left!
The Three Bite Rule - Ricotta Pasta
Need a bigger serving? Add in another sausage and some more pasta.

Ingredients: (for ~4 servings)

1/3 pound of pasta
3 chicken sausages
1 cup roasted red peppers, sliced
1 cup ricotta

Directions:

Boil salted water for the pasta.
In a large skillet, pan fry the chicken sausages (either whole, or sliced) to golden brown (about 5 minutes, flipping. Most chicken sausages come fully cooked so check your packaging and cook through if using a raw product).
The Three Bite Rule - Ricotta Pasta
Add in the roasted red peppers just to warm through.
Drain the pasta when cooked al dente and add into the skillet or into a large bowl with the sausage and red peppers. Stir in the ricotta until coated and warmed.
The Three Bite Rule - Ricotta Pasta
Enjoy!

The Three Bite Rule - Ricotta Pasta

I loved the ricotta serving as a cheesy sauce without many ingredients. There are tons of ways to customize this so have at it!
+ pesto
+ other roasted veggies/olives/etc
- chicken sausage and use roasted chicken or go meatless!
- cook in brown butter and serve with a dollop of ricotta instead of serving it mixed in!

Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese

This Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese is not joking about the garlic. I loooove homemade mac and cheese and the garlic flavor was so great! The little one hasn’t been interested in boxed Mac & Cheese but he loved this! He has good taste!

The Three Bite Rule - Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter +2 tablespoons for topping
3-4 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken/vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon fresh garlic
1/2 pound pasta (elbows, shells, spirals, penne)
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (+2 tablespoons for baking)
1 cup shredded gruyere (or fontina/provolone/gouda)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (+2 tablespoons for topping)
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (mine were seasoned)
1 cup fried onions, broken up
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

In a medium pot, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring the roux paste regularly.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Pour in the chicken broth to the roux and stir well to combine. Then add the cream, milk, and garlic, bringing to a low boil.
Add in the cheddar, gruyere, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.
The Three Bite Rule - Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese
Cook the pasta until al dente & drain – return the pasta to the large empty pot.
Stir well as the cheese melts.
The Three Bite Rule - Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese
Add cheese sauce into the pasta, stirring to assess how much more is needed (I had some sauce leftover that I froze).
The Three Bite Rule - Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and pre-heat the oven to 375-degrees.
Spoon half the pasta into the dish. Sprinkle the cheddar in the middle, then pour the remaining pasta on top.
The Three Bite Rule - Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese
Bake for 15 minutes while prepping the topping.
Melt the 2 tablespoons of remaining butter and mix in the panko, the fried onions, remaining parmesan, and garlic powder.
The Three Bite Rule - Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese
Sprinkle the topping onto the mac & cheese and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese
Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

I loved this. It has been awhile since I made some homemade mac & cheese. The topping was awesome and was kind of an afterthought. I happened upon the Frenches Fried Onions near the panko and thought it’d be perfect. They were!
The Three Bite Rule - Garlic Parmesan Mac & Cheese

Pad Thai with Chicken or Shrimp

I’m so glad I made this and that I tried! It seemed like something I should leave to the pros, but DO IT! It was so easy and I’ll totally make it again. Mr. J has recently gotten into pad thai and that’s precisely what inspired me to make it at home. That, and some shrimp in the freezer who gave me a little nudge. Also these noodles cook so quickly – everything I need for a weeknight meal! Who doesn’t looove a meal that gets all. the. toppings.

Shrimp Pad Thai - The Three Bite Rule

Ingredients:

6 shrimp & 2 chicken tenders
1 package (9 oz) Refrigerated Asian-Style Noodles (that’s what they’re actually called – in the produce area – mine were soba but “Chinese Style” were sold out)
1 red pepper, chopped into match sticks
1 egg
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1-2 cups bean sprouts
chopped cilantro, to taste
chopped peanuts, to taste
wedge of lime

Directions:

Boil salted water for the noodles.
Pan saute the chicken with salt and pepper over medium heat until cooked through in a large pan. Remove from the heat and quickly cook the chicken. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Mix together the sauce: brown sugar; soy sauce; rice vinegar; lime juice; fish sauce; and garlic. Whisk and set aside.
Saute the red pepper and when partway cooked, move to the outside and scramble the egg in the middle.
Shrimp Pad Thai - The Three Bite Rule
When the egg cooks, add in the bean spouts and cooked noodles – straight from the water once they’re done – save washing a colander!
Shrimp Pad Thai - The Three Bite Rule
Bring to medium heat and add in the sauce. Cook for about 3 minutes tossing to coat well.
Shrimp Pad Thai - The Three Bite Rule
Shred the chicken and mix in. Add the shrimp in and toss well (or serve the protein on the top).
Serve with chopped peanuts, cilantro, and lime. Enjoy!
Shrimp Pad Thai - The Three Bite Rule
Omg. So good! My noodles were too thick (think soba, not uber thin). The sauce was sooo delightful. It was perfect. I was afraid it might be drippy or something. It was spot-on.

SPOT-ON!

We’ll totally have this again. Mr. J was pretty pumped! The babe loves slurping long noodles and we love seeing that! I realized while writing this that ‘poon was coming out in my head…toddler talk is real. Anywho, The peanuts, cilantro, and lime maaaaaade this. I love toppings! I don’t pretend to know what authentic pad thai is like, but this beats take-out!