Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta

The in-between of Christmas and New Years is kind of a weird time. Kiddos are off from school, travel wraps up, house guests leave, there’s still a holiday coming up, and there’s some more work in between. I also think there’s so much pressure for New Year’s Eve and resolutions. It is just a weird time.

I was on a quick-dinner-kick before the holidays and have just one more that I wanted to share for a keep-in-your-back pocket pantry. It also works for a great #meatlessmonday and a break from extravagant or elaborate holiday dinners.
The Three Bite Rule - Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta


2 cups Pastene Kitchen Ready Tomatoes
2 tbs cream cheese
2 tbs fresh basil
8 oz (1/2 box) bow tie pasta


Boil salted water for pasta.
Heat a flat pan to medium-low heat, adding tomatoes to the pan.
Boil pasta until undercooked and almost al dente.
Reduce the temperature to low and add the cream cheese
The Three Bite Rule - Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta
Add in the partially cooked pasta, letting it cook for a few more minutes in the sauce, adding the basil.
The Three Bite Rule - Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta
Sprinkle with Parmesan and more basil to serve!
The Three Bite Rule - Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta
It is super easy and delightfully comforting. This pasta is just so fast yet it still seems like not the same-old same-old.

Any resolutions coming up? I tend to make them on my blogaversary but I’m thinking I might set a year-of challenge for myself. I have a few ideas brewing so stay tuned!

Quick Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

I was craving spinach and artichoke dip and remembered thinking it could pretty easily be a pasta dish. Last year I made a 1-dish pasta that cooked in it’s own liquid. This time I tweaked the original thought and went with creamed spinach which is totally decadent and such a perfect secret ingredient . Shhh! I once used it in deep dish pizza and it was the best I ever made! I figured the beauty of this dinner is the speed!


8 oz frozen artichokes
8 oz frozen creamed spinach
8 oz dried pasta
2 chicken sausage links, sliced
1 tsp garlic, minced
6 oz swiss cheese


Boil water for pasta.
Defrost creamed spinach and artichokes in a large pan over medium-low heat.
Cook pasta until aldante.
Drain and reserve some of the cooking water (about a cup).
Add the pasta, sausage, garlic, salt, and pepper to the spinach and artichoke.
Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, adding a splash of cooking water and stir well. Add more cooking water to loosen depending on your preference. Sprinkle with a little cheese and toss before serving.

I liked this one. It was so fast and really easy.
This could be tweaked. Add cream cheese to make it thicker. Add fresh spinach for more texture. Add mushrooms, chicken, or onions. Add a roux and some cream for a truly thick sauce. Swap out the creamed spinach and make your own if the prepared part isn’t your thing.

I was going for speed and ease, but you get to make that call. I also avoid oily artichoke hearts but again, go for what you like!

Other spinach and artichoke hankerings? I made spinach and artichoke pockets in puff pastry. I made spinach and artchoke nachos. I made spinach and artichoke calzones.

Cost Breakdown: 
8 oz frozen creamed spinach: $2.19
frozen artichokes: $1.45
2 chicken sausage links: $2.00
1/2 box pasta: $0.75
Total = $6.39 or about $2.13 per person for 3 servings

Greek Pasta Salad

Before I get to any Parisian treats or Czech delights, I have a weekend trip to Maine and I’m prepping for San Fran. I unpack to repack. I wanted to share a Greek inspired dish with you. This is a quick meal that I knew would include leftovers and would use tomatoes from our garden.

I settled on a Greek inspired pasta salad. It would be super easy to customize too. We ate this as a meal served with some hummus & pita chips, but I’ll have to keep it in mind for the next BBQ.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad


⅔ pound of pasta (I used our fav shape Campanelle)
1 cup Greek salad dressing
1 large tomato
½ cucumber
½ cup creamy Caesar dressing (optional)
Salt & pepper
1 tsp oregano (or basil)
⅓ cup feta


(to be partially made/prepped the night before)
Boil pasta in a very large pot of salted boiling water.
Cook pasta through to your liking (for pasta salad, I think it is better a touch past al dente). Drain pasta and transfer pasta to a large bowl or container that can be covered.
When pasta cools a bit to room temperature, mix most of the Greek dressing over the pasta.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad
Refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.
The next day, mix pasta and chop tomatoes, cucumbers, and dice red onions.
The Three bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad
Mix veggies into the pasta and mix in creamy Caesar dressing. Add salt, pepper, and oregano. Refrigerate until serving.
Sprinkle feta over the top and serve.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad

I loved this. Greek flavors are some of my favorites. I never think of pasta in the summer but why not a cool pasta. This is salad minus the lettuce! It is filling and flavorful. The creamy Caesar dressing was something I had, but could easily be omitted.

Pasta salad is really lackluster if it isn’t made in advance enough. I set a timer and went about the rest of my evening while the water was boiling and while the pasta cooked. Prep the night before or it’ll be a let down. It would be easy enough to throw together in the morning before heading off to work too.
The Three Bite Rule - Greek Pasta Salad

I don’t do olives, but they would be a great addition for some Greek-ness. Grilled chicken, artichokes, chopped/shaved asparagus, sausage, mushrooms, or chopped spinach would be lovely as well. This is the summer equivalent of a one-pot-wonder.

Zucchini Pasta with Burrata

Last year about this time I was working an event in Cali, and I wasn’t psyched to be “on-event” again. In the fall, I tend to travel to Cali 2-3 times in just a few weeks. But then, one staff dinner I was introduced to burrata cheese. I hadn’t ever had it before and it was amazing. It made me so happy and all was right with the world.

We went to Pitfire Pizza and were served family style. One of the pizzas was the Burrata Pie: tomato sauce, burrata cheese, wild arugula, caramelized onion, hazelnuts, and pesto drizzle. Thankfully a few of my colleagues thought it was a bit weird. All the more for me. I have no recollection as to what else was served.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta

I couldn’t get enough of the burrata. It was mystical. It is too good to be sold at grocery stores. #truestory. We may have given thousands? hundreds? of bicycle riders the weekend of a lifetime. I mostly remember the burrata.

I happened upon some at the farmer’s market and didn’t have to think twice. I figured with such a decadent cheese I would do a somewhat lighter pasta. I made way too much pasta with such a large zucchini. Half the pasta unless you want to be eating/serving 6 servings like me.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta


1 lbs angel hair/linguine/other thin pasta
1 large zucchini
16 oz Pastene kitchen ready tomato
1 cup basil leaves
2 tbs garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
1 medium/large burrata


Boil generously salted water in a large pot for the pasta.
Using a box grater or mandolin, cut zucchini the long direction.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta
Drop pasta into the boiling water and cook according to the packaging.
Heat tomato sauce over medium heat in a very large skillet (big enough to fit the pasta once it cooks).
Add garlic, half the basil, and zucchini to the tomato sauce when the pasta is almost cooked (for the last 2 minutes of pasta cooking).
When pasta is cooked but still al dente, remove and put directly into the tomato sauce skillet (do not drain).
Cook while mixing for just a minute or two while gently tossing in the sauce.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta
Serve the pasta with the remaining basil, and a touch of salt and pepper (I used some rosemary fleur de sel). Finally top with burrata.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta
Cut the burrata when ready to eat.
Three Bite Rule - Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta

This was lovely. I was so happy when the pure tomato sauce became pink with burrata cream. The flavors were perfect. The zucchini adapted to its role as pasta easily.

If you haven’t had burrata then you have to try it. It is like mozzarella to the extreme. The center is filled with cream that just tastes like cheese. Burrata is delicious so it would be great on salad and hunks of good bread.

Easy Sesame Noodles

I don’t make many Asian inspired dishes but I love using rice wine vinegar + sesame oil + soy sauce. It is such a great combo. It is really great in this noodle dish and I love it as a marinate for chicken wings too. This trifecta is also delicious for a salad dressing base. I saw The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for sesame noodles and thought it just looked too easy…would it have enough flavor? Turns out, it does.


Sesame Noodles by Pioneer Woman


9 oz Chinese style fresh pasta (or linguini fini, or thin spaghetti)
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce (or soy sauce)
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs garlic, minced
3 tbs rice vinegar
3 tbs sesame oil
1/2 tsp hot sauce
3 tbs vegetable oil
4 green onions, chopped
3 tbs sesame seeds


Boil water for the pasta
Cook the pasta just under according to the package (9-10 minutes if it says 10-12)
Heat a dry small frying pan over medium heat
Whisk together the teryiaki sauce, sugar, garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil, hot sauce, and oil.
Toast the sesame seeds in the frying pan for about 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly. Remove them from the heat once they start to get tan colored.
Remove pasta and put it in a serving dish.
Mix in the sauce, half the green onions, and half the sesame seeds.
Top with the rest of the green onions & sesame seeds to serve!
I loved how much the noodles soaked up the sauce. They were seriously sesame-y. I thought the flavor was spot on. This dish had great flavors and couldn’t be easier.
This dinner is suuuuper cheap too. I love adding some meatless wonders to my plans for the week.

Sesame Noodles Overall Cost Breakdown:
(I’m way over estimating the sesame oil & rice vinegar. Buy them! They’re inexpensive and don’t go bad forever).
Chinese style noodles: $2.99
sesame oil ($6.00 for the whole bottle): $1.00
rice vinegar ($2.50 for the whole bottle): $0.50
green onions (1/2 of bunch): $0.49
garlic could be optional in a pinch & sesame seeds are a nice-to-have, not a have-to-have
total = $5.00 for the whole thing, it serves 3 good portions or $1.66 per person.

Impressive, no? Once you have the sesame oil and rice vinegar you’ll definitely use the rest of them. These egg rolls were so stinky easy and worth it to have them freshly baked. Make this Chinese Pork in the Crockpot, it is ahhhhmazing. Or marinate chicken wings in it like these. Add sesame oil to your own crab rangoons and they’ll taste so much more flavorful.

BBQ Chicken Pasta

Did you remember my smokey kielbasa pasta I made a few months ago? It was a one-dish-wonder and it had me thinking about variations. I was thinking about making it with a Mexican slant, or Italian, or BBQ. I thought BBQ was perfect to bridge the New England gap of a chilly night while being almost spring.


2 chicken breasts, chopped
1 pound box short pasta
1 cup milk
1 cups chicken broth
1, 16-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
2 tbs liquid smoke
2 cups red and green peppers
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese


In a large pan (with sides) saute chicken until almost cooked through (it will keep cooking).
Add tomatoes, chicken broth, milk, garlic, and 1 cup of BBQ sauce to a medium boil in the pan with the chicken.
Once boiling, add pasta, and peppers stirring and covering for about 8 minutes.
Pasta will still be a bit firm. Turn to low and add spinach and cover again for 3-5 more minutes. The liquid will have reduced and the pasta will finish cooking.
Drizzle remaining BBQ sauce over the top and sprinkle with cheese before serving.
I like how easy it is. There’s a great sweet and smokey flavor and it is a great alternative to a traditional tomato based pasta. It would be good without the chicken too. We just can’t get enough of the Campanelle pasta. #winning

Crunchy Breadcrumb Topped Pasta

One of my favorite parts of Mac & Cheese is that buttery crumb topping. I like the toasty crunch in contrast to the soft noodles. I was thinking I’d give that a go for a really different pasta dish.
breadcrumb pasta_widebowl_590_390
I grabbed some creamy tomato sauce at Trader Joe’s and it was great in this. I normally just use “kitchen ready” tomatoes but any tomato sauce would work. Pesto or alfredo would be delicious too. I used parsley but was wanting basil. Parsley is what I had though. This dish requires so few ingredients that I’d urge you not to cheap out on the fresh herb or fresh garlic. It is worth it this time!


1/2 pound spaghetti/linguini/linguini fini
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs butter
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 cup tomato sauce


Boil water for the pasta
In a flat pan, over medium heat, heat olive oil, butter, panko, parsley, and garlic. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add pasta to the water, and cook according to the package (just don’t overcook it).
Add salt, pepper, and parmesan to the breadcrumbs. Stir and remove from heat.
Drain pasta and toss with tomato sauce.
Top pasta with breadcrumb topping.

I liked this. It had an easy and more interesting feel to it. It seems more than a thrown together bowl of spaghetti, whereas it really is just that. This breadcrumb topping takes just as much time as for the pasta to boil.

This is uber cheap, flavorful, and vegetarian. Pair it with a glass of wine and bam, that’s dinner.
breadcrumb pasta_widebowl_590_390

Fontina Mac & Cheese with a Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

I know, I know. There are too many decadent not-springy dishes, but I’ve been a bit backlogged. This is worth it. Maybe we all will keep needing a little comfort here in Boston. The recent Boston Marathon events have shaken me. I work in large scale athletic fundraising events (not as large as the marathon) and it all hits close to home. I’m guiltily reminded that I said a few weeks ago that “this is almost the worst thing that could happen” when one of my sites bumped me for another event. No, that is not the worst thing that could ever happen. I’m mixed between whining that it isn’t fair, that this is a time honored tradition, it is inspiring/impressive/astounding and feeling so badly for people doing a really positive thing. The logistics in me feels for the BAA who will forever be changed.

Mr. J works just blocks away, on the same street, and I was just paralyzed by ‘what could be.’  I was so thankful to get home, together, and just process. It was scary to wonder if it was better to stay put or to go to a huge train station. Knowing the cell towers were off made it more nerve wracking. Social media luckily allowed me to see the runners I knew were safe and the event staff I know made it home ok.

Now onto the food. When everything else is uncertain dinner is exactly what I need. I planned to make some really good mac and cheese but I was thinking of topping it with Lay’s new Cheesy Garlic Bread flavored chips, but the grocery store was totally sold out for several weeks. (Yes, this crossed my mind a few times so I gave in trying to make it happen.) Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of chicken & waffle flavored chips? I thought those were too weird, even for me, so I ended up with some interesting looking Feta & Rosemary flavored Cape Cod chips instead.

While I was exploring the chip aisle, I knew something healthy but interesting should go with this. Like something green. Enter: brussels sprouts!

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad


3 cups raw brussels sprouts
2 tbs creamy stone ground mustard
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tbs red wine vinegar (or cidar vinegar)
2 tbs butter
Salt & pepper


Trim brussels sprouts at end and tear of petals, discarding the very center
In a flat pan, over medium low heat, melt butter, mustard, garlic, and vinegar for 1-2 minutes.
Bring pan to medium and add in the brussels sprout petals.
Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving.

The warm brussels sprout salad has some creaminess from the butter and some tang from the mustard. I think the flavors are light and delightful. This would go with anything. The centers of the brussels sprout is the bitter part so this dish comes out mild and fresh.

I think this sauce would be really good on roasted broccoli or carrots too.

Fontina Mac & Cheese topped with Potato Chips


1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
3/4 lbs pipette pasta
8 oz fontina, chopped/shredded
8 oz sharp cheddar, chopped/shredded
2 tbs Parmesan, grated
1 egg yolk
1 cup low fat milk
3/4 cup half and half
salt & pepper
1 cup crushed potato chips (or breadcrumbs)


Over medium low heat, add butter and flour to a medium saucepan.
While butter and flour form a roux, let it turn from bright butter-yellow to summer-tan-sandish color to cook the flour taste out.
Boil water for the pasta.
Add milk and cream, stirring to smooth out.
Cook pasta to al dente being careful not to overcook.
Add cheeses, reserving 1/4 cup of each for later.
Stir/whisk until creamy and smooth.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add drained pasta to the cheese sauce saucepan stirring to incorporate.
Add egg yolk and remaining cheese (this is where you get some stringy/gooey parts).
Pour into a greased baking dish.
Top with breadcrumbs or crushed chips on the top.
Bake for 20 minutes.

The mac and cheese was so good. The egg yolk and dynamic cheeses make this creamy and decadent. Sometimes I add a squirt of dijon mustard but I didn’t want it to seem too matchy-matchy to my brussels sprout salad.

I love mixing cheeses. Fontina is mild and nutty. Parmesan adds a subtle saltiness but isn’t the best melting cheese. The chips had a great herby flavor without being quite as fake flavored as it could be.

Let’s just let it go that Lay’s decided to make Chicken and Waffle flavored chips. Some things will never be forgotten, but yeah, I think we should all forget that these chips happened. mmmk?

Smoky Sausage Pasta

I don’t always cook pasta, but when I do….I’m glad I did. Pasta tends to be my go-to option when I haven’t planned anything else. Dried pasta + kitchen ready tomatoes = fast dinner. I rarely start out with pasta as part of my meal planning. Seriously, the last one I blogged about was bolognese (which was really about the sauce) or mac & cheese. This one was awesome and I totally need to make it again.

This is totally a one pot wonder. It is based off of America’s Test Kitchen’s: The Best Simple Recipes. I saw it on a few blogs, here was one of them. Several took a spicy approach with hot sauce, spicy rotel, and spiced sausage.  I added spinach to mine to increase the nutritional value but wheat pasta would be hidden really well here.


1, 12-oz pkg turkey kielbasa or chicken sausage
1 pound box short pasta
1 cup milk
2 cups chicken broth
1, 16-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp smoked paprika
3-4 cups baby spinach
1 ½ cups shredded monterey jack cheese
2 stocks of green onion, chopped


Saute kielbasa cut into coins, in a large hot skillet with 1 tsp olive oil. Stir until evenly (but lightly) browned over medium heat.
Add tomatoes, broth, crushed tomatoes and milk. Bring to a gentle boil.
Add in dried pasta, garlic, liquid smoke, and paprika. Stir and cover to cook for about 8 minutes.
After that, pasta will be mostly cooked, but still a bit firm. Cover the pasta with 1 cup of cheese and spinach. The sauce will have reduced and thickened.

Reduce to medium low temperature, stir, and cover again for 3-5 more minutes.
Serve topped with more cheese and green onions.

I didn’t think it was especially smokey, but the flavors were great. The light tomato flavor is great in the cream.

I went with Kevin & Amanda’s choice of pasta shape: campanelle. They were great little cones to hold the sauce. Mr. J thought they reminded him of a krimpy pappardelle. I remember having campanelle regularly growing up.

It reheated perfectly the next day for lunch! It was suuuuper cheap. It is a great reminder of how easy and cost-effective it is to cook at home. This would be easy for lunch for the week or even halving the recipe.

There is also easy potential to add in other foods you have laying around. I think the base of pasta + protein + enough liquid = endless options. A slight Mexican twist uses hot sauce/rotel/salsa/pepper-jack cheese/jalepenos. An Italian twist could use chicken sausage/basil/Parmesan/artichokes. A BBQ twist could have bbq chicken/bbq sauce/liquid smoke/onions/peppers.

See what I mean? Endless possibilities.

Cost Breakdown:

turkey kielbasa $4.49
pasta: $1.00
chicken broth: $0.80
canned tomatoes: $1.49/2
spinach: $1.85
Monterey jack cheese: $2.50
green onions: $1.00/2
total: $11.89 (or $2.97 per person, 4 servings)

White Lasagna with Chicken and Spinach

I had a hankering for lasagna and figured I’d whip up a new one. White! Lasagna is actually one of my favorites to make at home. I don’t eat beef so I rarely can order it out. I love the pasta/meat/cheese/sauce combinations. It is so compact, almost efficient (though that’s a terrible way to describe food).

I’m cooking for 2 and we like leftovers for lunches, but this will make 1 very large (13×9) or 2 smaller (9×9) lasagnas. I always make 2. Note: no-cook lasagna noodles work best when using a square/rectangular pan. I learned that the hard way when I used an oval baking dish once. Result: jigsaw puzzle!

When I make two, we eat one now (with leftovers) and freeze one for a-“dinner’s ready!”-surprise some busy night. Lasagna seems like kind of a lot of work for only a few servings if you were to half the recipe.


1 pound lasagna noodles
1 pound ground chicken
¾ pound ground pork/sausage/ground beef/ground turkey
6 oz fresh baby spinach, chopped
12 oz ricotta
1 egg
3 tbs Parmesan, grated or shredded
2 tbs Italian seasoning
2 tbs garlic, chopped
8 oz shredded mozzarella
8 oz shredded white cheddar
16 oz light alfredo sauce
1 cup milk
salt & pepper


Undercook lasagna noodles according to package (boil for 10 minutes if package says 12 minutes, or don’t cook if using bake-ready/no-cook pasta).
While water is boiling, cook pork and chicken until cooked through, draining any excess grease off. Cook separately to avoid over-cooking the chicken.
While meat is cooking, mix ricotta, Parmesan, egg, garlic, and Italian seasoning together.
Mix alfredo, milk, salt, and pepper together.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray baking dish(es) with non-stick spray.
Set up an assembly line of the lasagna layers: cooked pasta; meats mixed together; ricotta; spinach; and shredded cheeses; with everything in reach.
Assemble lasagna(s). Tip: if making 2 make both at the same time to gauge quantities of each ingredient. Ladle a tiny amount of white sauce onto the bottom then layer with noodles.
Top with meat mixture. Ladle on about ⅓ cup of white sauce on top of the meat, before topping with about ⅓ cup of mixed cheeses.
Layer on more noodles, then top with ricotta mixture.
Layer on more noodles, then top with spinach, then top with about ⅓ cup of white sauce.
Repeat until out of any of the layers.
Bake covered for 30 minutes.
If freezing one, remove that one from the oven, allow to cool, label & freeze.
If eating one immediately, uncover and bake another 20 minutes. Top with cheese for the last 5 minutes.
Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

I loved this one. It feels really different, but actually isn’t much different at all. It would be easy enough to make 2 at once, and use white sauce on 1 and red sauce on the other. The white sauce vs. red sauce also might be a good way to differentiate meat versus vegetarian lasagna.

Lasagna is a somewhat labor intensive dish but it is super easy to serve and generally crowd pleasing. It is a great one to prep in advance and only have to bake when serving. You can also “cheat” by skipping the pasta & ricotta layers and using ravioli instead.

Want more lasagna themes? I wholeheartedly recommend butternut squash lasagna or traditional lasagna. What a fun taste-off for your next family gathering or potluck?!

Here are some of my lasagna tips and I thought of a new one: in addition to making 2 at once, I suggest using all the pasta. Sometimes I’m cutting it down to fit my pan and I’m left with scraps. Save ‘em! Getting to the last layer to discover you’re out of pasta is the worst. I save a few full length for the top and piece some of the under layers. What they can’t see, won’t hurt, right?

Each of mine ended with a different top layer. I’m not going into mass production, so it is totally fine! Use it up!