Butternut Squash Lasagna Redo

I posted this butternut squash lasagna last year but I thought it it needed a little re-do.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna

Don’t judge this lasagna until you try it. It is seriously so good and a great fall food. I love this one! It is much faster to prep & cook than traditional Italian lasagna.

Butternut Squash Lasagna

(adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, roasted
16 oz ricotta cheese
½ cup cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
½ box lasagna noodles

Directions:

Roast butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees. (this could be done the day before)
Combine ricotta, cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash
Mix squash and chicken stock over medium low heat.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
To assemble lasagna: spread noodles on the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan; top with ricotta mixture and some cheese; layer more noodles; top with butternut squash mixture.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
Repeat laying noodles then ricotta and cheese, then noodles, then squash and repeating until all the layers are used.The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
Sprinkle some cheese on top.
Bake 30 minutes at 375.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna
I sprinkled some fresh basil in there. I love the flavor combo and I hadn’t grabbed a package of sage. I think the fresh-factor is important and sage makes it more fall-ish.

See? Pretty simple and it’ll feed a crowd. It is a great dinner to prep in advance and stick in the oven for just little fuss. It reheated well and I froze leftover pieces.
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna

Butternut Squash Lasagna (serves 6-9)

1 butternut squash: $1.89
16 oz. ricotta: $1.99
4 oz. cream cheese: $0.62
1 egg yolk: $1.24
16 oz. mozzarella: $3.59
4 oz. Parmesan cheese: $1.98
8 oz. chicken stock: $0.11 ($2.99 jar/25 cubes=11 cents per cube/cup)
8 oz. lasanga noodles: $1.00
total cost = $12.42/9 servings = $1.38 per serving
Even cutting larger pieces (6 instead of 9) comes to $2.07 per serving!

I had some leftover noodles. Early on in your layers, take a quick count how many noodles fit so you don’t run out mid layer when you could have scooched a few. I cut the up the leftover noodles with a little sauce and some cheese. Pow! Pop a meatball on and I’ve got a last minute dinner in the freezer some night! My resourceful Momma taught me well!
The Three Bite Rule - Butternut Squash Lasagna

Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese

The ingredients say it all. Bacon, check. Ranch, check. Mac & cheese, check. Ohh my deliciousness. This mac and cheese was awesome. It is orange and amazing. Whip it up and enjoy between trick or treaters!

The Three Bite Rule - Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

6 strips of thick cut bacon
1 box jumbo shells
¼ cup butter
⅔ cup flour
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz shredded cheddar melting blend
1 packet ranch dressing mix

Directions:

Boil pasta according to box.
Fry bacon until crisp, then chop into pieces.
Melt butter over medium and add the flour to the melted butter.
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese
Stir butter-flour paste mix for about 5 minutes. The roux needs to cook through so there isn’t any flour flavor.
Slowly add the cream while whisking to get any lumps out.
Slowly add the cheese until melted before adding the ranch mix.
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese
Mix cheese sauce and pasta.
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon Ranch Mac & CheeseAdd the bacon last before into ramekins or baking dish so it doesn’t get too broken up.
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese
Top with shredded cheese and bake for 10 minutes at 375-degrees.

This was amazing. I loved the flavor. I used ¾ of a pound of pasta and I think it was too little. There was plenty of cheese sauce and tons of ranch flavor. It was almost too much.
The Three Bite Rule - Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese
I’ll definitely make this again. I wanted a fall pasta dish that wasn’t just thrown together when I didn’t know what else would be for dinner. I think this fit the bill. It isn’t light by any means. It was heavy, warm, and comforting. I thought it was good for a crisp October night!

Manhandling Manicotti

Manicotti is totally not seasonally appropriate but I don’t care. I love pasta in all forms and figured I’d try out manicotti one night when it wasn’t too hot to have the oven on. I can’t say this is my favorite. I really love lasagna  and stuffed shells come in a close second, but my manicotti was good. They’re just tougher to assemble than stuffed shells. It was a labor of patience.

I should give Amy’s manicotti a try  she learned to make it with Monterey jack slices instead of ricotta from her mom. That sounds easier and maybe cheesier!

Look who photo bombed my picture! Windsor is often underfoot in the kitchen so I figured I wouldn’t crop him out of this one. It’s a tough one to capture since he’s black against cherry cabinets so nevermind how over exposed it is, just look for the red collar!
The three Bite Rule puppy photobomb

Ingredients:

1 box Manicotti shells
2 cups tomato sauce
32 oz. ricotta
1 egg
1 cup baby spinach (optional)
1 tbs chopped garlic
2 tbs Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions:

Boil manicotti until about 50% cooked, be sure not to overcook them then drain
Mix ricotta, egg, chopped spinach, garlic, Italian seasoning, and ¾ cup mozzarella until combined.
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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prep a baking dish with nonstick spray and ½ cup tomato sauce
Carefully spoon ricotta mixture into the manicotti shells. (I used a teaspoon and filled using both ends (and gravity).
Spread sauce over the top, cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule manicotti
Remove the cover, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and bake for another 5 minutes until golden and melty.
The Three Bite Rule manicotti

I added the spinach because I often have some leftover and it is an easy/healthy way to sneak a veggie into this. When I have leftovers I toss it into a plastic container in the freezer if I can’t use it right away. The ability to cook it or eat spinach raw makes it my favorite green.

This is a good one to make & freeze if you aren’t into eating it meal after meal! It would be a good one to give my cousins-in-law who are now new parents (if they weren’t 2,000+ miles away)!

If I just scared you off….

Check out my baked ziti for easier assembly 
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or check out Martha’s Butternut Squash Lasagna I made and fell in love with if you are wishing fall upon us
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Cheesy Baked Ziti

My Grandma W wasn’t known for her cooking but I’ve thought of her often lately. She would have loved Mr. J and she would be really proud that we got the house. She was a tough cookie but her grandchildren could do no wrong.
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She made fantastic fudge, chex-mix, and baked ziti. Mine didn’t quite rival hers, but it was good. The perfect sauce with lots of cheese was an ideal dinner. I concentrated on making sure there was a ton of cheese and that the noodles were cooked perfectly.

Ingredients:

1 pound ziti, rigatoni, or penne
2 cups tomato sauce
12 oz ricotta
1 cup spinach
12 oz shredded mozzarella

Directions:

Boil pasta until al dente (it will keep cooking when baked)
Blend (or chop) spinach into ricotta
Mix ricotta with pasta, half the sauce, and half the mozzarella.
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Spread into a greased pan and top with remaining sauce.
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Bake 30 minutes covered. Then top with remaining cheese and bake until melted.
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Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

If I were making this Grandma W style, I would have added meatballs, chicken thighs, sausage, pepperoni, peppers, and onions.  Mine was simplier but I liked it a lot. I have a strong love for ricotta.
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It reminded me of a baked pasta Ms. L made for me. I liked the crispy ones at the edges. I think this dish is super easy, can be made ahead of time, and is definitely a cheap dinner.

Cost breakdown:
Sauce: $1.67
Pasta: $1.00
Ricotta: $2.69
Spinach: $1.74
Shredded mozzarella: $2.99
Total: $10.09 and serves 6 or just $1.68 per person

Peanut Noodle Salad Hot or Cold

Marcus Sameulsson had me at bok choy. Well, I actually hadn’t cooked bok choy before but I loved this recipe from his blog. This was a pretty quick one to put together and it reheated well the next day for lunch.
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Peanut Noodle Salad with Edamame and Bok Choy

 

Serves 4, adapted from Peas and Thank You

 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup peanut butter
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp honey
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
2 heads baby bok choy, chopped
2 cups frozen edamame

Directions:

In a food processor mix coconut milk, tomatoes, peanut butter, soy sauce, lemon juice, ginger, garlic, and honey until smooth.
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Boil the pasta.
While the pasta boils, cook the bok choy for about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender before adding the edamame and cook until heated through.
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Add the spaghetti to the pan and pour the peanut sauce mixture into the pan, tossing to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.
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This was a really great meat-less meal. I was shocked, but Mr. J really liked it too! I wasn’t sure he’d be really into the coconut milk/peanut butter sauce. This was also a great use of whole wheat pasta. Normally, I really don’t like it and honestly, I’d often prefer not to even have pasta if it is going to be wheat.

It is fresh tasting. Each bite had something different…from the noodles coated in the creamy peanut sauce, to the bite of the edamame, to the leafy bok choy. The recipe had peppers in it but I threw in some carrots for color instead.
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Stuffed Shells, That’s Amore

Happy Leap Year Extra Day! I didn’t know what food was appropriate to celebrate today but I have a fitting one for a wintry day.

Since pasta as our go-to when we don’t feel like really cooking, I rarely make any other pasta dishes. I randomly decided to make stuffed shells and it was such a hit I’ll have to make them again. These aren’t rocket science but they are a great one to double and freeze. Since there’s only 2 of us here, I made one batch and we had it for dinner and then we each took it for lunch for the rest of the week. You could always prep them the night before too.

Ingredients:

1 pound jumbo shells
3 cups tomato sauce
16 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tbs Italian seasoning
¼ cup prepared alfredo sauce (optional)
3 tbs chopped fresh basil (optional)
2 cups shredded mozzarella

Directions:

Boil shells to al dente (don’t overcook since they’ll cook a bit when baked).
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Mix ricotta with Parmesan, egg, Italian seasoning, and alfredo sauce. (I also added fresh basil.)
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Spray baking pan with nonstick spray and ladle 1 cup of tomato sauce to the bottom of the dish (I started with alfredo).
Carefully fill each shell with cheese mixture.
stuffed_shells_prepped_590_390Pack shells in tightly next to one another
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Top with half the mozzarella and remaining tomato sauce.
Bake covered for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
Add the rest of mozzarella for the last 15 minutes to bake uncovered.
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This was really good. I guess I should think of pasta dishes more often for planned meals. It actually made me want other baked pasta dishes.
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My Gram W wasn’t known for her cooking, but she made one mean baked ziti. Her only other claims to fame in the kitchen were fudge, chex mix, and pound cake. I got one of her original pound cake recipes at my wedding shower.

Go ahead and make some stuffed shells. They’re a fun recipe to customize with some spinach, sausage, artichokes or whatever you want. I’m not always into really crossing food boundaries. I keep seeing taco stuffed shells with a mexican flair, but I wouldn’t go there.

I also don’t mess around with low fat cheese. It’s not the same and I often would rather not even have it since it doesn’t melt the same, but that’s your call too. So, what do you say about low-fat cheese? Love it? Hate it?

Pumpkin Pasta Perfection

I’ve made this simplified pumpkin pasta a few times since I first saw Rachael Ray make it but I hadn’t made it for real in awhile. This time I used leftovers and it wasn’t quite right. I made it for real just before moving since it only requires a few ingredients and the leftovers are pretty great too.
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I like the pumpkin puree since it coats like a sauce on pasta on it’s own and with just a few other ingredients this pumpkin pasta is a winner. It’s a nice pre-fall or mid-winter treat. I carefully avoid the overly pumpkin time in mid-November.

Ingredients

8 oz pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 pound pasta (something short)
2 sweet sausage links
1/2 cup chicken stock (or veggie stock)
4 tbs heavy cream

Directions

Boil water for the pasta.
Remove the sausage from the casing and brown in a skillet.
Mix pumpkin puree and stock over medium-low heat until heated through.
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When pasta is almost cooked drain and put it into a flat pan so it is only about one noodle deep
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Add in the sauce, sausage and cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until the pasta is cooked al dente.
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Gently mix in heavy cream just before serving.

I chopped some fresh rosemary over the top too. I thought it was woodsy and I had some on hand. Sage would be good too. I sprinkled a little nutmeg in as well.
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I love this dish. It’s rich and flavorful but so simple. I think it’d be a great for guests.

Such a cheap dinner!

Sausage and Pumpkin Pasta

1/2 lb pene pasta: $0.75
1 can pumpkin: $1.79
2 sausage links: $1.42
chicken broth: 4 oz. chicken stock: $0.05 ($2.99 jar/25 cubes=11 cents per cube/cup)
heavy cream: $0.16
total = $4.17 and serves 3-4 ($1.39 per serving)

Mac & Cheeses at a Great ‘Places’

Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to get a seat at a Mac & Cheese Tasting at Church near Fenway. Google Places hosted this exciting opportunity as a reward for folks who wrote reviews for Google Places. I tell ya, Google can take over the world and I’d be a-OK with it.
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I saw the offer as a tweet and I posted a few reviews. I went with places that didn’t already have hundreds of reviews. I love to give my opinion but I don’t like to rehash the same thing everyone else has said.
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The dinner was super fun and I was joined by two lovely ladies who love mac & cheese almost as much as I do. It was doubly exciting since one of Church’s culinary directors is Laura Henry-Zoubir of Regal Beagle and I’ve seen her on Chopped.

We tasted 5 mac & cheeses, family style, and got to select 2 craft beers. Google gave us cute goodies including a google places beer glass, drink stirrer, coozie, bottle opener, and lip chap (as some folks would call it ;) .

I have to admit, when I saw the first skillet I thought it might not be enough for all 20-ish people there! Boy was I mistaken…we had seconds and it just kept coming.
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The first one was mozzarella, Romano, basil and a balsamic tomato relish mac and cheese. It was so good. I loved the roasted tomatoes and that they were mostly whole chunks. I didn’t really taste much balsamic but the basil was flavorful.
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The next was goat cheese, winter squash, Spicy IPA Pepitas, and sage. It was amazing. This was totally my favorite and I’m not always on board with goat cheese. I wish this was a scratch & sniff.
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Then they broke out the truffle oil. Cue a communal swoon. We could smell it coming. This one had truffle oil, mushrooms, and Pale Ale Vermont cheddar cheese.
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Now they brought out the spice. The next was Monterey Jack, poblanos, and chorizo. Ohh boy. This was definitely spicy but I liked it. I think there was a good deal leftover, maybe because we had already had 3 mac and cheeses already.
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The last one had braised beef. I couldn’t eat this one, but I hear it was good. I had already eaten plenty.
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We had a good time and it was a nice crowd. I still can’t believe how much that one (albeit massive) skillet served! Maybe it was wise to not have all 5 flavors on one plate.

Zesty Mac & Cheese

Last year for my birthday I made Mexican Mac & Cheese and it was such a hit at the taste-off. That was wayyy too much mac and cheese so I took a break from any for awhile. If you need a non-holiday meal this is perfect!
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This one is special. It isn’t traditional which is also why it is so good. Ohh I love it…everyone else does too.

Ingredients:

½ pound elbow macaroni
⅓ pound ground turkey
3 tbs taco seasoning
½ cup butter
2 tbs flour
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded or grated
¾ cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 roasted red pepper
⅓ cup Monterrey jack cheese
¼ cup salsa
1 cup tortilla chips, crumbled

Directions:

Brown the ground turkey with taco seasoning while water is boiling for the pasta.
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Melt butter over medium low heat and add flour to get a roux going.
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Slowly add milk stirring constantly until well incorporated.
Turn to low and add cheese.
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When pasta is just barely soft, remove from the water and add it to a baking dish. Mix the egg yolk in and then the cheese sauce.
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Add ground turkey, roasted red peppers, remaining cheese and mix. Dot with salsa but don’t mix salsa through.
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Top with crumbled tortilla chips and bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.
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This mac and cheese is creamy and has really great flavor. I sprinkle more taco seasoning on the top before topping with chips. It’s kind of a casserole and it is such a winner.
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Green onions would be good and jalapenos if you wanted some spice. I think I threw in some leftover black beans once for color.

I use these smart choice noodles. They only come in 3 shapes (elbows, penne, & rotini) but they’re better than regular dried pasta since wheat pasta just isn’t the same.
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Butternut Squash Goes Layered

Ohh. So. Good.

I ate this at bookclub one night and was so impressed. I wanted to make it immediately. Martha sure knows what she’s doing. This is a great recipe and cooks so much faster than regular Italian lasagna.
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Butternut Squash Lasagna (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, roasted
16 oz ricotta cheese
½ cup cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
½ box lasagna noodles

Directions:

Roast butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees.
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Combine ricotta, cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
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Mix squash and chicken stock over medium low heat.
To assemble lasagna: spread noodles on the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan; top with ricotta mixture and some cheese; layer more noodles; top with butternut squash mixture. Repeat laying noodles then ricotta and cheese, then noodles, then squash and repeating until all the layers are used. Sprinkle some cheese on top.
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Bake 30 minutes at 375.
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Mr. J LOVED this. I tried not to hype it up too much since that can end in disapointment but this was really great. I roasted the squash the night before to save some time too.

I tried to be really careful not to overcook the noodles. I was afraid everything would be too mushy so I also tried to leave some lumps with the squash.

I spread a little pre-made alfredo sauce on the bottom which was a nice touch. I did however forget to put the mozzarella and Parmesan until it was almost too late. I scooched a few layers up and snuck it in there. I thought it was more important to get the cheese in there than for the layers to look perfect.
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Umm let’s discuss how amazing the cream cheese mixed with ricotta is. YUM. Sooo good and I can’t believe I’ve never thought about it before! It’s a must-try!

I nixed the sage because I just wanted fewer ingredients in my dreaded grocery shopping trip. My friend put in some basil instead and we thought that was really nice…lighter than sage.

The lasagna was filling and really good. I ate it reheated for lunch a few days and continued to love it. I should attempt some more meat-less meals more often. Shhh! Don’t tell Mr. J ;)

Let’s do a little cost breakdown I’m so into right now!

Butternut Squash Lasagna (serves 6-9)
1 butternut squash: $1.89
16 oz. ricotta: $1.99
4 oz. cream cheese: $0.62
1 egg yolk: $1.24
16 oz. mozarella: $3.59
4 oz. Parmesan cheese: $1.98
8 oz. chicken stock: $0.11 ($2.99 jar/25 cubes=11 cents per cube/cup)
8 oz. lasanga noodles: $1.00
total cost = $12.42/9 servings = $1.38 per serving

Even cutting larger pieces (6 instead of 9) comes to $2.07 per serving!