Huffpost Taste

Dried Pasta

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Gail Simmons shows you how to use foods you already have in your pantry to make easy, delicious recipes. In this episode of the Pantry Project, Gail shows viewers how versatile dried pasta can be, and explains why it's important to pair different sauces with specific pasta shapes. She gives three perfect sauce and pasta pairings, each with its own unique flavor and texture.

In this video, Gail prepares her Sweet Sausage and Arugula Manicotti. The tube shape of the pasta lends itself to fillings and chunky sauces. She points out that dried pasta doesn't contain eggs, and is therefore more shelf-stable -- a real plus for a pantry item. To begin the dish, she puts together a simple tomato sauce by sautéeing onions and garlic in a little olive oil, then adding whole San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and thyme.

While the sauce simmers, she starts on the meat filling. She adds loose sweet Italian sausage to a pan with a bit of oil, breaking it up as it browns. Once it's cooked through, she seasons it with salt and pepper, then adds arugula for a bright, peppery note. Don't overcook the greens -- you want them just slightly wilted, she says.

Next, she makes the cheese component of the dish, combining fresh ricotta cheese with eggs, lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. When the meat mixture cools, she stirs it into the cheese, making sure to combine the filling well.

She cooks her manicotti according to the package directions, then lays them on a sheet pan and drizzles them with some olive oil to keep them from sticking. She scoops the filling into a large resealable bag, then cuts off the tip to transform it into a piping bag. To pipe the filling into the tubes, it's easiest to go in from each end and have the filling meet in the middle -- the cheese and meat mixture is quite thick. Once the manicotti are filled, she assembles the dish, spreading half of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan, then placing the manicotti over it. The rest of the tomato sauce goes on top, followed by Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Once the dish is baked, the cheese becomes golden and bubbly, and the filling oozes out of the manicotti.

Recipes:
Tagliatelle with Wild Mushrooms, Garlic and Thyme
Salsa Fresca Penne
Sweet Sausage and Arugula Manicotti