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Cauliflower bolognese, orecchiette with Italian sausage and more pasta night recipes

Elena Besser shares easy ways to transform the pantry staple.

If you look in your fridge and think there's nothing for dinner, try turning to your cupboard instead. Those oodles of noodles stacked high on the shelves can easily become a wow-worthy meal with the help of a few fresh ingredients. This week, Elena Besser stopped by TODAY to share her favorite pasta night recipes that both start with the pantry staple.

Besser's cauliflower bolognese comes together with spaghetti or bucatini cooked one minute shy of the package instructions. And because the sauce is lightened up you can go as heavy as you'd like with the homemade spicy breadcrumbs. Have some fun shapes you'd like to put to use? Orecchiette is sturdy enough to withstand the sweet and savory flavors of balsamic-blistered grapes, creamy goat cheese and hot Italian sausage.

Also on the menu, we have Besser's miso mac if you're craving a bowl of comfort and herby rigatoni for a bold and bright bite. Or, think outside of the box(ed pasta) and whip up a batch of easy ricotta gnocchi from scratch.

Elena Besser’s pasta night recipes

Pasta is cooked, tossed in the sauce, and topped with breadcrumbs and fresh herbs for a hearty dish that will surprise you when you say “I don’t even miss the meat!”

This recipe comes together super easily and contains an unexpected combination of ingredients you would find in your home kitchen, like grapes, and transforms them into an elevated pasta dish you can make during the week or when you’re hosting friends. 

More recipes to make this week

Put a fun spin on your typical dinner routine by upgrading a childhood favorite — macaroni and cheese. This genius recipe uses two unexpected ingredients — miso paste and sweet potatoes — to bring the cheesy flavor to a whole new dimension. 

This recipe is a fun change of pace in comparison to the classic pesto recipe you may already have in your rotation. It’s the perfect combination of herby, nutty, sweet and salty and is sure to become a favorite in your household.

Making gnocchi from scratch might sound intimidating, but Besser makes the process approachable. The cheesier cousin to the more well-known potato gnocchi is equally as light and pillowy but about a million times easier to prepare.