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Cavatelli

Cavatelli pasta are one of the easiest and most versatile homemade pastas you’ll ever come across.

This is an eggless pasta recipe which uses just two ingredients and can be made in not much more than an hour plus you won’t need any special equipment. That means no pasta machine or fancy cutters, just simple kitchen supplies and YOUR hands!

homemade cavatelli pasta

Why you’ll love this Cavatelli recipe

Cavatelli are a short pasta that looks a little bit like a shells. Each piece of pasta has a hollow which perfectly captures the sauce for optimum flavor.

This homemade pasta is typical of many regions of southern Italy where eggless pasta is the norm. Originally from Molise and Puglia, you’ll now find cavatelli pasta on the menu in Calabria, Campania, Sicily, Abruzzo and Basilicata.

There are so many reasons to love this cavatelli recipe. Firstly, if you have never made fresh pasta then this is the one for you because it is so easy. Plus you won’t need any special equipment.

The best thing is that this homemade cavatelli pasta is so versatile. While often served with sausage and broccoli or broccoli rabe, it is also wonderful with ragu, my san marzano tomato sauce, pesto, or even a fresh asparagus sauce. Make a batch today and see for yourself!

Ingredient notes

ingredients for homemade cavatelli pasta.

With just two ingredients in this pasta recipe (if you don’t count the salt), you’ll find you always have what you need on hand.

Being an eggless pasta, of course, means all that is needed is flour and water. Semolina flour is interchangeable with all purpose, 00 flour or even bread flour. In fact, a combination of semolina flour with either of the other flours also makes this cavatelli recipe deliver some excellent results.

Instructions for Homemade Cavatelli

six-step photo collage showing how to make homemade cavatelli pasta.
  1. Make a well in the flour, add salt and gradually mix in warm water
  2. Knead until smooth and supple
  3. Allow to rest
  4. Roll out a portion of the dough into a long rope
  5. Cut the rope into short lengths
  6. Using two fingers, press and roll each piece of dough making an indentation. This creates a curl in the pasta and makes it longer.
two-step photo collage showing how to shape cavatelli pasta using a fork or a cavatelli board.

You can also roll pieces of pasta against the tines of a fork, pressing and curling the dough as you roll. Or alternatively, you may have a cavatelli board or gnocchi board which can be used instead.

Making the dough for cavatelli pasta is just like any other pasta dough just the ingredients will vary. So once you’ve tried this pasta you might like to move on to other shapes like busiate, tagliatelle, garganelli, tonnarelli or ricotta cavatelli.

Tips for success and FAQ’s

This cavatelli pasta is not like egg pasta which is silky and cooks quickly. Eggless pasta has more chew and can take longer to cook than you think particularly because this shape is rather thick. Check doneness by tasting.

Keep in mind that being handmade, this cavatelli recipe will be uneven and rustic. The beauty of this pasta is that it isn’t all perfect and uniform like the commercially produced variety.

What is cavatelli pasta?

Cavatelli pasta is an eggless, slightly chewy pasta made with just semolina (or other flour) and water. This short, hand shaped pasta looks a little bit like shells with a hollow for capturing all the sauce. Actually the name means “little hollows”. Another version includes ricotta in the dough. Cavatelli are often served with broccoli and garlic.

What is the difference between cavatelli and gnocchi?

Gnocchi are made from a dough that uses potatoes or ricotta and flour and not really pasta at all. Cavatelli pasta instead are a semolina/flour and water pasta. The thing that is the same is how that are shaped and this means they are sometimes confused.

Why does the dough shrink back when I try to roll it?

This is because it is not rested enough or it has been worked again after resting. If this is happening, set that piece aside and start rolling a fresh piece of dough. In the meantime the first piece of dough will rest and relax and be easier to roll when you go back to it.

How long will cavatelli pasta keep?

It is best to cook this pasta immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.

Can I freeze this pasta?

Yes, place the tray of pasta in the freezer. When frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and use within 6 months. Cook from frozen. Frozen cavatelli pasta will take longer to cook.

Can this recipe be doubled?

Yes, you can double or triple this recipe. However, you will need to allow extra time to shape the pasta by hand.

close up of cavatelli pasta

Serving suggestions

Cavatelli are wonderful served with many different sauces as suggested earlier. For mopping up the sauce you’ll want some bread and this made from scratch Garlic bread is just the thing. To round off the meal, why not have a couple of salads on the side like Pumpkin and Spinach salad or a Green Bean salad?

homemade cavatelli pasta

More homemade pasta recipes

Fresh Egg Pasta
Garganelli
Busiate

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homemade cavatelli pasta

Cavatelli Pasta Recipe

This is a traditional eggless pasta which uses just two ingredients and can be made in not much more than an hour plus you won't need any special equipment!
5 from 158 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Resting time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings:3
Author: Marcellina

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (286 grams) finely ground semolina flour see notes
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Place the semolina flour on a work surface, make a well in the middle and sprinkle with salt.
  • Add most of water into the well in the centre of the semolina flour.
  • Start combining water with the semolina flour using your fingers or a fork. Pulling in the flour and forming a dough. Add more water if needed or more flour if the dough is too sticky. The dough should feel soft and supple, a bit like playdough.
  • Knead well for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic then form into a ball.
  • Wrap with plastic and set aside for 30 minutes to rest.
  • After 30 minutes, cut off ¼ of the dough. Rewrap the remaining dough.
  • Roll the cut off portion of dough into a sausage shape. You shouldn't need any extra semolina/flour but if you do, use it sparingly.
  • Continue rolling until you have a long rope about ½ inch (or approximately 1cm) in diameter. Be sure to roll the rope as thin as this otherwise it will be too thick to cook properly. It may be easier to cut it in half and keep rolling to achieve this thickness.
  • Cut the rope into ¾-1 inch (2-2.5cm) lengths.
  • Using two fingers (the index and the middle finger), press firmly onto each piece of dough and drag towards you creating a curl and an indentation. It's important to press firmly enough to thin the dough and create a curled pasta. This might take a little practice.
  • Place in a single layer and not touching on parchment (baking) paper that has been dusted with semolina.
  • Repeat with remaining dough.
  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil. When boiling, add one heaped tablespoon of salt.
  • Add the cavatelli to the salted, boiling water and cook for 8-10 minutes. This will depend on the size of the cavatelli. Taste after 5 minutes and cook longer if needed. Cooking may be even longer than 10 minutes if you have made larger cavatelli.
  • Serve with your favorite sauce – try San Marzano tomato sauce, Basil Pesto or Authentic Bolognese Ragu. And if you love this, be sure to make my Cavatelli and Broccoli and my delectable Ricotta Cavatelli!

Notes

Tips for success and FAQ’s
Semolina flour is very finely ground durum wheat semolina. The brand I prefer is Caputo which I find at my local Italian food store. There are other brands available at supermarkets which are also quite good. But be sure to use the correct semolina. It is very fine but not quite as fine as flour. The coarse variety (often used for polenta) won’t produce good cavatelli.
Roll the rope thinly – almost as thin as a pencil. This isn’t like potato gnocchi; cavatelli should be much thinner than gnocchi.
Alternative ways of shaping the cavatelli
You can also roll pieces of pasta against the tines of a fork, pressing and curling the dough as you roll. Or alternatively, you may have a cavatelli board or gnocchi board which can be used instead.
What to do if the dough keeps shrink when rolling out
If this is happening, set that piece aside and start rolling a fresh piece of dough. In the meantime the first piece of dough will rest and relax and be easier to roll when you go back to it.
How to freeze
Place the tray of pasta in the freezer. When frozen, transfer to a freezer bag and use within 6 months. Cook from frozen. Frozen pasta will take longer to cook.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 403kcal | Carbohydrates: 82g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 392mg | Potassium: 208mg | Fiber: 4g | Calcium: 19mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

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72 Comments

  1. Hello, Marcellina ~
    Can this recipe used with a cavatelli machine? I have a board as well as my mom’s cavatelli maker.

  2. I made it, and they were okay, a bit hard. I cooked them for 12 minutes because mine came out a bit thicker. Should I had cook them longer or is possible something wrong with the dough?

    1. It could be possible that the dough was a bit too hard with not enough water added. As I say the dough should be soft, like playdough. Also it’s important to press firmly on the dough when forming the cavatelli, as I say in the recipe. Take care with these to issues and I’m sure you will have success.

    1. Yes, it is for 3 servings unless you’re having it as a starter or you’re not very hungry. Also a lot depends on what sauce you are serving with it. If it’s a ragu or other meat sauce, this would probably be enough for 4. In any case, you don’t have to double the recipe just increase the serving using the up and down arrows beside the servings box to how many serving you want to make and the measurements will adjust. Like all pasta recipes, this cavatelli recipe is easily adjustable and often the amount of water/liquid you need will be dependant on the weather ie drier weather, you need more liquid; humid weather, you need less. Hope that helps.

    1. Yes, you would be able to dry these cavatelli though they may not dry out completely and therefore would need to be frozen to keep fresh.