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Cavatelli

Cavatelli Pasta is one of the easiest and most versatile homemade kinds of pasta 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!

Close up of handmade cavatelli pasta sprinkled with grainy semolina flour.

Cavatelli are a short pasta that looks a little bit like a shell. Each piece of pasta has a hollowed indentation 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.

Why you’ll love this Cavatelli recipe

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 a fresh asparagus sauce. Make a batch today and see for yourself!

Ingredients

Ingredients as in the recipe card viewed from above.

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.

Use the fine semolina flour, not the coarse kind used for polenta. Fine semolina is similar to flour in texture but slightly coarser. The coarse variety won’t give you the right texture for cavatelli. Look for “semolina flour” or “semola rimacinata” – it’s finely ground durum wheat. My favorite brand is Caputo, which you might find at Italian specialty stores. Other supermarket brands work well, too.

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

Six-step photo collage showing how to make handmade 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 creating an indentation. This creates a curl in the pasta and makes it longer.
Two-step photo collage showing how to shape pasta using a fork or a gnocchi 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 a gnocchi board (pictured above), which can be used instead.

Making the dough for cavatelli pasta is just like any other pasta dough except 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.

Storage

It is best to cook this pasta immediately. Alternatively, arrange in a single layer on a nonstick parchment-lined baking sheet, covered with a kitchen towel, and keep in the refrigerator for 3 or 4 days.

To freeze cavatelli for future use, arrange shaped pieces on a baking sheet, freeze solid, then bag for up to 6 months. Cook frozen cavatelli directly in boiling water, adding 1-2 minutes to cook time.

Tips for Success

Short handmade pasta each with an indentation viewed from above.
  • Roll the dough rope out thinly, almost as thin as a pencil. Cavatelli should be much thinner than gnocchi, so don’t be afraid to stretch it out.
  • For a classic look, roll cavatelli by hand. Cut the rope into small pieces and roll them against the tines of a fork, pressing and curling the dough to form the signature shape.
  • If you have a cavatelli board or gnocchi board, you can use that instead for shaping.
  • If the dough keeps resisting and shrinking back as you roll, set it aside for a few minutes. This allows the dough to relax and become more pliable for easier rolling. Just start rolling a fresh piece of dough while you wait.
  • This cavatelli pasta is unlike 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.
  • Remember 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.

FAQ

What is cavatelli pasta?

Cavatelli pasta is an eggless, slightly chewy pasta made with only semolina (or other flour) and water. This short, hand-shaped pasta looks a bit like a shell 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 an eggless pasta made with flour and water. The thing that is the same is how they 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.

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.

Serving suggestions

Homemade eggless pasta shaped with an indentation in each.

Cavatelli are wonderful served with various sauces even with a simple Garlic Butter Sauce. If you love this, be sure to make my delectable Ricotta Cavatelli!

To mop up the sauce, you’ll want some bread, and this is made from scratch. Garlic bread is just the thing. To round off the meal, why not have a couple of salads on the side? Try my Pumpkin and Spinach salad or a Green Bean salad.

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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! Cavatelli are firm to the bite and slightly dense making it the ideal pasta for more robust sauces.
5 from 160 votes
Print Pin Review
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 more or less as needed
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Place the semolina flour on a work surface (or in a bowl), 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. If you began the cavatelli dough in a bowl, scrape it out onto a work surface to knead.
  • Wrap with plastic and set aside for 30 minutes to rest. This rest will make all the difference!
  • 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.

Notes

Top Tips
  • Semolina flour is very finely ground durum wheat semolina also known as semolina rimacinata. 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.
  • For a different appearance, you can also roll pieces of dough against the tines of a fork, pressing and curling the dough as you roll. Alternatively, you may have a cavatelli board or gnocchi board which can be used instead.
  • If the dough keeps shrinking back when rolling, set that piece aside and start rolling a fresh piece of dough. The dough set aside will rest and relax and roll out more easily.
  • 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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Recipe Rating




76 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I must admit I was a little nervous to test out this recipe because I have never made homemade pasta before. Thanks to your clear instructions, it was a delicious success! I can’t wait to make this cavatelli pasta recipe again.

  2. 5 stars
    You made this so easy for me Marcella. Thanks for all the tips as my pasta turned out perfect. I even surprised myself!

  3. 5 stars
    Oh my nonna used to make cavatelli all the time and I loved them. I didn’t know it was only 3 ingredients. I am going to make them this weekend, I’m so excited.

  4. 5 stars
    Enjoying pasta even more now because of how easy it is, and the fact that this cavatelli pasta is made eggless.

  5. 5 stars
    Would love to try this Cavatelli pasta.:) Looks so yummy. It is indeed a versatile homemade pasta.:) Can’t wait to make it. Thanks!:)

  6. 5 stars
    I was worried I couldn’t make my own but the step by step instructions were so easy to follow.

  7. Hi, Marcellina.. Kinda dumb question, but like, how many ounces will this make? I’d like to pre-make pasta and pack in 1# bags for future use.. Thanks much..

    1. Hi Steve, certainly not a dumb question. I’d say it makes between 12 to 14 ounces. Frozen cavatelli will take longer to cook to be sure to factor that in when you pull the bags from the freezer. Do the taste test to tell when they are ready. Enjoy!

  8. absolutely frustrating…I have made Cavatelli pasta many times, with egg and without egg, just flour, water, and salt. Never had a problem until now! with the egg I boiled the pasta 30 minutes or more and never got cooked. the second time without egg, came too thick, and also never really cooked. the only thing I can think of is not kneading it long enough. what do you think?

    1. Hi Nick, are you using my recipe? It doesn’t contain any egg! If you are following my recipe using semolina flour and water – you’ll knead it for 5 to 10 minutes or until it is really smooth then let it rest. IF you are are using my recipe, follow the instructions that say roll the dough into a rope 1/2 inch in diameter. That’s almost like a pencil. Then cut the rope into ¾-1 inch (2-2.5cm) lengths. Then press firmly onto each piece of dough and drag towards you creating a curl and an indentation.
      I think you may have formed cavatelli that are too large and that’s why they aren’t cooking. Another problem could be that the cavatelli have dried out too long and won’t cook.
      Hope this helps!

  9. 5 stars
    I’ve never tried this type of pasta before but this recipe has me looking forward to doing so. I also appreciate the different tips provided with this recipe as well.

  10. 5 stars
    So delicious! I love making homemade pasta and this Cavatelli recipe is one of my new favorites!

  11. 5 stars
    Such an easy and delicious recipe! This is so much better homemade and everyone asks for more!

  12. 5 stars
    I have been looking for recipes that use semolina and this is perfect! My whole family enjoyed this cavatelli pasta!

  13. 5 stars
    I love cavatelli! I’ve not made my own though but it certainly looks easy enough! Fresh pasta is delicious. For smaller holidays I always make my own…definitely want to try this.