With a shell shape that makes the perfect little crevice for your favorite sauces, this Homemade Cavatelli Recipe shows you how easy it can be to make delicious fresh pasta at home. It’s a classic Southern Italian short pasta that only requires 2 simple ingredients and less than an hour to make!
Originally from the Southern part of Italy in the regions of Puglia and Molise, cavatelli is a short pasta made from a simple mixture of semolina flour and warm water. A pinch of salt is often added to the pasta dough to enhance the flavor, but it’s not necessary. This type of pasta is almost always made by hand and resembles a shell with an elongated hollow shape, which makes the perfect nook for your favorite sauce.
It’s one of the oldest pasta shapes in Italy and is commonly sauteed with garlic and broccoli in extra virgin olive oil or served with a simple tomato sauce. However, you can serve cavatelli with any type of sauce you prefer. It pairs well with cream sauces like alfredo as well as meat and seafood too.
Homemade cavatelli pasta is a fantastic example of the simplicity of Italian cooking at its best with just two simple ingredients needed to produce delicious flavor. This is also why it’s important to use high-quality semolina flour for the best results. Recipes with fewer ingredients like egg-free cavatelli rely on the freshness and quality of those ingredients.
To begin, you will need a clean surface to make the dough and your water must be warm. Then pour the semolina onto the work surface, sprinkle it with the salt if using, and form a well in the center of the flour. Next, slowly start adding the water into the well you just formed and begin combining it with the flour. You can use a fork or your fingers to do this step, but it’s important to only use as much water as necessary to form a dough that feels similar to playdough.
With a rough dough formed you will now knead it for about 10 minutes or until it’s smooth and elastic. Then mold the dough into a ball and tightly cover it with plastic wrap. Now, allow the dough to rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. The dough needs this time to further develop so that you can properly form the cavatelli.
Once the dough has rested for 30 minutes, cut off a quarter of the dough and set it on your clean work surface. Then rewrap the rest of the dough to prevent it from drying out and set it aside for now. Now, roll the piece of pasta dough out into a long rope that is ½ inch in thickness. Then cut the rope into ½ inch lengths that are all about the same size. During this process, you should not need to add any flour to your work surface.
Shaping the cavatelli is not difficult but it may take a few tries to get it just right. To do it, take one of the cut portions of pasta dough and use the side of your thumb or a knife to form a shell shape by pressing down on the dough as you roll it towards you. Basically, you are forming a curved indentation as you roll your thumb. Then place the shaped pasta spaced apart so that they are not touching on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted with semolina flour.
Once you have shaped all the cut pieces of dough into cavatelli, sprinkle them with semolina. Then finish forming the rest of the pasta by cutting off portions of the dough, rolling it into ½ inch ropes, and shaping it into shells.
Now that the cavatelli is formed, it’s time to cook or store them. To cook, bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil of high heat. Next, add the cavatelli and cook it for about 2-3 minutes or until it floats to the top. Then drain the pasta and serve it with your favorite sauce like my Authentic Italian Tomato Sauce or Pesto alla Trapanese and a bit of Pecorino.
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You can find variations of cavatelli that include ricotta cheese in the dough. Yet, the ricotta cavatelli also includes egg, so you may want to keep that in mind if you have dietary restrictions. However, if you just want to add a little more flavor to the cavatelli you can easily add any herbs or spices you like to the dough such as a little basil, lemon zest, or black pepper.
Fresh cavatelli pasta will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days in a sealed bag. However, you want to let it dry out for about 20 minutes before storing it so that the pasta doesn’t stick together. If the cavatelli has been cooked it will keep for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container.
Allow the cavatelli to dry out on the baking sheet for about 15 minutes. Then pop the tray into the freezer for about an hour. Once the individual pieces of pasta are frozen, you can put them into a sealed freezer bag and they will keep for up to 4 months in the freezer.
It takes about 6 to 7 minutes to cook cavatelli when it’s frozen. You do not need to defrost the pasta before cooking it. It’s perfectly fine to plunge it right into the boiling water.
The word cavatelli means “little hollows” in Italian. It was named this due to its indented shell shape.
Yes, it’s completely dairy-free. In fact, cavatelli is 100% plant-based.