Homemade Cavatelli

Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli
Italian Cuisine Expert and Food Blogger
Guido Pedrelli
Guido Pedrelli, the mastermind behind Nonna Box, has honed his culinary expertise for decades, inspired by family feasts in Emilia-Romagna. Mentored by his restaurateur nonna, he mastered Italian classics and furthered his skills with professional culinary studies in desserts and gelato making from Mec3. Today, he shares this rich legacy and authentic recipes through Nonna Box.
Expertise: Italian cuisine, Pasta, Pizza, Pastry, Dessert

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!

What is cavatelli?

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.

What do you need to make this recipe?


  • Fork – Useful in helping to combine the semolina flour and water together to form the pasta dough.
  • Bench Scraper – Often used to portion out dough.
  • Sheet Pan- To place the formed cavatelli while they are waiting to be cooked or stored.
  • Large Pot – A deep pot is needed to boil the pasta.
  • Colander – Used to drain the cavatelli once it’s done cooking.


  • Prep – 30 minutes
  • Resting – 30 minutes
  • Cook – 10 minutes

What ingredients do you need to make this recipe?

  • Semolina Flour – This is a type of flour made from hard durum wheat. Unlike all-purpose flour, it has a coarse texture and is yellow in color. Semolina is also very high in gluten, which makes it ideal for making homemade pasta because when combined with water it creates a dough that is less sticky and much more elastic.
  • Warm Water – Used to bind the dough by adding moisture to develop the gluten in the semolina flour. You must use warm water to make the pasta dough.
  • Salt – This ingredient is not necessary. However, a bit of salt will enhance the flavor of the fresh pasta.

How to make this recipe step by step

1. Make the dough

homemade cavatelli process, place the semolina flour and form a well

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.

homemade cavatelli process, pour the warm water and mix with a form or your fingers

2. Knead and rest the dough

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.

3. Roll the pasta

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.

homemade cavatelli process, roll the piece of pasta dough and cut piece of dough

4. Form the cavatelli

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.

shape the cavatelli with the tip of your finger or with a knife

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.

picture of homemade cavatelli

5. Cook the cavatelli

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.

Try other homemade pasta recipes:

Expert Tips

  • Do not add all of the warm water to the semolina flour at once. You want to slowly incorporate the water into the flour or you risk forming a dough that is too wet that you then have to fix.
  • Add the salt to the dough for more flavor. The pasta will have a wonderful texture, but it will be somewhat bland if you don’t season with salt.
  • The pasta dough must rest. This gives the gluten in the flour more time to develop which makes the cavatelli much easier to shape.
  • Keep the dough covered with plastic at all times and only work with a quarter of the dough at a time to form the pasta. Doing this helps to prevent the dough from drying out.
  • Do not add flour to the dough when rolling it out unless it’s absolutely necessary. This will dry the dough out and can also make it harder to shape the pasta.
  • Cut the pasta small and into equal portions. If it is cut into different sizes it will not cook evenly.


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.


How to store homemade cavatelli?

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.

How to freeze homemade cavatelli?

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.

How long do you cook frozen cavatelli?

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.

What does cavatelli mean in Italian?

The word cavatelli means “little hollows” in Italian. It was named this due to its indented shell shape.

Is cavatelli dairy-free?

Yes, it’s completely dairy-free. In fact, cavatelli is 100% plant-based.

homemade cavatelli recipe

Homemade cavatelli

A type of pasta traditional from the Puglia region of Italy, easy and quick to make.
5 from 3 votes
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Course: Pasta
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 5 people
Calories: 288kcal


  • 400 grams (0.88 lb) finely ground semolina flour
  • 240 milliliters (8.12 floz) warm water
  • ½ teaspoon (½ teaspoon) salt


  • Put the measured out semolina flour onto a clean work surface. Then sprinkle it with the salt and form a well in the center.
  • Slowly pour the warm water into the well and begin incorporating it into the flour using your fingers or a fork. Only use as much of the water as necessary to create a dough that is soft like playdough.
  • Once you have a rough dough, knead it for about 10 minutes or until it is elastic. Then form the dough into a smooth ball
  • Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
  • After the dough rests for at least 30 minutes, cut off ¼ of the dough. Then rewrap the remaining dough in the plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.
  • On a clean work surface, roll the piece of dough into a long rope that is about ½ inch in thickness. If it’s easier you can also cut the rope in half. But do not add any flour to the work surface.
  • Cut the rope of dough into ½-inch portions in length. They should all be about the same size.
  • Use the side of your thumb to press firmly onto each cut piece of dough as you roll it towards you to create an indentation that forms a shell shape.
  • Once you have finished forming all the portions of dough into cavatelli, lightly sprinkle them with semolina. Then place the cavatelli in a single layer not touching each other on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper that has also been dusted with semolina.
  • Finish forming the pasta by cutting off portions of dough, rolling it into ropes, and shaping it into cavatelli.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Then cook the cavatelli for about 2 minutes or until they float to the top.
  • Serve with your favorite pasta sauce.
Serving: 100g | Calories: 288kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 236mg | Potassium: 149mg | Fiber: 3g | Calcium: 15mg | Iron: 3mg
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