Whenever I go to an Italian restaurant, I find myself jumping for joy when I see cavatelli on the menu. Cavatelli is a lovely homemade pasta shape with a firm bite and a hollowed-out center perfect for nestling bits of meat or vegetables.
Cavatelli was invented in Molise, a region of Southern Italy. It’s made from semolina flour, a type of durum wheat, and water. The dough is kneaded for several minutes until soft and smooth. Then, after a long rest, it is rolled out into long ropes, and each rope is cut into pieces. Finally, each piece is hand-rolled into its characteristic shape.
How to Shape Cavatelli
There are many different ways to shape cavatelli, but after a lot of trial and error, I’m going to share my favorite method. The goal here is to drag and roll each chunk of dough, roughly 1/2-inch by 1/2-inch, until it curls over itself, forming a hot dog bun-like shape. It’s important to drag each chunk firmly to create a thin inner cavity. Too thick, and it’ll taste doughy instead of having a slight chew.
Traditionally, cavatelli is hand-rolled with one’s fingers. But I prefer using the serrated edge of a butter knife to drag the dough so your fingers don’t get too tired! I also find that the serrated edge helps “dig in” to the dough to create a thin, textured center.
You can also use this method and roll the dough over a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork if you prefer a ridged texture.
How to Cook Cavatelli
To cook store-bought cavatelli, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook until al dente according to package instructions, then drain and serve with your choice of sauce.
Homemade cavatelli needs significantly less cooking time than dried cavatelli. It will take around 5 to 6 minutes to cook in salted boiling water; they’re done when they float to the surface and taste al dente but not doughy.
Tips and Tricks for Making Cavatelli
- For this pasta shape, only semolina flour or semola flour should be used; otherwise, the texture will suffer.
- Keep a water mister with you while kneading and rolling the dough. Semolina dough tends to dry out easily, especially in drier environments, so I either mist the dough or wet my hands slightly.
- To prevent doughy pasta, you need to knead it for a good 10 to 15 minutes until it’s soft and smooth.
- Make sure your cavatelli is rolled thin. When thin enough, the inside of the cavatelli should have a raised texture from being dragged across the knife.
- To prevent dense pasta, I like to separate the two ends of the “bun” to ensure there’s an opening in the center for sauce to nestle into.
How to Serve Cavatelli
Cavatelli is often traditionally served with a ragu or a simple broccoli sauce. I like to choose sauces with a bit of texture so that the sauce can cling to and nestle inside the pasta.
Looking for some sauce inspiration? Swap the pasta called for in these recipes for cavatelli: