Spotlight Series: All About Cavatappi

Spotlight Series: All About Cavatappi

For a fun romp into the world of pasta, take a trip on the springiest shape around, cavatappi. The word cavatappi means “corkscrew” in Italian, which is a direct reference to this pasta cut’s spiral shape. Cavatappi’s hollow curves are great at capturing pasta sauces of all kinds. It shines in cheesy creamy sauces, chunky tomato sauces, meat ragùs, baked pasta dishes and pasta salad recipes with small bits of ingredients like chopped red pepper and briny olives. If you’re looking for a new Italian pasta to inspire your next pasta night creation, cavatappi is your pasta!

Get to know this fun corkscrew-shaped noodle, where it comes from and how to use it in your kitchen.

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DeLallo Cavatappi: Fast Facts

  • Category: Tubular Pasta
  • Meaning: "Corkscrew" in Italian
  • Cook Time: 7-8 minutes
  • Place of Origin: Naples, Southern Italy
  • Main Ingredients: Durum wheat and water
  • Alternative Names: Cellentani, Spirali, Serpentini
  • Possible Substitutes: Rigatoni, Fusilli, Penne Rigate, Shellbows

Shop Cavatappi Pasta:

What is Cavatappi?

Cavatappi is a spiral pasta with a hollow center and outer ridges. Made with just durum wheat semolina and water, this springy spiral pasta originated in Southern Italy. Cavatappi is named for its “corkscrew” shape—a shape that is great for capturing hearty sauces and chunky ingredients. A sturdy, versatile Italian pasta, Cavatappi is an excellent feature in primavera vegetable sauces, classic tomato sauces, creamy cheese sauces, meat ragùs, baked pasta recipes and picnic pasta salads.

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How Do I Pronounce Cavatappi?

Cavatappi is pronounced kaa-va-TAA-pee.

The Origin Of Cavatappi And And Its Brief History

The story is that cavatappi is just another name for cellentani—a shape created in the 1960s to pay homage to the Italian pop singer Adriano Celentano. The corkscrew-shaped cavatappi, which also looks like a spring, speaks to Celentano's limber dance moves and his nickname, "Moleggiato," which means "spring" in Italian. Now known as cavatappi, the Italian word for “corkscrew,” this springy spiral shaped macaroni can be found in everything from macaroni and cheese dishes to cold picnic pasta salads.

How is Cavatappi Made and What is it Made Of?

Cavatappi is a dry pasta that is made with durum wheat flour (semolina) and water. At DeLallo, we use the highest quality durum wheat with a high gluten content, which adds to the pleasing texture of the pasta. Wheat and water are kneaded together to become the pasta dough. To form the cavatappi shape, DeLallo uses artisanal bronze dies to extrude the pasta dough. This pasta-making method takes a bit longer, but gives pasta a rougher surface texture perfect for absorbing sauces. DeLallo also uses the traditional method of drying slowly at low temperatures. This helps pasta to cook up to the perfect al dente texture—tender but yielding. Cavatappi is a plant-based pasta and vegan.

How to Cook Cavatappi

To cook a pound of cavatappi, use a large pasta pot. Bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt to the water along with the cavatappi. Stir to ensure that the noodles do not stick together or to the pot. Boil for about 7-8 minutes, checking for that signature al dente texture. Before draining, reserve 1 cup of starchy hot pasta cooking water to adjust the consistency of the sauce. Drain in a colander and immediately toss with sauce. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir together over heat for a minute or two to marry the flavors. The only time it is acceptable to rinse cooked pasta while draining is when you are creating a cold pasta salad.

The Best Cavatappi Pasta - The DeLallo Difference

Indulge in true Italian pasta with a bowl of cavatappi. Like DeLallo's other dried pasta shapes, cavatappi comes from the source, in a town located near Naples and the Amalfi Coast. To make the best cavatappi, we use high-quality durum wheat, which contains a high gluten index and protein. The wheat gets milled into a coarsely ground semolina flour, which is kneaded with cold, mineral-rich mountain spring water. Next, the noodles are slowly extruded for maximized flavor. Once the fresh pasta has been formed, the cavatappi noodles are dried slowly at low temperatures, mimicking the traditional way of making pasta to help preserve the natural color and texture. All of this adds to the finished taste and feel of the pasta once it is cooked at your own home. DeLallo Pasta brings a taste of Italy to the table, no matter where you are.

Cavatappi Recipes and Usage Ideas

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Cavatappi is both a fun and versatile pasta shape with endless possibilities. Be the talk of the neighborhood cookout with a creamy Lobster Roll Cavatappi Pasta Salad or a loaded Italian Pasta Salad with Cavatappi. If you love vegetables as much as we do, this classic Pasta Primavera is the perfect spring-inspired pasta recipe for your favorite pasta springs. (Say that 5 times fast.) For the pesto fans in the crowd, try cavatappi in Pesto Summer Pasta with Grilled Chicken & Vegetables or the easy weeknight recipe, One-Pot Creamy Pesto Chicken Pasta. Truly, you can’t go wrong!

For more cavatappi recipe ideas, check out 18 Delicious Cavatappi Recipes.

The Best Sauces for Cavatappi

This corkscrew-shaped pasta proves sturdy and able to withstand the most hearty of sauces and chunky ingredients. Cavatappi also makes for a mean mac and cheese when looking to add something special to the traditional dish. In fact, a creamy cavatappi pasta makes a splash during meal time, whether or not it's served as a baked cheesy dish or dotted with sun dried tomatoes and Italian sausage.

Even light sauces such as pesto or butter with Parmesan cheese stand out when dressing the spiral-shaped pasta. Make a homemade marinara sauce with fresh basil with or without meatballs, or simply grab a jar of DeLallo Pomodoro Marinara Sauce. Classic Alfredo is a creamy sauce perfect for the curvy cavatappi pasta too, and needs little else to make the dish feel complete. Ground beef and Italian sausage mixed with a creamy tomato sauce is a great idea for cold winter nights—a hearty and filling meal is on the table in 15 minutes.

DeLallo Cavatappi: FAQ

Cavatappi vs Cellentani-What is the Difference?

Though the names cavatappi and cellentani look and sound different, the pasta they both represent are mostly the same. Cellentani came first, created by a pasta company in the 1960s. Soon more brands and chefs adopted the spiral-shaped pasta, dubbing it cavatappi, which means "corkscrew" in Italian. Sometimes cellentani will have more ridges in the dough than cavatappi, but that's not always the case. In general, if you see one it can easily substitute for the other since they are made with the same ingredients, shaped the same, sized the same, and both prove hollow.

Cavatappi vs Elbow Macaroni-What is the Difference?

Where cavatappi has a corkscrew shape, elbow macaroni curves into a simple smile shape. Both are tubular pastas, but where cavatappi curls, elbow macaroni bends, much like its namesake body part. Elbow macaroni is also smaller than cavatappi. Where elbow macaroni often makes a splash in macaroni and cheese dishes and creamy macaroni salad, cavatappi can be used in the same way. Both dried pasta shapes are made traditionally in the same way: with durum wheat and water. Gluten-free and whole-wheat versions do exist.

Cavatappi vs Cavatelli-What is the Difference?

Often cavatappi and cavatelli get confused because of the similar-sounding name, but these two pastas are actually quite different. Cavatappi is a larger, hollow pasta with a corkscrew shape. Cavatelli proves smaller and looks almost like a tiny hot dog bun or simple shell. Where cavatappi is made exclusively with a pasta extruder due to its hollow nature, cavatelli is solid and can easily be formed by hand. Both pastas classically use wheat for the dough, though some recipes for cavatelli include ricotta to make it more airy with a texture similar to gnocchi. Where Cavatappi works great in pasta bakes and with rich sauces, cavatelli is best with chunky ingredients such as Italian sausage and broccoli.

Cavatappi vs Rotini-What is the Difference?

Rotini, or fusilli, pasta gets recognized easily for its inch-long spiral shape, almost like a drill bit. Cavatappi also has a spiral shape, but it looks more like a corkscrew and is hollow inside. Both pastas are made with wheat and water and commonly sold in their dried form. Each work great for pasta bakes and with rich sauces that can stick to all the delightful crevices. In fact, of all the pastas, rotini may be the best substitute for cavatappi.

Where to Buy DeLallo Cavatappi

DeLallo products can be found in stores all across the country, though not every product is in every store. For easy access to cavatappi, we recommend visiting our website and ordering the pasta from there and having it delivered straight to your home.