Cavatelli [cah-vah-TELL-lee] Pasta
My daughter gave me a wooden pasta board that can be made for gnocchi or cavatelli pasta. So, one afternoon, we made some fresh pasta and prepared a batch of fresh cavatelli pasta for dinner that night.
We had a blast seeing who could make the perfect cavatelli. Since then, I've had store-bought cavatelli, and they are fantastic but not as good as preparing them with your daughter.
What Is Cavatelli Pasta?
Cavatelli pasta is a popular Italian dish that is enjoyed around the world. This type of pasta is small and shaped like a small shell or a miniature hot dog bun, which is perfect for holding sauces and toppings.
It is made by rolling small pieces of dough into a small, tube-like shape and then curling the edges inward to form a shell-like shape. It's a type of pasta perfect for creamy and chunky sauces, making it incredibly versatile and delicious.
One of the reasons that cavatelli pasta is so popular is that it's incredibly easy to make at home. All you need is flour, water, and a little patience.
The dough is typically made with all-purpose and semolina flour, giving the pasta its distinctive texture. After the dough has been kneaded and rolled out, it's cut into small pieces and shaped into the characteristic shell shape.
Cavatelli pasta is a delicious and versatile ingredient perfect for many dishes. Whether you're looking for a comforting bowl of pasta on a cold night or a light and refreshing dish on a hot summer day, cavatelli is sure to please. So why not make your own batch of cavatelli pasta at home and see what all the fuss is about?
Cavatelli pasta has a long history traced back to the southern Italian region of Puglia, known for its rustic and simple cuisine. The dish is believed to have originated in the 16th century when it was made by hand using a wooden board and a small knife to shape the dough.
Cavatelli comes from a region of southern Italy called Molise. It is considered one of the oldest pasta in Italy. Wow!
The word "cavatelli" comes from the Italian word "cavare," which means "to hollow out." This refers to the unique shape of the pasta, which is formed by rolling small pieces of dough and then curling the edges inward to form a shell-like shape.
Traditionally, cavatelli was made by women in Puglia, who would gather in the town square to make the pasta by hand. The dough was typically made with semolina flour and water, kneaded, and rolled out on a wooden board.
The women would then use their thumbs to shape the dough into the characteristic shell shape, creating small grooves that would hold the sauce and other toppings.
Over time, cavatelli became popular throughout Italy and eventually spread to other parts of the world. Today, it is a staple of Italian cuisine and is enjoyed in many different forms, from classic tomato sauces to creamy dishes with broccoli or seafood.
They are shaped like tiny little hot dog buns but are considered shell pasta because they are hollow, like a sea shell you might find at the beach. As shown in the photo above, I've seen them with and without the corrugated lines. (These are cavatelli my daughter and I made)
I've also seen them short and stubby like above or long and thin. But they are easy to make at home if you have one of those little wooden blocks, as shown above.
Cavatelli pasta has also been adapted and modified in different regions of Italy. For example, in the Campania region, a variation called "scialatielli" is made with flour, eggs, and water and has a flatter shape than traditional cavatelli. In the Molise region, a similar pasta called "cazzarelli" is made with flour and water and is shaped like a small tube.
How to Enjoy Cavatelli
Recently, interest in traditional Italian cuisine, including cavatelli pasta, has been resurgent. Many chefs and home cooks are rediscovering the joys of making pasta from scratch, using traditional techniques and high-quality ingredients. Today, cavatelli pasta remains a beloved and versatile ingredient that is enjoyed around the world.
There are many different ways to enjoy cavatelli pasta. It's often served with a simple tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. This classic sauce is perfect for highlighting the delicate flavor and texture of the pasta. Cavatelli is also frequently paired with hearty meat sauces, such as ragu, which can be made with beef, pork, or lamb.
One of the most popular ways to enjoy cavatelli pasta is with a creamy sauce. A classic recipe is cavatelli with broccoli and cream, where the pasta is cooked with fresh broccoli and then tossed in a creamy sauce made with heavy cream, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. This dish is a delicious and comforting meal that's perfect for cold winter nights.
Another great way to enjoy cavatelli pasta is with seafood. One of the most popular dishes is cavatelli with clams, which features a light tomato sauce and tender clams. This dish is typically seasoned with garlic, chili flakes, and fresh herbs, making it a flavorful and satisfying meal.
Soups and Stews
Cavatelli pasta is also a popular ingredient in soups and stews. For example, it’s often used in minestrone, a hearty vegetable soup packed with flavor. The pasta is cooked with vegetables and beans, giving the soup a rich, comforting texture.
Association: I have them listed as shell pasta, but after some research, I've found they also belong to a group called 'strascinata' or dragged pasta. This is because they are made by dragging the pasta dough across a pastry board, like in the photo above.
Festivals: I've learned about several festivals in southern Italy featuring cavatelli; that's how important it is to the region. The celebrations occur in July and August in Petrella Tifernina, Tufillo, Vitorchiano, and Rutigliano.
Where to Find Cavatelli: You may not be able to find cavatelli in your local supermarket, but you may find some at places like Whole Foods or Wegmans. Also, an Italian specialty store should have them, or you can find them online.
Sauces: Because of their shape, I think meat sauces are perfect for cavatelli, but I wouldn't let that stop me from serving with tomato and veggie sauces. Here are some recipes I've served with cavatelli.
What can I substitute for cavatelli pasta?
If you don't have cavatelli pasta on hand or need help finding it at your local grocery store, there are several substitutes you can use that will work well in many dishes. Here are some options:
- Orecchiette - This small, ear-shaped pasta is famous in Puglia, Italy. It has a similar texture and shape to cavatelli, making it a great substitute in many recipes.
- Fusilli - This pasta is shaped like a spiral or corkscrew, and its curves can help hold onto sauces and toppings like cavatelli. It's a versatile pasta that can be used in many different dishes.
- Gemelli - This pasta is twisted into a shape that resembles two strands of spaghetti twisted together. It has a similar texture to cavatelli and works well in dishes with chunky sauces.
- Rotini - This pasta is also twisted into a spiral shape and has a similar texture to cavatelli. It's a good choice for dishes with much sauce or small pieces of vegetables or meat.
- Penne - This pasta is shaped like a tube with diagonal ends and is popular for baked pasta dishes. It has a similar texture to cavatelli and can work well in dishes with chunky sauces or creamy sauces.
Ultimately, the best substitute for cavatelli pasta depends on the specific recipe and your preferences. Experiment with different pasta shapes to find the best one for you.
Trivia: For the Soprano fans out there, they were called 'gavadeels' [gah-vah-deels] on the show.
Some of My Favorite Pasta Recipes
- Cacio e Pepe Classic Recipe
- Discover the Rustic Charm of Tuscan Pici Pasta
- How to Make a Basic Orzo Salad
- This Is How to Make Spicy Ragu Sauce Over Pasta
- Cavatelli Pasta with Spring Peas and Pancetta Recipe
- Bucatini all'Amatriciana Recipe
- How to Make Strozzapreti Pasta with Guanciale Sauce
- Rigatoni with Mushroom Sauce Recipe