Cavatappi Pasta Recipe

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Cavatappi is a fun pasta. It makes great pasta dinners, salads, and more. This Cavatappi pasta is a blend of Italian flavors that work well with or without the meat. It all comes together for an easy weeknight meal.

This delicious pasta salad works well as a main dish with a green side salad and some crusty garlic bread. Yum!

Up close shot of the finished cavatappi pasta in a white bowl.

What Is Cavatappi Pasta?

Cavatappi is a corkscrew pasta. It’s great with just about any type of sauce and can easily be baked into casseroles, turned into soups, or made into something as simple as mac and cheese.

What Does Cavatappi Pasta Look Like?

Cavatappi noodles are corkscrew-shaped noodles. Here’s what they look like.

Dry cavatappi pasta on a white background.

How Long Does Cavatappi Take To Cook?

Cavatappi takes about 9-12 minutes to cook. I used a gluten-free version (the Banza brand – not paid to promote them, it’s just what I used) and that takes 9-11 minutes to cook.

It’s important not to overcook your pasta for a dish like this. So set a timer or check it frequently.

What Can You Use Instead Of Cavatappi Pasta?

If you don’t happen to have access to Cavatappi, there are three other pasta shapes that you can substitute in this pasta dish. They are:

  • Fusilli
  • Rigatoni
  • Macaroni

That being said, you can use any of your favorite pasta shapes. Anything will work. But the corkscrew-shaped pasta works best for holding the flavor.

Gluten-Free Vs. Wheat Pasta

Both types of pasta will work here. But here are some tips, depending on which one you use. In both cases, you should salt your cooking water for flavor.

Gluten-Free Pasta

  1. Cook this thoroughly. In some cases, you’ll need to cook it longer than the package says to get it cooked completely. Each gluten-free pasta is different, so pay attention to it at the end of the cooking time.
  2. It’s important to stir gluten-free pasta just after adding it to the boiling water as well as during cooking.
  3. Make sure to rinse this after cooking.

Wheat Pasta

  1. Cook to package directions and timing. Do not overcook wheat-based pasta. It’s often better to cook it to an al dente texture.
  2. While you can give this a quick stir just after adding it to the pot, stirring a wheat-based pasta is not necessary and is actually discouraged during cooking.
  3. Do not rinse this pasta after cooking unless you need to cool it down fast.

If you wish, you can also save a tablespoon or two of the pasta water from either type of pasta to leave in or mix into the pasta. This will help the sauce cling to the pasta better.

Overhead shot looking down into a large, white mixing bowl of cavatappi pasta with sausage slice, bell peppers, tomatoes and fresh herbs.

Recipe Variations

  • Sausage – Either leave it out completely for a plant-based meal or substitute it with shredded chicken.
  • Turn this into a creamy Cavatappi pasta by mixing the dressing with a bit of heavy whipping cream. You can use your judgment here, but a quarter to half a cup should be more than enough to make a truly creamy Cavatappi pasta dish.
  • Add extra flavor to the dressing by adding a splash of white wine.
  • Stir some basil pesto into the dressing for some pesto cavatappi
  • Add mushrooms sautéd in some garlic butter.
  • Add some steamed broccoli, chopped into small pieces (or any veggies you prefer).
  • Try cooked shrimp instead of sausage.
  • Try cooked, chopped bacon instead of sausage for a delicious bacon Cavatappi.
  • Add some raw or cooked zucchini.
  • Add some finely chopped sundried tomatoes. You don’t need a lot. A few sundried tomatoes will go a long way.
  • Try adding a splash of heavy cream and parmesan cheese to make a bit of cream sauce.
  • For a spicier version, you can either use spicy sausage or simply add red pepper flakes for an extra kick.

Italian Pasta Salad

At its core, this is really an Italian pasta salad. The balsamic vinegar-based dressing mixed with fresh herbs and a good quality sausage gives you a heady mix of Italian flare.

About The Ingredients

Pasta Ingredients:

  • Cavatappi pasta – I used the Banza brand Cavatappi noodles (not paid to promote them), but you can use any type you like. You’ll simply be cooking them to package directions anyway. So get the type you like best So get the type you like best and cook them just enough to have a firm bite. You don’t want these noodles to be mushy.
  • Italian sausage – I used Applegate sausage. (Not paid to promote them) It’s the cleanest, healthiest sausage I can find in these parts. The ingredient list is totally clean, so that’s a winner in my book.
  • Red bell pepper – This is about 1 medium red bell pepper or two small red bell peppers. You don’t have to worry about this measurement being exact. Just pick up a pepper, chop it, and toss it in.
  • Red onions – You’ll want to chop these fine. You want the onion to be a compliment to the other flavors, You never want to bite down on a mouthful of onion here. So chop it well.
  • Cherry tomatoes – If you can’t find cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes are another choice. Basically, any small tomatoes about that size will work.
  • Fresh basil (or Italian parsley) – You can use either herb or a combination of both. I used the parsley because it’s what I had on hand. But basil would work equally well here. Use what you can get for the time of year.
Measuring cup holding the mixing spoons from this cavatappi pasta recipe.

Dressing Ingredients

  • Balsamic vinegar – The better the vinegar, the better the dressing. But if you’re like me and can only afford the average bottle of grocery store balsamic, you can pour double the needed amount into a pot and simmer it down by half. This will improve the quality and flavor of the vinegar.

    That being said, this is totally delicious without doing that. A balsamic reduction is a personal choice in this recipe. I did not do this and the salad was amazingly wonderful.
  • Oil – I used liquid-state coconut oil, but most people will enjoy olive oil here. Opt for a more lightly flavored oil, regardless of the type you use.
  • Italian seasoning – This is the dry herb mix found in the spice aisle at the grocery store. Or, you can make your own at home using this recipe.
  • Salt – I used pink Himalayan salt, but use any salt you have on hand in your kitchen.
  • Ground black pepper – Or add to taste. This is optional but tasty.
  • Garlic granules – I used garlic granules for ease. But if you prefer to use fresh garlic 2 to 4 minced cloves should do the trick. I would sauté it slightly with the sausage before adding it to the pasta. (You can use powder instead of granules if that’s what you have handy. Just don’t use garlic salt.)
  • Parmesan cheese – This is optional. I didn’t use it at all, but it would be delicious if you want to use it. Simply sprinkle some on as a garnish at serving.

How To Make This Cavatappi Pasta Recipe

This delicious salad is easy to make and works great as either a side dish or a main course.

Served as a main course, a green salad with some Italian dressing would be a great companion.

Set water to boil with salt added to water.

Fill a large pot with water. To the pasta water, add 1 tbsp. salt and set to boil. Cook the pasta to the package directions using salted water. Drain the pasta and transfer it to a mixing bowl. Note that if you are using gluten-free pasta, you’ll want to rinse it after cooking. If using regular pasta, do not rinse it. Simply drain.

While it cooks, you’ll want to slice and sauté your sausages in a bit of oil.

Cooked Cavatappi pasta in a large white mixing bowl.

Once the pasta is fully cooked (do not overcook!), strain it well and transfer it to a large mixing bowl

Onions added to the pasta.

To the pasta add onions…

Sautéd sausage added to the pasta.

Add cooked and sliced sausages to the pasta.

Fresh herbs added to the cavatappi pasta.

Add the chopped fresh herbs next.

Chopped red bell peppers added to the bowl of pasta.

Now add the chopped bell peppers and…

Fresh, halved cherry tomatoes added to the pasta.

… lastly, the halved cherry or grape tomatoes.

Making the dressing by adding equal parts oil and vinegar to a mixing container.

For the dressing, combine the oil and vinegar.

Garlic powder added to the dressing.

Add garlic powder…

Italian Seasoning added to the dressing.

… Italian seasoning…

Salt added to the dressing.

… salt…

Ground black pepper added to the dressing.

… and pepper.

Mixing all the ingredients of the dressing for this cavatappi pasta.

Stir well to combine.

The dressing poured into the bowl of pasta.

Pour the dressing over the pasta.

Mixing the cavatappi pasta to coat in dressing.

Toss to coat everything in the dressing.

Side view of a large white mixing bowl filled with this cavataoppi pasta recipe.

Serve garnished with parmesan cheese if you so wish.

Storage

Keep this in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Freezing

Do not freeze this dish.

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Up close shot of the finished cavatappi pasta in a white bowl.

Cavatappi Pasta

A delicious pasta salad that works as a main meal or side dish.
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 10 cups
Calories: 326kcal
Author: Tiffany McCauley

CLICK TO WATCH THIS RECIPE IN ACTION!

Ingredients

Pasta

  • 8 oz. cavatappi pasta
  • 12 oz. Italian sausage
  • 1 cup minced red bell pepper
  • ½ cup minced red onions
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • cup chopped basil (or italian parsley)

Dressing

  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup oil (I used coconut, but most people will enjoy olive oil here)
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Garnish

  • parmesan cheese to taste

Instructions

  • Fill a large pot with water. To the pot, add 1 tbsp. salt and set to boil. Cook the pasta to package directions using the salt water.
    While it cooks, you'll want to slice and sauté your sausages in a bit of oil.
    Set water to boil with salt added to water.
  • Once the pasta is fully cooked (do not overcook!), strain it well and transfer to a large mixing bowl
    Cooked Cavatappi pasta in a large white mixing bowl.
  • To the pasta add the onions.
    Onions added to the pasta.
  • Add cooked and sliced sausages to the pasta.
    Sautéd sausage added to the pasta.
  • Add the chopped fresh herbs next.
    Fresh herbs added to the cavatappi pasta.
  • Now add the chopped bell peppers.
    Chopped red bell peppers added to the bowl of pasta.
  • Lastly, the halved cherry or grape tomatoes.
    Fresh, halved cherry tomatoes added to the pasta.
  • For the dressing, combine the oil and vinegar.
    Making the dressing by adding equal parts oil and vinegar to a mixing container.
  • Add garlic powder.
    Garlic powder added to the dressing.
  • Stir in Italian seasoning.
    Italian Seasoning added to the dressing.
  • Add salt.
    Salt added to the dressing.
  • Lastly, stir in ground black pepper.
    Ground black pepper added to the dressing.
  • Stir well to combine.
    Mixing all the ingredients of the dressing for this cavatappi pasta.
  • Pour the dressing over the pasta.
    The dressing poured into the bowl of pasta.
  • Toss to coat everything in the dressing.
    Mixing the cavatappi pasta to coat in dressing.
  • Serve garnished with parmesan cheese if you so wish.
    The finished Cavatappi Pasta Recipe in a white serving bowl.

Notes

Please note that the nutrition data below is a ballpark figure. Exact data is not possible.

Nutrition

Calories: 326kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 26mg | Sodium: 304mg | Potassium: 239mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 590IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 28mg | Iron: 1mg

This recipe from the Gracious Pantry® archives, originally posted on 11/22/20.

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I'm Tiffany, a writer for MSN and the AP Newswire, a cookbook author, digital publisher, food lover, and mom. I create healthy, clean eating recipes for everyday living.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This looks heavenly! I can’t wait to try your recipe. Thanks so much for sharing!

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