What is Cavatelli?
Cavatelli (pronounced cah-vah-tell-ee) is a pasta shell, originating in Molise and enjoyed across Southern Italy. Each shape has a distinct hollow centre. In fact, the name ‘cavatelli’ derives from the Italian verb cavare, meaning ‘to hollow’. Italians have spent generations creating these small cavities by hand. Legend has it that historically, an Italian bride-to-be would have her fingertips scrutinised by her future mother-in-law - If they were callused, she was skilled at making cavatelli and would keep her new spouse well-fed!
What are some authentic Italian cavatelli dishes?
Pastai and nonnas alike have paired cavatelli with an array of meats, vegetables, and sauces. All of these flavours settle in the cavatelli’s hollow center, making each shell a flavoursome morsel.
Visitors to Italy can sample a wide range of cavatelli dishes. Families in Molise still uphold the Sunday lunch tradition of cavatelli and pork sausage ragu, a dish that combines succulent pork rib and sausage with a classic tomato sauce. The mountain region of Basilicata serves cavatelli with breadcrumbs and peperoni cruschi - a dried smoky pepper with an enticing nutty aroma. Cavatelli is also popular in Puglia, where it is often referred to as ‘cicatelli.’ A common Pugliese dish is cavatelli ai frutti di mare, which marries the fresh pasta with a lavish medley of fresh seafood, including mussels and lobster.
How to make homemade cavatelli pasta
Our Head Chef Roberta is a master in the art of fresh pasta-making. Her passion for pasta and impeccable craftsmanship makes her a culinary force to be reckoned with! She’s provided us with her very own recipe for white pasta dough (which is suitable for vegans), as well as tips for rolling and cooking cavatelli.
Are you excited to try your hand at making some authentic Italian pasta? Take a look at our recipe for handmade cavatelli. You can also follow along as Roberta makes cavatelli in the video below.
Our Cavatelli Pasta Dough Recipe
Serves: 2-3 people
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Calories: 232 kcal per serving (excludes sauce)
200g semolina flour or durum wheat flour, finely ground
100ml warm water
Pinch of salt
- Wooden board
Part 1: Making the dough
- On a clean marble or wooden work surface, pile your flour and pinch of salt into a mound.
- Make a well in the centre of the mound large enough to contain the water.
- Gently pour the water into the well.
- Gradually add the flour to the water, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides of the well. As the mixture thickens, start using your hands with a scraper to continue incorporating the flour.
Part 2: Knead the dough
- Clean the work surface of any excess flour or dough bits. Then lightly flour your clean work surface.
- Knead the dough by pressing the heel of one hand into the ball, keeping your fingers high.
- Press down on the dough while pushing it firmly away from you. The dough should stretch and roll under your hand to create a shell-like shape.
- Turn the dough over, then press into the dough with your knuckles, one hand at a time. Continue kneading for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch.
- Roll the dough into a smooth ball.
Part 3: Let the dough rest
- Place the dough in a small bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap.
- Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes at room temperature.
Rolling your Cavatelli
Once you’ve made your dough, creating the cavatelli shape takes three simple steps. We’re going to be using the ‘classic’ method used by pastai in Puglia and Molise. The method used in Southern Italy uses only one finger rather than three. This makes the cavatelli shapes slightly shorter.
After your dough has rested, roll it into a long rope-like shape.
Cut the dough into pillow-shaped pieces approximately 5cm in length.
- Press the three middle fingers on one hand into each pillow, curling it towards you to create a small cavity. If the dough pieces start to stick to your hand, simply dust with flour.
How to Cook Cavatelli
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a generous amount of salt.
- Add pasta and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until al dente (taste a piece before removing from the water).
- Strain the pasta and mix with sauce and enjoy!
Despite being enjoyed across Italia, some people may be unfamiliar with cavatelli. We’re passionate about helping keen foodies discover new ways to enjoy pasta. You’ve got everything at your fingertips to make fresh cavatelli. All you need now is the perfect sauce to pour into these delicious hollow shells! We’ll leave this up to you…
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