Creamy Cavatappi Pasta Recipe

Velvety Cavatappi

This nightly success is creamy cavatappi. This simple recipe is adaptable to your preferences, and the cream and Parmesan sauce gives the dish a sumptuous air.

Pasta is often what I eat throughout the week. A variety of shapes, tomato sauce, minced garlic, and a block of Parmesan are staples in my pantry. I always have a few simple ingredients on hand so that I can quickly throw up a meal if needed.

In my arsenal of pasta dishes, this is among my top picks. It takes less than 20 minutes to prepare from start to finish, uses just a handful of simple ingredients, and is really delicious. Parmesan is the main flavoring agent, although some garlic and fresh lemon help out. It’s like mac & cheese, but with less cheese and more grown-up simplicity.

Having a bag of frozen peas on hand at all times allows me to add a splash of color, texture, and taste to my creamy cavatappi. You may simply omit them or substitute another leafy green.

Cavatappi is a kind of pasta, but what is it?

Creamy Cavatappi Pasta Recipe
Creamy Cavatappi Pasta Recipe

Cavatappi is like elbow macaroni on steroids, in my opinion. Using an extruder die, this pasta is made into a twisted spiral shape. Because it has more turns than elbow macaroni, it has a better chance of staying al dente and of collecting sauce. It works great in pasta salads, pasta bakes with pesto or tomato sauce, and creamy sauces.

Cavatappi may be found in the dry pasta area of your supermarket. It’s also sold online and at select Italian grocery stores.

Cavatappi Recipe

Cavatappi, like other pastas, is best prepared by boiling it in a big pot of salted water. After dropping the spirals into the boiling water, give the saucepan a good swirl to prevent them from sticking together and to the bottom of the pot. Cavtappi should be boiled for the recommended amount of time on the container, usually between 6 and 8 minutes for al dente, and then drained.

Creamy Cavatappi: A Dish to Share

This simple pasta dish can be made in little over 20 minutes on the stove, making it ideal for busy weeknights. It’s simple to make and doesn’t need a lot of ingredients. And who can say no to a bowl of creamy pasta?

In less than 30 minutes, I can have a dish of creamy cavatappi on the table beside a tossed green salad. Win! Roasted broccoli, broccolini, asparagus, grilled chicken breasts, sautéed shrimp, and other seafood go well with this dish.

Advice on Making Pasta as Smooth as a Dream

This recipe is as easy as it gets, but here are a few pointers to make sure it turns out perfectly:

Make sure the pasta water is well-salted, but not overwhelmingly so. The pasta should be covered by an inch or two of water, but if you use too much water, the flavor will be lost and the sauce won’t stick as effectively.
Before you drain the pasta, make sure to set aside part of the cooking water. It aids in both reducing the sauce’s thickness and enhancing its creaminess.

Keep the cream at a gentle simmer, not a raging boil, and stir it often to prevent burning.
Slowly sprinkle in the grated Parmesan, waiting for it to melt before adding more.

Don’t stop mixing, however. Keep tossing the pasta over medium heat with the sauce after adding the pasta water. The pasta will start to absorb the sauce, which is the desired effect. If the sauce is too thick to coat the pasta, add some of the reserved pasta water.

Best Alternatives to Cavatappi

Cavatappi may easily be confused for macaroni. Although most Americans picture elbow macaroni when they think of macaroni, cavatappi is really a variety of macaroni. Cavatappi differs from elbow macaroni in size and shape by having more twists and turns.

However, you can easily replace the cavatappi with macaroni in this recipe. Penne, fusilli, and other tubular pastas are also great alternatives. If it has ridges, that’s even better, since a creamy sauce will stick to the ridges.

Give It Your Own Twist

While delicious on their own, variations on this simple dish may be made with little effort. Try out these simple alternatives:

Add red pepper flakes to taste along with the salt and pepper for an extra kick of heat.

Alternately, you might replace the peas with extra green vegetables. You may swap out the peas with 1 bunch of fresh, rinsed and dried spinach or 1 1/2 cups of chopped frozen broccoli.

Add some heft: Add 1–2 cooked chicken breast pieces, 1/3 pound cooked sausage crumbles, or 2–3 cooked bacon slices that have been crumbled just before serving.

One cup of halved cherry tomatoes or one-third to one-half cup of chopped sun-dried tomatoes can add color and brightness to your dish.

Toss the cooked pasta with 1–2 teaspoons of fresh herbs, such as chopped parsley or broken basil.

Zest a lemon and mix it in with the cheese for an extra burst of flavor and scent.

Creamy Cavatappi Pasta Recipe
Creamy Cavatappi Pasta Recipe

Velvety Cavatappi


7 mins
15 mins
2–3 portions
To make a full pound of pasta, which will serve 4 to 6 people, just double the recipe.
Adjust the salt to your liking and the saltiness of the pasta water.


Cavatappi pasta (8 ounces/1/2 pound) 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 minced garlic cloves
3/4 cup of the thick stuff

Add extra kosher salt to the pasta water if needed (around 1/2 teaspoon)
Black pepper, pounded to a fine powder, 1/2 teaspoon

grated Parmesan cheese, about 1/2 cup (1.3 ounces) plus extra for topping
Fresh lemon juice, 1 tbsp

1 cup of frozen peas (not required)
One-fourth to One-Half Cup Pasta Water Set Aside


Food preparation:

Over high heat, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Sprinkle a lot of salt on it.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and toss to combine. Following package instructions, cook until slightly chewy but not quite al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. Keep some of the cavatappi cooking water for later use.

To prepare the sauce, melt the butter in a large pan set over medium heat while the pasta boils. After the butter has melted, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant but not browned.

Stirring constantly, gradually add the cream and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, adjusting heat as necessary to keep at a constant low boil. Keep stirring for approximately 3 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened somewhat.

Sprinkle the Parmesan over the dish a little at a time and stir until melted. Put in the lemon juice and mix it up. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook the pasta, stirring periodically.

Soak the peas in water and rinse the pasta:

Keep aside a half a cup of the pasta cooking water. To a colander, toss the frozen peas.

The frozen peas may be defrosted by pouring the boiling spaghetti over them after they have been drained.

Serve the spaghetti with a toss of:

The pasta and the peas may be added to the sauce if your pan is large enough. If not, just return the cooked pasta and peas to the same pot you cooked them in and serve with the sauce on the side.

Turn the heat up to medium and add a quarter cup of the pasta water you set aside before. Constantly toss for 3–5 minutes, or until a creamy sauce forms and covers the noodles. Add a little more of the reserved pasta water, a splash at a time, stirring in between, if the sauce looks too thick.

The sauce should be runnier than you’d expect since it will thicken as it cools.

Try it out, maybe seasoning it with some salt and pepper. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top.

Cavatappi with a creamy sauce is best served immediately after cooking, although it can keep in the fridge for up to three days if covered tightly. Reheat on low heat in the microwave or on the stove, and thin the sauce with water or cream if necessary.


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