When my grandma Nina covered her kitchen table with the big white cloth, I knew something special was going to happen. And it usually meant she was making gnocchi from scratch. To say I learned how to roll gnocchi from a master is no exaggeration. That’s why when a friend asked if I wanted to learn how to make ricotta cavatelli, I was in.

And now I’m sharing all I’ve learned with you.

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What is cavatelli?

It’s a homemade pasta shape that’s a cross between a gnocchi and a shell. Some even compare it to a small hot dog bun. Cavatelli is usually made with durum wheat flour, water and salt.

What ricotta does for cavatelli

Adding ricotta to the cavatelli dough brings a creamy delicate texture, adds a little moisture and makes a dough that is super easy to work with.

Ricotta tip

Drain the ricotta before adding to the dough so as to not make the dough too wet.

Ingredient roll call

ingredients in bowls to make cavatelli pasta
Only 4 ingredients to make ricotta cavatelli: ricotta, flour, eggs and salt

Just like homemade pasta, the ingredient list for cavatelli is super simple so buy the best quality that works within your budget. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Whole milk ricotta. You can part-skim if that’s all that’s available but whole milk adds a rich creaminess to this rustic pasta shape.
  • Flour. Traditionally, cavatelli is made with “00” durum wheat pasta. If all you have is all-purpose flour, it’s all good.
  • Eggs. For color and richness.
  • Kosher salt. Flavor, flavor, flavor.

How to make ricotta cavatelli

Follow along as I share a few different ways to make ricotta cavatelli. You can use a cavatelli maker (which is so fun btw!) or roll it by hand and shape it 3 different ways.

Trust me…it’s easier than I’m making it sound.

Mix

hands mixing bowl of eggs, flour and ricotta cheese for cavatelli
1. Mix dough in a bowl by hand.
bowl of cavatelli pasta dough mixed together
2. Get your hands in the bowl and mix the dough up!
ricotta cavatelli dough on wooden board.
3. Dump the contents of the bowl on a wooden board.
rested ball of cavatelli pasta dough
4. Bring the dough together and allow to rest for a bit.
  1. To a medium sized bowl, add the ricotta, flour, eggs and salt (image 1). Mix thoroughly until the dough comes together (2)
  2. Dump the contents onto a wooden board (3) and bring together with a pastry scraper until you have a nice ball. (4)

Roll

two different ropes of pasta dough for cavatelli
1. Roll a piece of dough into a “snake”.
cutting rope of pasta dough for cavatelli.
2. Cut into 1 1/2″ pieces.

Similar to gnocchi you can use a wooden board with ridges to make cavatelli but that isn’t as authentic. These are the 2 best ways I have found to roll and shape ricotta cavatelli:

By hand.

  1. Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll it into a long snake about 1/4″ diameter.
  2. Use a butter knife to cut the dough into approximately 1 1/2″ pieces.
hand using pinky finger to shape homemade cavatelli pasta.
A hot dog bun shaped cavatelli
person rolling homemade cavatelli dough down ridged board
Gnocchi board shaped cavatelli
  1. Use your pinky finger to make a well down a cut piece of dough. Remove your finger and bend the sides together to make a small hot dog bun or boat.
  2. Or use a gnocchi ridged paddle to run the dough down the length of the board as you press and roll the dough.
  3. Another method: Place two fingers on one piece of dough and keeping both fingers together, press down and pull the dough towards you rolling it into a small “tube”.
  4. Lay a clean dish towel on a sheet pan and place finished cavatelli on top sprinkling with a little flour.
  5. Repeat with all the dough. Make sure to not crowd the sheet pan.

By machine. Cavatelli makers are really economical and help speed the process along.

cavatelli pasta dough being measured for pasta machine
5″ is a good starting length for the dough.
hands cranking cavatelli pasta dough through machine
Gently turn the handle as you feed the dough through the machine.
cavatelli pasta after being made on machine
Cranking out homemade cavatelli this way is so satisfying!
  1. Measure a piece of dough to about 5″ long. Make the width a little narrower than the rollers on your machine so the dough doesn’t stick when pulled through.
  2. Attach the machine to the edge of a countertop. Make sure the counter is clean or place a clean cloth in front of the machine to catch the cavatelli as it falls.
  3. Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a ping pong ball. Flatten it and square off the edges a bit.
  4. Place the short end of a narrow section of dough into the machine. Turn the handle feeding the dough into the machine as it’s simultaneously cut into cavatelli.

Cook

white lace towel with handmade cavatelli pasta
A mix of machine made and handmade cavatelli wait for cooking.
white bowl of cooked ricotta cavatelli with wooden bowl of parmesan cheese.
Cooked cavatelli pasta ready for some sauce.
  • After you roll and shape the cavatelli, place them on a floured dish towel set in a baking sheet. This will make them easy to transfer.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil. Generously salt the water and gently drop the cavatelli into the water.
  • Stir the cavatelli in the water to avoid them sticking to one another and make sure the water is boiling around the pasta.
  • Cook the pasta for 3-4 minutes. It should be slightly firm and tender.

Cooking tip

Before cooking, carry the sheet pan of cavatelli to the sink and lift the towel to gently release the cavatelli into a large colander. Lightly tap the colander to remove the excess flour to avoid the cavatelli from becoming gummy.


Best sauces for cavatelli pasta

  • Use ricotta cavatelli in place of dumplings in my chicken dumpling soup recipe.
  • Toss with some homemade pesto sauce and serve chilled or at room temperature for a summer salad idea.
  • A smattering of rich butter tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese makes the best bowl of comfort for TV watching.

Storage, Make ahead and Freezing Suggestions

hand shaped cavatelli pasta on wooden board.

To make ahead and freeze. Make, roll and shape the cavatelli and shake excess flour off in a colander. Place in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze until firm. Remove to a freezer bag or storage container and freeze for up to 3 months.

I don’t recommend you make ahead and refrigerate the uncooked pasta for a couple of days. You are better off boiling it and reheating it by tossing in your sauce before serving.

Store leftover cooked cavatelli in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


close up of handmade cavatelli pasta on flour dusted board
5 from 1 vote

Handmade Ricotta Cavatelli

The Italian dumpling you don't hear about as often but once you try making you won't be able to forget it. Cavatelli is similar to gnocchi in that its rolled but that is where the similarities end. And this version works ricotta into the dough with tender and light results. Here is your step-by-step guide for making ricotta cavatelli, perfect for your favorite pasta sauce or brothy soup.
Prep Time:1 hour
Cook Time:5 minutes
Total Time:1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

Ingredients
 

Instructions

To make the cavatelli

  • Lay a large dish towel on a sheet pan.
  • Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the ricotta and eggs and use a fork to beat the eggs, mixing the flour and ricotta into the dough.
    Note: You can also use a stand mixer to mix the dough together on low.
    1 lb whole milk ricotta, salt, 3 cups 00 flour, 2 eggs
  • Mix the dough in the bowl until it comes together and then turn it out onto a wooden board. Knead the dough until it comes together and you have a ball. You just don't want any major lumps of flour. Add a little sprinkle of flour if the dough is sticking to the board.
    Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest on the board for about 30 minutes.

To roll cavatelli by hand:

  • Cut the dough into quarters. Work with one piece at a time and cover the others with a bowl turned upside down or with a tea towel.
  • Roll the dough into a long rope about ¼-½” thick. Cut the length of the dough into 1 ½ pieces.
  • OPTION #1 Grandma's method
    Use your index and middle fingers together and place their fingers on the long side of a piece of dough. Lightly press down and pull your fingers towards you flipping the piece of dough over itself making a cavatelli.
  • OPTION #2 Hot dog bun method
    You can also shape the cavatelli around your pinky finger by pressing your pinky finger into a cut piece of dough and allowing the dough to cup around the sides. Slightly bring the sides together.
  • OPTION #3 Ridged paddle
    Roll the piece of dough down a gnocchi board to get the grooves for sauce to stick to.

To roll by cavatelli maker

  • Attach a cavatelli maker to the edge of a counter or kitchen table and place a large dish towel sprinkled with flour in front.
    Measure a ping pong ball sized piece of dough into approximately 5" long and as wide as you need to be a little narrower than your rollers on the machine.
    Crank the handle with one hand as you feed the dough until it catches through the cavatelli maker. Continue turning the handle as the cavatelli pops out below
  • Place the uncooked shaped cavatelli on the tea towel and sprinkle over some flour. Periodically give the sheet pan a shake so the pasta doesn’t stick to each other.

To cook cavatelli:

  • Carefully add floured cavatelli to a colander and gently shake to remove any excess flour so your pasta ends up firm and not cooking in gummy water.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a gentle rolling boil. Season with kosher salt and carefully add the now unfloured cavatelli.
  • Gently stir the pasta with a large spoon. Cook the pasta for about 3 -4 minutes and taste. It should be firm yet tender.
  • Remove the cavatelli with a slotted spoon to a large bowl and set aside while the sauce is simmering. Pull out about 1 cup of pasta water.
    Toss with your favorite sauce. p.s. cavatelli is so good buttery tomato sauce or homemade pesto!

Notes

I offer 3 methods for rolling and shaping cavatelli. You can make them very small or longer if that’s your preference. I recommend practicing to find your favorite. You can’t mess it up…and as Grandma Nina says, “it’s all in the fun of the game!”
Enjoy!
Lori
Course: Main Course, Pasta, pasta side dish
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!
5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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