Inspired by Noodles & Company pesto pasta, this cavatappi pasta recipe has the same delicious taste but is so easy to make. Even using homemade pesto for extra bright and bold flavor, the dish comes together in 20 minutes. It packs in lots of vegetables with a smooth cream sauce making it a vegetarian pasta lover’s dream!
If you’ve ever listened to the podcast Sporkful, you’re probably familiar with the different considerations that come up when pairing pasta shapes with sauces. It’s a big deal in Italian recipes. There’s sauceability (how does it hold sauce), forkability (can you grab it with a fork or should it be twirled), and tooth sinkability (how does it feel in the mouth).
Because of its unique shape and ridges, cavatappi pasta is best to pair with sticky sauces that can really grab onto that shape. But, you want a thicker sauce since the pasta is hollow and you don’t want the sauce (often mac and cheese) going inside and falling out while eating. This Cavatappi pesto pasta provides maximum saucability, great forkability with a creamy pesto sauce that stays on the pasta, and a delightful tooth sinkability experience!
What Is Cavatappi Pasta
Have you ever had cavatappi pasta? It’s a short S-shaped pasta tube with outer ridges that resembles a corkscrew. This unique shape makes for a superior pasta shape when paired with the correct sauce.
This shape of pasta was actually created by Barilla in the 1970s when a set of pasta had been mistakenly made with a spiral set of lines instead of straight. The Barilla brand of this shape is called “cellentani”, but other generic versions have adopted the name “cavatappi”.
Why you’ll love it
- 8 simple ingredients are all you need for this pasta to pack a real flavor punch.
- A fun pasta shape just always makes dinner better.
- Fast food made at home that tastes better and is honestly super easy to make!
Ingredients for Cavatappi Pesto pasta
The ingredients for this pesto pasta are pretty straightforward and simple. It does rely on a great homemade pesto for the best taste (but all you have to do for it is toss the ingredients in a food processor!)
- The basics: You will need unsalted butter and the cavatappi pasta to start.
- The vegetables: To amp up this pasta, I’ve included button mushrooms for earthiness, Roma tomatoes for natural sweetness and acidity, and red onion for tang. Feel free to add whatever other veggies you want, like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, peas, or zucchini!
- The sauce: To make the sauce you will need that homemade pesto, heavy cream (vegan works too), and parmesan cheese.
Other Types of Pasta
If you can’t find cavatappi noodles, you can use other types of pasta or shapes but they should be similar. Some examples are penne, macaroni, rigatoni, or small shell noodles.
How to make Pesto Cavatappi
Making this creamy cavatappi pasta with pesto is very easy to do. It only takes 20 minutes, I’ll prove it to you with this quick overview!
- Cook the pasta according to the package until al dente
- Make the flavor base by sautéing the vegetables
- Sauce it up by adding the pesto and cream
- Top with parmesan and serve!
This pasta is best enjoyed right away but it can be stored in the fridge. I will keep for 4 days in an airtight container. Reheat it on the stove top slowly with a splash of vegetable broth or cream to rehydrate it or in short 30 second bursts in the microwave.
Why this Recipe Works
I truly love this recipe so much and I know you will too. Here are some key things I’ve made sure to address and why this recipe works so well.
- Homemade pesto brings much more flavor and bight color than a store-bought pesto. I tried both store bought and homemade pesto for this recipe, and while the store bought version had a dull brown color and muted flavor, the homemade pesto gave it a bright green color and vibrant flavor. (This also allows you to make the pasta vegan with dairy-free parmesan cheese!)
- The vegetables get mixed into the delicious sauce. This means with every single bite, you will get the perfect amount of everything!
- Heavy cream is why the sauce and the pasta shape are paired so well. The heavy cream makes the pesto sauce heartier to stick to the Cavatappi shape without being too sticky.
Can I add more protein to this pesto pasta?
Yup, you could add white beans to the dish or try using a protein pasta like Loopdy Loops from Goodles.
Can I make this pasta vegan?
Yes, to make it vegan, use vegan heavy cream and vegan parmesan. Just be sure you used vegan parmesan for your pesto.
Can I use store-bought pesto?
I know it’s convenient, but I don’t recommend it because it lacks flavor. And I promise, making homemade pesto is SO simple to do.
Is this a copycat of Noodles & Company Cavatappi pesto pasta?
It’s definitely inspired by their pasta! It’s not exactly the same, but it is better (if I’m being honest)!
what to serve with pesto pasta
This can be paired with just about any side dish you might think of with pasta. These recipes are my favorites!
- Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup: I love pairing pasta with soup for something hearty and something cozy but a bit lighter.
- Classic Panzanella Toscana Recipe: This classic Italian salad is unique being made with bread making it filling but still refreshing!
- Vegan Garlic Bread: No pasta dinner is complete without garlic bread and this vegan one is extra flavorful and easy to make!
“Made this yesterday, it’s easy and delicious. Love it.” —Tam
- 16 oz cavatappi pasta 453 g
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter 14 g
- 8 oz sliced button mushrooms 226 g
- 2 roma tomatoes diced
- ½ medium red onion sliced
- 1 cup pesto homemade preferred for a brighter color and flavor, 200 g
- ¼ cup heavy cream 60 mL
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan 40 g
- Cook Pasta: Cook 16 oz cavatappi pasta in salted water according to package instructions.
- Flavor Base: Melt 1 Tbsp unsalted butter in a large pot or skillet over medium heat, then add 8 oz sliced button mushrooms and cook until golden brown and a bit crispy around the edges, about 10 minutes. Add 2 roma tomatoes (diced) and ½ medium red onion (sliced), and continue cooking for 3 minutes.
- Sauce: Remove pan from heat and stir in 1 cup pesto and ¼ cup heavy cream.
- Serve: Str in cooked pasta and ½ cup freshly grated parmesan. Serve warm!