Cavatappi pasta is corkscrew shaped and great with creamy sauces. Serve it with a creamy white sauce, spinach, and sundried tomatoes for an easy dinner!
This post was created in partnership with DeLallo. All opinions are our own.
Here’s a tasty pasta recipe that’s comfort food with a healthy spin: our creamy cavatappi pasta! It’s one of Alex and my favorite pasta shapes, paired with a creamy sauce that coats the noodles perfectly. It’s cheesy but not too rich, made with a secret ingredient to infuse nutrients. It’s perfect as a weeknight pasta dinner but fancy enough for entertaining. Our son Larson could not get enough of this “mac and cheese” (his words)! It’s made with our favorite Italian pasta brand: Delallo. They’re a family business that knows how to make the best pasta out there.
What is cavatappi pasta?
Cavatappi means corkscrew in Italian! Cavatappi pasta is like macaroni that’s shaped into corkscrews. This unique type of pasta is best eaten with creamy or chunky sauces. Our favorite is this creamy cavatappi recipe (scroll down), or it makes a mean mac and cheese! Alex and I love this pasta shape because it’s unique and substantial: we find that the unexpected shape slows us down to really enjoy each bite.
What’s in this cavatappi pasta recipe?
This recipe is a fantastic way to eat cavatappi! The sauce is creamy and cheesy, but it’s hiding some good-for-you ingredients too. It’s perfect with a green salad or garlic bread. Here are our secrets to this creamy cavatappi pasta recipe:
- Cavatappi pasta. Cook it to al dente to enjoy the full effect of this dish. Get the best quality pasta you can find (here’s the Delallo cavatappi we used).
- Creamy cauliflower sauce. Here’s the secret: cauliflower! Our cauliflower sauce is a healthy alfredo sauce that blends cauliflower with garlic, spices, and a little Parmesan. It’s terrifically good and it’s got all the nutrients of cauliflower. For vegan, use our Vegan Alfredo Sauce!
- Baby spinach. A few handfuls of spinach make for another dose of nutrients. You’ll cook the spinach in the pasta water in the last minute, so you don’t need to dirty an extra pot!
- Sundried tomatoes. Finely chopped sundried tomatoes add a savory component that makes the entire dish just right!
All about Delallo pasta!
Delallo is our favorite Italian foods brand, a family business that’s been around since the 1950’s. They’re obsessed with quality and making the very best in Italian foods. Pasta, tomatoes, pesto, meats and cheeses, olives and antipasti, bruschetta—they do it all.
DeLallo’s pasta (like this cavatappi pasta) comes from Southern Italy, in an area just below Naples known as the birthplace of pasta. It’s made with only wheat and water, with the highest of quality ingredients. Then it’s extruded with bronze dies: this creates a surface perfect for absorbing and capturing every type of sauce. Does it really make a difference? Yes! Alex and I have taste tested and bronze die pasta really does absorb the sauce flavors better. Check out all of Delallo’s pastas here!
How to cook pasta to al dente
Now for a truly authentic experience, you absolutely must cook your cavatappi pasta to al dente. What does al dente mean? In Italian it means “to the bite” and refers to pasta that is still firm on the inside when cooked. The ideal al dente texture is a tender exterior balanced by a firm bite with a fleck of white at its core. Here’s how to cook pasta to al dente:
- Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.
- While cooking, be sure to check pasta continually for doneness.
- As soon as the pasta has a tender exterior but a fleck of white at its core, drain it! Even a few seconds can be the difference between al dente and limp noodles.
Why make a creamy cauliflower sauce?
Why make sauce with cauliflower? This sauce is like a healthy alfredo sauce, but unlike the traditional version, you’ll feel light and vibrant afterwards! The standard cheesy pasta often feels too rich and I end up with an upset stomach. This cauliflower sauce is much lighter. Even better, you get all the nutritional benefits of cauliflower. So this cavatappi pasta works as an easy, healthy dinner idea. You also can use our Vegan Alfredo Sauce for a fully plant-based option.
Here’s a breakdown of cauliflower nutrition (source Harvard Medical School):
- 1 cup of chopped cauliflower has only 25 calories and 5 grams carbs
- It’s a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B and potassium.
- Cauliflower is high in fiber (1 cup has about 10% of your daily needs).
How to reheat cavatappi pasta
You can save any leftovers of this cavatappi pasta in the refrigerator. Alex and I even found a great way to reheat it so it’s creamy again after refrigerating! Here’s how to reheat leftover cavatappi pasta:
- Place it in a skillet and add a splash of milk. Use a ratio of about 1 cup noodles to 1 tablespoon milk.
- Heat over medium heat and stir until creamy.
This cavatappi pasta recipe is…
Vegetarian. For vegan, use 4 cups Vegan Alfredo Sauce instead of the cauliflower sauce.Print
Cavatappi pasta is corkscrew shaped and great with creamy sauces. Serve it with a creamy white sauce, spinach, and sundried tomatoes for an easy dinner! (For a vegan option, use 4 cups Vegan Alfredo Sauce instead of the cauliflower sauce.)
- 6 garlic cloves*
- 1 small head cauliflower (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), enough for 6 cups florets
- 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 pound Delallo cavatappi pasta
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 3 tablespoons Delallo sundried tomatoes, minced
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tablespoon finely minced parsley
- Make the cauliflower sauce*: Mince the garlic. Chop the cauliflower.
- Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and saute for 4 minutes until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the vegetable broth, garlic powder, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook 6 to 7 minutes on medium high heat until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a fork.
- Meanwhile, make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside). When the pasta is just about al dente, add spinach to pasta water in last 45 seconds (it only needs this long to cook). Then drain the pasta and spinach and return to the pot.
- Blend the cauliflower sauce: When the cauliflower is cooked (in Step 3), carefully transfer the hot cauliflower and broth mixture to a blender. Blend on high until a smooth sauce forms. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and an additional 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and blend again.
- Serve: Once the pasta is done, pour in the cauliflower sauce. Add the chopped sundried tomatoes, the additional 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes (if using). Taste and if desired add salt or fresh ground pepper. Top with parsley and serve. Store leftovers refrigerated (see reheating instructions above.
*For a plant-based pasta, use 4 cups Vegan Alfredo Sauce instead of the first 8 ingredients!
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Cavatappi pasta, Pasta dinner ideas, Cauliflower sauce
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.