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March 25, 2024

Creamy Cavatappi

Our creamy cavatappi recipe gets its richness from authentic Italian cacio e pepe sauce, which has just four ingredients (two of which are cheese) making this speedy weeknight pasta an easy favorite.


homemade Creamy Cavatappi in a bowl with a fork topped with grated Romano and coarsely cracked pepper

More Delicious, Creamy Pasta Recipes To Try

5 Ingredient Creamy Cavatappi Pasta Recipe

This ultra quick pasta recipe celebrates one of our very favorite pasta shapes: Cavatappi (pronounced kaa·vuh·taa·pee)! We dreamed of a simple, authentic, creamy sauce that would cling to the lovely, twisty, hollow corkscrew-shaped pasta that we love so much. We considered alfredo, but that buttery sauce forever belongs to Fettuccine Alfredo. We thought through all of our favorite pasta recipes and at last, authentic Italian cacio e pepe sauce — or at least our version of it — was the answer. If you’re looking for even more corkscrew fun, check out our Fusilli with Spicy Tomato Sauce.

salt, pepper, olive oil, pecorino Romano, parmigiana-reggiano and a bag of DeLallo cavatappi pasta on the counter

What is Cavatappi?

Cavatappi pasta is a pasta shape that originated in Southern Italy, and it definitely does have a resemblance to a corkscrew. It’s curly, tubular, springy and short—like a twisted, slightly longer penne pasta. DeLallo makes cavatappi with an exclusive blend of high quality durum wheat with a high gluten content, and the pasta is extruded from the pasta maker extra slowly to create a unique, wonderful texture. You’ll want to be sure to cook it to just al dente so that it has a tender but firm bite with a fleck of white at the center of the bitten pasta—that little fleck of white is what they call the pasta’s soul.

glistening olive oil in a large skillet to make creamy cavatappi
glistening olive oil being swirled with coarsely cracked pepper in a large skillet to make creamy cavatappi
cooked cavatappi and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano being stirred into olive oil and cracked pepper in a large skillet
homemade Creamy Cavatappi made with Romano and parmigiana cheeses in a pot being stirred with a spoon

Ingredients to Make Our Creamy Cavatappi Pasta Recipe

  • Cavatappi pasta

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

  • Freshly-cracked black pepper (pepper is kind of the whole point of this creamy cavatappi recipe, but if you’re making it for little kids, go light on the pepper. We promise that it’s OK to be Italian recipe rule-breakers once in a while. After all the Italians love kids even more than they love food — they’d understand.)

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano (Grana Padano is a fine substitute, and is often less expensive)

  • Pecorino Romano (this one is a must for authentic cacio e pepe)

homemade Creamy Cavatappi Cacio e Pepe made with Romano and parmigiana cheeses in a pot being stirred with a spoon
homemade Creamy Cavatappi in a bowl topped with grated Romano and parmigiano and coarsely cracked pepper

How To Make Creamy Cavatappi Pasta

  1. Grate all that cheese. It might seem easy to ignore, but when we mention in the recipe that the cheeses should be “finely grated” we really do mean that. The texture and grain of the cheese really matters here, and the finer the better. It’ll determine how well it melts into the pasta cooking water and becomes a true creamy cacio e pepe sauce. The best way to prep them is to grab a microplane graterand grate the cheese into big snowy mounds yourself.

  2. Salt the heck out of your pasta water. Because you’ll be using the pasta cooking water itself, don’t skip out on seasoning the water. When you’ve only got 5 ingredients, their each working hard.

  3. Boil the pasta in a large stock pot just until it is al dente.

  4. Prepare the sauce. Warm the olive oil gently with the pepper, add some of the pasta water and bring to a simmer in alarge skillet. Take it off the heat. Stir slowly but constantly as you add the pasta and the cheeses. If it is not sauce-ifying, continue adding the pasta cooking water a spoonful at a time, until it looks creamy.
a bowl of homemade creamy cavatappi made with olive oil, Parmesan and freshly cracked pepper

How To Store Any Leftover Cavatappi + Tips

  • Leftovers you say? Creamy pasta like this doesn’t last long in our house, but if you do have leftovers it’s OK to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days. However, this creamy cavatappi will be at its best when enjoyed right away. We don’t recommend freezing it.

  • What pasta is most similar to cavatappi? Curly and twisty, cavatappi is uniquely fun to eat and we really hope you can track it down. However, penne or rigatoni would make an OK substitute, as would any small, hollow pasta shape you have on hand.

  • Making a creamy pasta without cream does take a little self-confidence to pull off. Trust the process, and also trust your starchy pasta water. It seems like magic—making a creamy sauce without any butter or cream or milk—but that pasta cooking water is the source of this cacio e pepe recipe’s creaminess.

homemade Creamy Cavatappi  in a bowl with a fork next to a linen napkin and a bag of DeLallo Cavatappi pasta

More Exciting Pasta Sauce Recipes To Mix Up Your Routine

Buon Appetito!

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Creamy Cavatappi

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  5 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 539


  • ¾ pound cavatappi pasta
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano or plus more for serving
  • 1¼ cups finely grated Pecorino Romano


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente according to the package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water and drain.

  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the pepper and cook, swirling the pan until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  3. Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water to the pan and bring to a simmer. Remove the skillet from heat. Add the pasta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano and toss until combined and the cheese has melted. If necessary, add more pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

  4. To serve, sprinkle with more pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano, if desired.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories539
  • Protein22 g
  • Carbohydrates64 g
  • Total Fat22 g
  • Dietary Fiber3 g
  • Cholesterol41 mg
  • sodium1150 mg
  • Total Sugars3 g

Creamy Cavatappi

Questions & Reviews

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  • Jenn

    crazy simple, crazy delicious! blended my cheese instead of grating it like your IG story, what a time saver!

    So glad you liked it Jenn!