This Creamy Cavatappi Pasta is a decadent side dish or light main dish that comes together in just 25 minutes. It’s made with tender cavatappi noodles tossed in a silky smooth, ultra flavorful cream sauce.
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I love a super hearty pasta dish like my Turkey Kielbasa Pasta Bake or my One-Pot BBQ Chicken and Bacon Pasta, but I also love a simple pasta dish with minimal ingredients that really lets just a few incredible flavors shine through.
Take this Creamy Cavatappi Pasta — this recipe is about as simple as it gets and makes the best light main dish or decadent side dish.
It’s made with cavatappi pasta, salty bacon, and rich sun dried tomatoes all tossed in the perfect delicate yet rich and flavorful cream sauce.
- Cavatappi Pasta: look for the hollow, corkskrew shaped pasta with ridges (of course, you can use any pasta shape you like for this recipe).
- Bacon: you’ll need 2 slices of thick-cut, chopped bacon. You could also use turkey bacon (add some oil to saute) or one or two Italian sausages without the casings would work well.
- Sun Dried Tomatoes: drained and chopped to add texture and richness.
- Garlic: use freshly minced garlic for the most authentic flavor.
- Seasonings: we’re keeping it super simple with Italian seasoning, salt, and fresh cracked pepper.
- Heavy Whipping Cream: a little heavy whipping cream goes a long way to make the decadent cream sauce.
- Reserved Pasta Water: helps thicken the sauce and allows everything to come together.
- Fresh Parsley: I love to finish each plate of pasta off with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley.
How to Make Creamy Cavatappi Pasta
This Creamy Cavatappi Pasta is the best side dish or entree that takes just 5 minutes to prep!
- Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain, but reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Cook the bacon: In a skillet, cook the bacon until crispy.
- Make the sauce: To the skillet with the bacon, add sun dried tomatoes and seasonings. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the cream and cook until the sauce comes together.
- Combine and serve: Toss the pasta with the sauce
- Slowly add pasta water until it all comes together. Add fresh parsley, then serve.
Cavatappi Pasta FAQs
Cavatappi is a type of macaroni. However, it is different than the traditional elbow shaped macaroni we might normally think of. The word cavatappi literally translates to “corkskrews” in Italian, so cavatappi pasta is shaped just like that. A spiral shaped corkskrew!
Cavatappi is a tubular, spiral-shaped noodle with ridges on the outside. The ridges and hollowed-out shape make it perfect for creamy sauces, because the sauce has so many places to go and can really adhere to the pasta!
Cavatappi might also be called cellantani. So if you can’t find it at the store, don’t worry. Look for cellantani instead, or use any short pasta you enjoy!
Because the cream sauce in this recipe is so delicate, this Creamy Cavatappi Pasta is definitely best served right away. However, leftovers will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. To reheat, warm on low on the stove with a splash of cream to moisten.
Tips and Notes
- Reserve the pasta water. The starchy water makes the sauce creamy and silky and helps everything come together. I recommend reserving at least 1 cup, then adding little bits at a time to the pasta until the texture is just right.
- Prefer a thicker sauce? This recipe is a thin, creamy sauce that’s loaded up with flavor. If you prefer a thicker sauce, stir in 1 tablespoon of flour after the spices, then add 1 cup of chicken or veggie broth in addition to the cream. Simmer until thickened.
- Serve right away. You can absolutely store leftovers, but the texture of the sauce is definitely best right away.
- Add more veggies. Feel free to sauté a few veggies in the skillet before combining everything to make this dish into a more well-rounded meal. Try it with broccoli, red peppers, mushrooms, onion, asparagus, you name it. Another option is to mix pre-cooked veggies in after you combine the rest. In this case, Air Fryer Broccoli would be perfect!
- Make it cheesy. Add a handful of parmesan cheese for a thicker, cheesier sauce. If you plan to do this, reduce the salt.
- Add a protein. Bulk your meal up by stirring in pre-cooked chicken or sausage.
- Use another pasta. Look for pasta with ridges so the sauce has something to adhere to. Fusilli, penne, rigatoni, or even farfalle would all be great options!
Creamy Cavatappi Pasta makes a delicious lighter main dish or the perfect simple side dish!
If I’m serving it as a main dish, I love to serve it next to Air Fryer Broccoli or Roasted Green Beans. If I’m serving it as a main dish, I love it next to Creamy Garlic Chicken or Air Fryer Pork Chops.
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Creamy Cavatappi Pasta
- 325 grams Cavatappi pasta (about 4 cups)
- 2 slices thick cut bacon (chopped)
- 2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes (drained and chopped)
- 3 cloves fresh minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- reserved pasta water and chopped parsley for finishing
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add pasta and cook just until al dente.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a skillet on medium-high heat until crispy.
- Without draining, add the sun dried tomatoes, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute.
- Add the cream and cook 2-3 minutes until the sauce comes together.
- Before draining the pasta, reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water.
- Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce, adding enough pasta water so that the sauce comes together. The starchy water will create a thick and luscious sauce.
- Stir in fresh chopped parsley if desired and serve.
- Stir in fresh chopped spinach before serving.
- Add a handful of shredded Parmesan cheese (reduce the salt if you plan to do this).
- Stir in pre-cooked chicken or sausage
- Add mushrooms to the bacon when you are sauteing.
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