Homemade Cavatelli Pasta (Shell Pasta)

Homemade Cavatelli Pasta (Shell Pasta)


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Cavatelli is a typical Southern Italian pasta made out of just durum wheat semolina flour and water. The starch contained in the durum gives this pasta its distinctive and firm texture, perfect to go with a simple tomato sauce or with a rich bolognese. Make sure to use a very fine semolina (called durum or semola rimacinata) or the dough will be too stiff.


Serves: 4 

  • 400g durum wheat semolina flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 220ml water or as needed, at room temperature

Preparation:1hour  ›  Extra time:30min  ›  Ready in:1hour30min 

  1. Place the flour on a wooden or marble working surface and make a well in the middle.
  2. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour it into the well, a little at the time, mixing it with the flour. Add as much water as needed to make a sticky but compact dough.
  3. Knead vigorously for about 10 minutes, stretching and folding the dough until it becomes elastic but not too soft.
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. If using the cavatelli within a few hours or the following day, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge.
  5. Take one piece of dough and wrap the remaining up to prevent drying. On a working surface sprinkled with semolina flour, roll the dough to make a long rope, about 1cm thick.
  6. Cut out little pieces about 1cm long.
  7. With your index and middle finger, press and gently drag the small piece of dough towards you. The two sides will curl inwards, leaving hollow spaces ("cavatelli means little hollows").
  8. Proceed the same way with the rest of the dough. With time, you'll get faster.
  9. Once ready, transfer to a floured surface and sprinkle with more semolina flour. Do not overlap or they will stick.
  10. Let dry for bout 30 minutes before cooking. If not using the cavatelli right away, let stand at room temperature for 24 hours and then transfer to a paper bag. Check from time to time to make sure no mold develops, and use within a week.

Cooking Time

Cooking time will depend on dryness. If the cavatelli are freshly made, it will take about 5 minutes. If they are a few days old, cooking takes about 8 to 10 minutes. In any case, as always when cooking pasta, the best way to check is to taste.


If you cannot find the durum or semolina "rimacinata", mix regular semolina with plain white flour, about 50% to 50%.

Watch a video of it being made…

How to Make Homemade Cavatelli Pasta
How to Make Homemade Cavatelli Pasta

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