Rhode Island friends are in town and we we’re making 2 classic Italian-American pasta dishes. Carol brought a cavati pasta machine all the way from Little Rhody. I’ve never seen this contraption and I was anxious to try it out.

You say cavati, I say gavadeal. These are RI and Jersey slang for the same pasta, better known as cavatelli.

Making the Ricotta Cavati Dough

Carol was the lead cook. Her cavati pasta dough is simply ricotta, milk, flour and an egg. This isn’t the gnocchi dough that is hardly kneaded so it stays light and tender. This dough is kneaded well to form a stiff, resilient dough, tough enough to be rolled into ropes and fed into the cavatelli pasta machine. It’s the fresh version of dried cavatelli pasta and it’s worth the effort. We made the cavati dough by hand but you can make it in a food processor to save time and effort. Mix the ingredients and knead it well to form a stiff dough.


Cavati Falling Out of the Pasta Machine

Roll out 1 inch dough ropes, feed it into the machine and crank. Out pop the cavati. The machine is amazing. Just keep cranking and in a couple of minutes you have a sea of cavati.



A Sea of Cavati


My mother dried her fresh pasta on a clean sheet atop her bed. We dried ours on the dining room table. Spread them out so they don’t touch one another and stick together. Let the cavati dry for 30 minutes.


Cavati with Vodka Sauce and Cavati with Broccoli Rabe

Carol made 2 sauces for the cavati — broccoli rabe with garlic, EVOO and chicken stock and the classic vodka cream sauce. Both were delicious. Here’s my first plate. The fresh cavati have a great toothsome feel, tender but resilient with each bite. The broccoli rabe sauce is garlicky and really rich with chicken stock flavor. The pink vodka sauce with flecks of tomato is silky and the cream mellows the San Marzano tomatoes. Buon appetitio!

If you have a cavatelli machine you are in good shape. If you do not simply roll out 1/2 inch ropes of dough. Cut the ropes in 1 inch pieces. Using your thumb press hard on each piece to flatten it out. It should curl up tightly as you press & pull with your thumb. You can get an idea of how to form these by watching my gnocchi video. The difference between the two is that you don’t want the puffy gnocchi form but rather a flat disk that tightly curls from the pressure of your thumb.

Or, just buy dried cavatelli from Italia.

Fresh Cavati (Cavatelli) Dough


  • 4-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large bowl beat the egg and combine with the milk.
  2. Add the ricotta and with a fork combine with the egg mixture.
  3. Add 1 cup of flour at a time and mix well until all 4 cups have been incorporated into the dough.
  4. Knead in the bowl with your hands.
  5. If you have a stiff, dry dough after you incorporated the fourth cup just keep kneading until you have a smooth dough.
  6. If the dough is not stiff and dry sprinkle in a bit more flour and knead.
  7. Let the dough rest in the bowl uncovered for 30 minutes.
  8. (If you are using a food processor or mixer just add the ingredients and process in steps as indicated above.)
  9. Rip off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll into a 1 inch diameter ropes.
  10. Keep going until all the dough is rolled into ropes.
  11. Pass the rope through the machine and crank. The cavati will fall out onto your board.
  12. (If making by hand cut the rope into half inch pieces. Flatten each piece with your thumb. The thin wafer of dough should tightly curl up as you flatten it and pull with your thumb to flick it aside.
  13. Spread out the cavati on a board or tablecloth. Make sure they do not touch so they do not stick.
  14. Let dry for 30 minutes.
  15. Put the pasta in a large pot with boiling water. Cook until the cavati float to the surface and then another minute or so. Taste the cavati and remove from the water when they just reach the al dente stage. They will finish cooking in the sauce.
  16. Makes enough cavati for 4-6 people.

Vodka Sauce


  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cups vodka
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 16 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed well by hand or pureed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or pecorino for a sharper flavor)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Cooking Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the pepper flakes and stir to toast them a bit.
  3. Add the vodka and simmer for 2 minutes.
  4. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the tomatoes. Simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the sauce by about a third its volume.
  5. Add the cream and mix completely into the tomato sauce.
  6. Season with sea salt to taste.
  7. Off the heat mix in the grated cheese well.
  8. Put the cavati or your favorite pasta in the sauce and mix well.
  9. Pass more grated parmigiano to your guest to add more to their plate of they wish.
  10. Serves 4-6.

Broccoli Rabe Chicken Stock Sauce


  • 2 pounds broccoli rabe, chopped in 2 inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, 1 smashed and 1 chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino cheese

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the EVOO, pepper flakes and garlic in a cold saute pan and over medium heat the oil stir until the garlic just begins to pick up some color.
  2. Add the broccoli rabe. Stir until the rabe wilts.
  3. Add the chicken stock and increase the heat to high. Reduce the sauce by one-third.
  4. Add sea salt to taste if needed.
  5. Put cavati or your favorite pasta in the broccoli rabe sauce and mix well.
  6. Off the heat, sprinkle the grated pecorino on top. You can pass more grated pecorino to your guests at the table to add more to their plate if they like.
  7. Serves 4-6.