Cavati (Cavatelli) with Vodka Sauce & with Broccoli Rabe

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.




8 Replies to “Cavati (Cavatelli) with Vodka Sauce & with Broccoli Rabe”

  1. Gianni,

    I have two questions.

    First, would the cavatelli pair well with your simple San Marzano sauce or regular Sunday gravy, or are they only best with more “sophisticated sauces,” as described above?

    Second, my cavatelli stick to each other as they’re passing through the cavatelli machine. I understand that this happens when the dough is not “firm” enough? What can I do to make sure the dough is firm enough? More flour? More kneading? Help!

    1. Ciao. Yes the cavatelli go well with either the Sam Marzano sauce or Sunday gravy. I love them bathed in a tasty tomato sauce. You’re correct about making a firmer cavatelli dough. Add more flour if the dough is sticky and knead it a bit more to make a stiffer dough. Buon appetito!

    1. When I’m in Jersey we like to make it with regular broccoli. Delicious. Cauliflower, escarole, chard or kale work well too.

  2. Gianni, can your Vodka sauce recipe be doubled, or will it taste too boozey?

    I live in Chicago and am making cavatelli for a family party next weekend and wanted to try this sauce? Should something be substituted for the vodka if children will be eating it? Should I omit the vodja, all together?

    Please advise.

    Thank you.

    1. Ciao.

      Am I invited to the party? You can double the recipe no problem. Don’t worry about vodka. The alcohol will burn off while the sauce cooks so the kids are safe.

      Buon appetito!


  3. Bellisimo! Cavatelli are one of my favorite pasta’s. That broccoli rabe and garlic sauce has my mouth drooling. Can not wait to make this recipe. I have made cavatelli many time, but we always use and tomato and wine sauce, so this is very intriguing and since we both like broccoli rabe and love garlic. it will have to go on the must make menu this weekend. Bravo, Bravo!!

  4. All I can say is Brava Carole! It was a ton of fun to sit around the table and roll out the dough into tubes and then watch her crank them into cavati. And with so many hands, separating them so they dry and don’t stick together was easy. The vodka sauce was delicious and not nearly as rich as most I’ve had, certainly very flavorful. The rabe sauce was killer! I never would have thought to pair the two, but it was a perfect pairing. The bitter, garlicky simplicity of the rabe worked perfectly with the cavati. I will definitely make these again. (And Marie, guess what kinda machine you’re getting for Christmas?) Bravisima!!

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