Pesto Cavatappi (Noodles & Company Copycat)

There’s so much to love about springy pasta, creamy pesto sauce, and bright diced tomatoes, so it’s no wonder Pesto Cavatappi is Noodles and Company’s most popular dish. Here’s the perfected copycat recipe that’s faster, less expensive, and maybe even just a little more delicious.

Fun and fast pasta recipes like Cheese Tortellini in Garlic Butter Sauce, One Pot Pizza Pasta Bake, and Pasta with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Prosciutto hit the spot when you’re short on time but want a great dinner.

There’s so much to love about springy pasta, creamy pesto sauce, and bright diced tomatoes, so it’s no wonder Pesto Cavatappi is Noodles and Company’s most popular dish. Here’s the perfected copycat recipe that’s faster, less expensive, and maybe even just a little more delicious.

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This is one of my absolute favorite quick dinners to make, whether or not I’m pressed for time. It used to be my standing order at Noodles and Company, but now that I don’t live anywhere near one, I set about figuring out how to crack the cavatappi code and make it myself.

And that’s just what I did! Because when you can’t get to a Noodles, you have to bring the Noodles to you.

Making Pesto Cavatappi for one big happy family dinner? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.

Pesto Cavatappi ingredients:

Here’s everything you need to make this amazing dish:

  • Cavatappi. Actually, any pasta works, but cavatappi is fun to eat and especially fun to say. Feel free to use rotini, rigatoni, bow-tie, whatever ya got. Small to medium sized pasta works best, especially for little mouths.
  • Tomatoes. whole diced tomatoes, or a handful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half.
  • Mushrooms. Optional, but so, so good.
  • Pesto. Homemade or store-bought.
  • Parmesan cheese. Grated, if you please.
  • Chicken broth.
  • Dry white wine. Feel free to use extra chicken broth in place of wine.
  • Heavy cream. This makes the pasta delightfully creamy and irresistible.
  • Olive oil. Because all good things start with a little olive oil.
  • Salt. For salting the pasta water.

How to make Pesto Cavatappi:

Easy Pesto Cavatappi coming right up!
These photos are for the visual learners who might be reading. For specific amounts and units, as well as an option to change the quantity of the recipe, scoot down to the bottom of the page.

First you have to cook your pasta, so heat a large pot with at least 4 quarts of generously salted water to boiling.

Why do you salt pasta water? Salting the water increases the boiling point of the water, but it also gently seasons the pasta, which means that you can use less salt overall in the recipe.

Helpful tip: In this recipe, you can use a little bit of the pasta water in place of chicken broth, in case you’re making a vegetarian version, or you don’t have any chicken stock. The starches in the pasta water make the recipe rich and even creamier.

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the mushrooms and tomatoes until the mushrooms release their liquid and the tomatoes are heated through.

    There’s so much to love about springy pasta, creamy pesto sauce, and bright diced tomatoes, so it’s no wonder Pesto Cavatappi is Noodles and Company’s most popular dish. Here’s the perfected copycat recipe that’s faster, less expensive, and maybe even just a little more delicious.

  2. Next, stir in the broth, wine, and cream and bring everything to a boil. Turn down the heat and reduce the mixture until the sauce has thickened slightly. This should take about two minutes.

    There’s so much to love about springy pasta, creamy pesto sauce, and bright diced tomatoes, so it’s no wonder Pesto Cavatappi is Noodles and Company’s most popular dish. Here’s the perfected copycat recipe that’s faster, less expensive, and maybe even just a little more delicious.

  3. After that, add the pesto and give the sauce a stir. Cook for another couple minutes.

    There’s so much to love about springy pasta, creamy pesto sauce, and bright diced tomatoes, so it’s no wonder Pesto Cavatappi is Noodles and Company’s most popular dish. Here’s the perfected copycat recipe that’s faster, less expensive, and maybe even just a little more delicious.

  4. Once the pasta is cooked, add it to the sauce and gently toss until the sauce finds all the nooks and crannies in the pasta.
  5. Then all you have to do is serve it up in big bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan. Magnifico!

Fun things to add to Pesto Cavatappi:

Pesto Cavatappi with chicken: cook chunks of chicken in olive oil before you add the tomatoes and mushrooms. Throw in the mushrooms and tomatoes to cook when the chicken is just barely pink, then proceed with the recipe as directed.

Or…add a can of cooked chicken breast to make dinner come even faster.

Shrimp and Pesto Cavatappi: absolutely! Shrimp cooks quickly, so add them to the skillet with the mushrooms and tomatoes to cook.

Gluten free pasta: brown rice pasta or any other gluten-free pasta is a great way to make this.

Zucchini noodles: Super healthy dinner ahead! Get the sauce made and stir in raw zucchini ribbons. Serve when the zucchini is just warm. Don’t overcook it, because zucchini tastes best as pasta when it still has a little crunch.

There’s so much to love about springy pasta, creamy pesto sauce, and bright diced tomatoes, so it’s no wonder Pesto Cavatappi is Noodles and Company’s most popular dish. Here’s the perfected copycat recipe that’s faster, less expensive, and maybe even just a little more delicious.

Other great add-ins:

  • Black olives
  • Baby spinach
  • The last two strips of bacon leftover from the weekend
  • Chopped sun-dried tomatoes

Have you tried anything else, and loved it? What’s your favorite Noodles and Company dish? Maybe I’ll make it. Let me know in the comments!

Watch this video to see how easy Pesto is to make - and 4 other things you can do with it!

5 from 36 votes

Pesto Cavatappi (Noodles and Company Copycat)

There’s so much to love about springy pasta, creamy pesto sauce, and bright diced tomatoes, so it’s no wonder Pesto Cavatappi is Noodles and Company’s most popular dish. Here’s the perfected copycat recipe that’s faster, less expensive, and maybe even just a little more delicious.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword pasta, pesto
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 8 (1-cup) servings
Calories 433kcal
  • 1 tablespoon Salt
  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta or other small pasta
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large tomato cored and diced
  • 4 ounces mushrooms sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (see notes)
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup homemade pesto or store-bought
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • In a large saucepan or stock pot, bring 4 quarts of water and salt to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.
  • Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add tomatoes and mushrooms (if using) and cook for about 5 minutes, until some of the liquid has been released and the tomatoes are heated through.
  • Stir in the broth, wine, and cream and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes.
  • Add pesto and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add pasta and toss until uniformly coated in the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish or individual plates and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Recipe Notes

More chicken broth can be used in place of the white wine.

Nutrition

Calories: 433kcal

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  1. Christine

    Pesto Cavatappi is my favorite Noodles and Company dish. I think I agree, this recipe is a little bit better. I even made my own pesto. The only thing I will change next time, only because of personal taste, is to add much less pasta. Other than that, perfect! Thank you so much!5 stars

  2. Sandra

    Wonderful!!! As good or better than N&C but be sure to add your grilled chicken breast to make it even better!5 stars

  3. Kimberly Peters

    Any ideas or hints on how they cook their tofu?

  4. Dave

    I have to disagree about using cooking wine of any sort.  Any inexpensive white wine will make the dish taste better than white cooking wine.  Want sweet use a dry Madeira.  Don’t cook with anything you would not drink.5 stars

    1. meggan

      I actually totally agree with you. That’s obviously a typo in the recipe, I would never buy “cooking wine.” Gross. Thanks for pointing that out!! XOXOXO

  5. In my book a pasta dish such as this is a year round fav! Looks so vibrant and stunning.

  6. Lisa

    This recipe is awesome! Tonight was the second time I’ve made it. I think my one-year old ate more than I did. It was a huge hit with my 3 picky kids! Thanks for continuing to make amazing recipes! 5 stars

  7. Jaime

    Made this last week, making it again today because my family loved it so much. Thanks!5 stars

  8. Alexis

    This recipe is amazing!!! It tastes exactly like the real deal, I don’t think I’ll ever go to Noodles again. Great, great recipe, and so easy to make!5 stars

  9. LaSaundra

    I am so excited to try this! I am from Michigan and live in California now and there is not one noodles and company near me! I used to get pesti cavatappi with shrimp! So I am excited to add that to this recipe! Did you ever use store bought pesto sauce? If so did you like it that way to? 5 stars

    1. LaSaundra

      Awesome!! Ok thanks Meggan! So excited to try it ☺️

    2. Meggan

      Hi LaSaundra! I have used store bought pesto sauce, although it’s not nearly as good. It will still do the trick to give you the taste of this copycat dish, but trust me- once you make your own pesto sauce you’ll most likely never go back. :D -Meggan

  10. ariana

    So i see how many servings this is for, but do you know how much is in each serving size , like how much is one serving size?

    1. meggan

      Hi Ariana! 8 (1-cup) servings. This will vary slightly depending on the size of your tomato, but you’ll get at least 8 servings out of it (8 generous 1-cup servings, I’d say). Thanks for the question!

    2. meggan

      Hi Ariana, I just picked up the ingredients so I can make this and measure it out. I’ll report back by the end of the day. Thanks for the question!

  11. Christina Abdallah

    Can I use half and half instead of heavy cream?

    1. meggan

      Hi Christina, yes I think so! I can’t think of any reason why not. If the sauce consistency seems loose, just simmer it a little longer. You should be fine! Thank you!

  12. Sue A Thao

    I made this tonight for dinner and the family LOVED it. I followed the recipe but used vegetable broth and white cooking wine as that is what I had on hand. Absolutely DELISH! Thank you, Meggan!5 stars

  13. Sue

    I made this tonight and the family LOVED it. It was DELICIOUS! I followed the recipe but used vegetable broth and white cooking wine as those were the items I had on hand. Absolutely DELISH! Thank you, Meggan!5 stars

  14. Koryssa Farrer

    For a healthier version, is there an option to replace the heavy cream with something? Or can I just take it out? 

  15. Missi

    I lived down there for 2 years, I’m originally from the UP and had to move back when my mom got really sick! But I still root for the Badgers and go visit friends as often as I can.. Now my daughter, who was born there, is working hard in high school to go to UW, so she can go back home!! I was never homesick for tbe UP but oh my God was I homesick for Madison when I left, I cried for months! 15 years later and I would still move back in a heartbeat if I could!! Love the recipes and the tips!! Talk to ya soon my fellow Badger friend!!5 stars

  16. Missi

    I used to live in Madison, WI and Noodles and Co on State St was one of our favourite places to go! I ALWAYS orxerex the pesto cavatappi, always! And now I live in the U.P. of MI and there is no Noodles within 3 1/2hours, so i was really excited to see your recipe today when brainstorming dinner ideas! We all love pesto in our family but I never know what to do with it, and have tried some horrid recipes! But yours was so easy, quick and tasted EXACTLY like my favorite dish from Noidles I had been craving!! Thank you so much and you have a new follower for life, especially if all your stuff is that easy and delicious!!5 stars

    1. meggan

      Hi Missi! Are you a fellow badger?? I first learned about Noodles & Co. in Madison, too, although now they are more wide spread (but not in the UP, ha ha!). Thank you so much for the lovely comment, and I hope you like anything else you may come across on the site. :) Thanks again and take care!

  17. meggan

    Ask all the questions you want. :) For me personally, I would rather substitute with more chicken broth. The reason is, the white wine is a very recent addition to the recipe (as of January 2017) because a former Noodles & Co. employee told me they use white wine at the restaurant. Up until that point (and you can see the comment above) I used only chicken broth and I thought it tasted perfect. However, if I get insider info like that, I will always change the recipe to reflect it. So. If you had visited this blog in December of 2016, you would have seen the recipe written with 1/2 cup chicken broth, no white wine in sight. So that’s how I’d make it. I hope that helps!

  18. Whitney

    I promise this is my last question… would you prefer to substitute the white wine with chicken broth or white cooking wine?

  19. Whitney

    Would White Cooking Wine work?  I hear the taste is nothing like drinking wine.  Thoughts?

    1. meggan

      I definitely think it would work, Whitney. White cooking wine tends to be a little sweeter/richer in my opinion, but I think a lot of that would cook off in the pan. And pesto is super flavorful – a little white cooking wine could never compete!

  20. Whitney

    Can you leave out the wine?

    1. meggan

      YES! I actually never had it in the recipe until recently when a former Noodles & Co. employee informed me that’s what they use. Just use chicken broth in place of the wine. I’ll update the recipe. Thank you for your question!

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