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.

Pesto cavatappi on a white platter.

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. 

Recipe ingredients:

Labeled pesto cavatappi ingredients in bowls.

Ingredient notes:

  • Cavatappi: You can substitute rotini, rigatoni, bow-tie, or any small or medium-sized pasta.
  • Mushrooms: Noodles & Company puts them in, but you can leave them out.
  • Dry white wine: Substitute more chicken broth for the wine if you want to.
  • Pesto. Homemade pesto or store-bought.

Step-by-step instructions:

  1. First, cook the pasta in salted boiling water. 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.
    Tomatoes and mushrooms cooking in a silver pan with a wooden spoon.
  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.
    Cream being poured onto cooked mushrooms and tomatoes in a silver pan.
  3. After that, add the pesto and give the sauce a stir. Cook for another couple minutes.
    Pesto being stirred into mushrooms and tomato mixture in a silver pan.
  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. Then all you have to do is serve it up in big bowls and garnish with grated Parmesan.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Vegetarian: Substitute pasta cooking water for the chicken broth. The starches in the pasta water make the recipe even creamier.
  • 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.
  • Shrimp: Add them to the skillet with the mushrooms and tomatoes to cook (they cook quickly).
  • 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.
  • Other mix-ins: Black olives, fresh spinach, or chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Pesto cavatappi on a white platter.

More Italian recipes:

Pesto cavatappi on a white platter.

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.
4.98 from 45 votes
Prep Time 3 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Servings 8 servings
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Calories 423

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon Salt
  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta or other small pasta (see note 1)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large tomato cored and diced
  • 4 ounces mushrooms sliced (optional, see note 2)
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (see note 3)
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup homemade pesto or store-bought (see note 4)
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions 

  • 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 Video

Notes

  1. Cavatappi: You can substitute rotini, rigatoni, bow-tie, or any small or medium-sized pasta.
  2. Mushrooms: Noodles & Company puts them in, but you can leave them out.
  3. Dry white wine: Substitute more chicken broth for the wine if you want to.
  4. Pesto. Homemade pesto or store-bought.
  5. Vegetarian: Substitute pasta cooking water for the chicken broth. The starches in the pasta water make the recipe even creamier.
  6. 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.
  7. Shrimp: Add them to the skillet with the mushrooms and tomatoes to cook (they cook quickly).
  8. 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.
  9. Other mix-ins: Black olives, fresh spinach, or chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 423kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 14gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 1397mgPotassium: 254mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1021IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 217mgIron: 1mg
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Comments

  1. I just made this last night, It was AMAZING!!! Seriously the best copycat recipe I’ve ever made, good work. I would love to make it again. Just wish I had cavatappi noodles, any recommendations on where to find those? Also, where do you buy your basil in such large quantities for your homemade pesto? Or do you grow it yourself?5 stars

    1. Hi Lauren! So glad you loved this recipe. I’m obsessed with it, especially since there are no Noodles & Co. where I live. I find Cavatappi noodles at my Ralph’s store (a Kroger store and it’s their label, “Private selection”). I agree, sometimes they are hard to find. I checked on Amazon; they have them but they’re pretty pricey. DeCecco is the pasta brand I’m seeing on Amazon, so if you know if your stores carry that brand, you might be able to find it. I checked Walmart.com and they have some deals but you have to buy massive amounts. However, they indicate that Ronzoni brand cavatappi is sold in stores (not at any within 50 miles of me, though). Good luck! I hope you track down that fantastic noodles. Oh, and the pesto. I buy the basil plants at Trader Joe’s, generally, and then in the summer yes I grow it myself in an Earthbox (I don’t have a yard; I start with the TJ’s plant and transfer it to the Earthbox). I tend to make this more in the summer for sure because the plants do so well. Good luck and thanks for your questions. I love feeling useful! Take care.

    2. barilla has cellentani noodles, if you store doesn’t carry, they may be able to request. They may be slightly smaller, but they work!5 stars

  2. As an employee of Noodles & Company I’ll give you a few tips, we use half broth and half white wine, also go easy on the oil as we only use a spray or two. 

    1. Thank you so much, Zoey! Much appreciated. :) I’ll update the recipe with your suggestions. I always wanted to get a job there just to learn how to make all the amazingness.

    1. Hi Josh, I don’t! Next time I’m in Wisconsin I’ll order that so I can try it and replicate it. :) Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Only missing one thing, mushrooms! I’ve been a fan of Noodles and Co since moving to Wisconsin from NY. Will be trying this recipe this week!5 stars

    1. Dawn, you are really right about the mushrooms. I left them out because no one in my family will eat them but me… but YES! I will have to go review this post and make sure I at least MENTION the mushrooms. Because yes. You are so right!

    1. Hey there! I DO make my own pesto, it’s one of my favorite things to make. My version is made with walnuts thought, not pine nuts, because pine nuts are so expensive. But I think it tastes great. The recipe below is technically a vegan version, but I have a note about adding Parmesan cheese at the bottom of the recipe if cheese is your thing. Cheese is definitely my thing! Thanks and please let me know if you have any questions!
      Recipe here: https://www.culinaryhill.com/basil-walnut-pesto/

  4. Lovely, Meggan. Looks like a quick, easy and tasty meal. Cream definitely makes any pasta dish more delicious! Naughty but nice (but we’re not worrying about that!)5 stars

  5. I’m not familiar with Noodles & Company, but I’m pretty much pesto’s #1 fan, so I am super into this recipe! Thanks for the reminder to bring pesto pasta back into my life. :)5 stars

    1. Happy to help! Anytime I can add heavy cream to someone’s dinner table, I consider it a job well done. Noodles & Company has a lot of fantastic dishes, it’s just hard to pay $7.95 for buttered egg noodles sometimes. :)