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.
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. Here is a kale version too.
- 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:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- After that, add the pesto and give the sauce a stir. Cook for another couple minutes.
- 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. 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.
Other great add-ins:
- Black olives
- Baby spinach
- The last two strips of bacon leftover from the weekend
- Chopped sun-dried tomatoes
More Pesto recipes:
Pesto Cavatappi Recipe (Noodles and Company Copycat)
- 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.