Pesto Cavatappi Recipe (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.

Pesto cavatappi on a white platter.
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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. 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.

Pesto cavatappi on a white platter.

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.

  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.

Pesto cavatappi on a white platter.

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:

5 from 22 votes

Pesto Cavatappi Recipe (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. Whitney

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. Lauren Benyo

    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. Peg

      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. Debbie

      Not sure where you are, but my local Meijer has store brand cavatappi noodles.5 stars

    3. meggan

      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.

  5. Zoey

    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. meggan

      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.

  6. Joshua

    so, any chance you have the recipe for the pork add-on :)

    1. meggan

      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!

  7. Dawn

    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. meggan

      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!

  8. Daydream H.

    Do you make your own pesto?  If so, would you share the recipe?  Is there a good store bought pesto?  

    1. meggan

      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/

  9. Elizabeth Parker

    Ooh yum, pinning this for later. Thanks.5 stars

  10. Morgan

    I’ve loved cavatappi. pesto pasta ever since I went to cornered bakery in Austin

  11. 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

  12. 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. :)

    2. Elizabeth Parker

      Ha, yep. I love this dish + their tuscan linguine.

  13. Noelle (@singerinkitchen)

    This looks super delicious!5 stars

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