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Cavatappi with Creamy Tomato Sauce on a plate

Cavatappi with Creamy Tomato Sauce

Cavatappi with Creamy Tomato Sauce is a simple homemade dish infused with layers of creamy full-bodied flavor that steal the show every time.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword cavatappi recipes, Cavatappi with Creamy Tomato Sauce, pasta with tomato sauce
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 503kcal
Author Kathleen


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 ounces prosciutto chopped
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in oil drained, rinsed, patted dry, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white wine divided
  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons canned crushed tomato divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 pound cavatappi
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves julienned


  • In a large, high-sided skillet, melt the butter (3 tablespoons) over medium heat. Add the prosciutto (2 ounces), onion (1), and red pepper flakes (1 pinch) and cook until the onions are very soft about 10 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium-high and stir in the garlic (3 cloves). Cook, stirring constantly for 30-45 seconds. Add tomato paste (2 tablespoons) and sun-dried tomatoes (3 tablespoons) and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for one minute. Pour 1/4 cup of wine into the skillet and cook, stirring often, until all the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the Cavatappi (1 pound) until al dente, according to package instructions. Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain Cavatappi well then return it back to the cooking pot.
  • Add 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, salt (1 1/2 teaspoons), pepper (1/2 teaspoons), and a pinch of sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover partially, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, (a spoon dragged through the sauce will leave a trail) about 15 minutes. Add cream (1/2 cup), basil (1/4 cup), the remaining 2 tablespoons of crushed tomatoes, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of wine to thicken the sauce. Stir to combine. Adjust seasoning.
  • Toss Cavatappi with sauce. Adjust the consistency with cooking water as needed. Serve immediately.


  1. Sauciest of sauces - Saving the cooking water to use in the sauce is an old chef’s trick.  The cooking water is enriched with the flavor of the pasta and concentrated starch is released as the pasta cooks. Adding it to the sauce creates a silky texture that embraces the pasta perfectly. It truly is a magical ingredient.
    • The recipe calls for adjusting the consistency of the sauce as needed, and I find I use about ¼ cup of pasta water. The sauce stays nice and thick while still being thin enough to distribute evenly.
  2. A stickler for instructions – The instructions on this recipe aren’t hard, but you do need to follow them.
    • Make sure to caramelize the onions. Don’t rush the onions. If they don’t brown well or if they burn, you’ll miss out on important flavor development.
    • Note also that both the crushed tomatoes and the white wine are added in two stages. This is important to allow the flavors to develop a bit with the first edition while preserving the wonderful fresh qualities of the additions made just before serving.
  3. Pasta substitutes: Sometimes cavatappi can be hard to find. Other pasta will work but you want it to have those glorious little ridges to help carry the sauce. Fusilli regate, penne regate, and penne mostaccioli are all great pasta substitutes in this cavatappi with creamy tomato sauce recipe.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 503kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 869mg | Potassium: 659mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 879IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 75mg | Iron: 3mg