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5 Best Substitutes for Cavatappi Pasta

Pasta is a universal comfort food. Its versatility lends itself to a myriad of dishes, from hearty casseroles to light, creamy sauces. Amid the vast selection of pasta shapes, cavatappi stands out with its helical corkscrew shape that effortlessly traps sauces, creating a luscious texture in every bite.

However, sometimes you find yourself in a pinch without cavatappi in the pantry. In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the five best substitutes for cavatappi pasta to help you still enjoy your favorite pasta dishes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cavatappi is a popular pasta shape known for its helical corkscrew shape and texture-holding capabilities.
  • When in need of substitutes, consider rotini, rigatoni, bow-tie (farfalle), fusilli, and penne as they offer similar texture and versatility to cavatappi.
  • Use these substitutes in equal measure to cavatappi in various pasta dishes, including baked dishes and cold salads.

Exploring Cavatappi and Its Top 5 Substitutes

Cavatappi is a type of macaroni pasta that has a unique shape and texture. Its name comes from the Italian word “cavatappi” which means corkscrew, due to its spiral shape. This popular pasta is often used in dishes like mac and cheese, salads, soups, and casseroles.

The spiral shape of Cavatappi makes it stand out from other types of pasta. This unique shape allows the pasta to hold onto sauces and toppings, making each bite flavorful and enjoyable. The ridges on the surface also help in holding thick sauces, giving you a burst of flavors with every mouthful.

Aside from its shape, Cavatappi also has a slightly chewy texture which sets it apart from other types of pasta. This firmness makes it perfect for dishes where the pasta needs to hold its shape, like in mac and cheese or pasta salads.

But what if you could achieve similar results with a more common pasta found in your local grocery store?

For those moments when cavatappi isn’t at arm’s reach, it’s essential to have an understanding of equally delightful substitutes.

1. Rotini

Rotini, which means “twists” in Italian, is the embodiment of that spirit. This corkscrew-shaped pasta is a pantry staple with a delightful springy texture that holds onto sauces with the same tenacity as cavatappi.

Whether you’re whipping up a colorful pasta salad, a chunky veggie pasta, or a rich and creamy alfredo, rotini provides a reliable alternative with every twist and turn.

Usage: Substitute rotini for cavatappi in equal measure. Remember, their shapes are quite similar, so you won’t lose the essence of your dish.

2. Rigatoni

Rigatoni is a short, wide tube pasta with a ridged surface. These ridges are not just there for decoration; they serve a purpose, holding chunkier meat or vegetable sauces like bolognese or marinara.

Rigatoni’s larger diameter makes it an attractive choice for those looking for a more robust bite, and its hollow center ensures that every mouthful is laden with flavor.

Usage: Cook rigatoni just as al dente as you would cavatappi, and enjoy it in baked dishes or simply tossed in a sauce with confidence.

3. Bow-tie (Farfalle)

The Italian term “farfalle” means “butterflies,” and these dainty pasta shapes resemble just that. Farfalle features a broad, flat surface that’s perfect for creamy sauces and is often seen in summer pasta salads.

While the texture may not be as complex as cavatappi, the whimsical appearance and versatility are second to none.

Usage: Farfalle is an exceptional substitute for cavatappi in cold pasta dishes like pasta salads, providing a light and fun alternative to the traditional spirals.

4. Fusilli

Fusilli, known for its tight spiral shape that’s perfect for capturing chunks of meat or veggies, is an excellent substitute for cavatappi.

Despite its slightly shorter length, fusilli’s inherent texture and resilience to softer sauces make it a stellar contender for pasta dishes where cavatappi would be the original choice.

Usage: Use fusilli in hot dishes with robust meat or tomato-based sauces, or in cold pasta salads where its texture can shine.

5. Penne

Penne is a cylindrical pasta with ridges and angled ends, making it resemble a quill pen. The grooves in penne are perfect for clinging onto sauces, and its hollow center provides an explosion of flavor in every bite.

Like rigatoni, penne is suitable for heartier and chunkier sauces, making it an easy alternative to cavatappi.

Usage: Cook penne as you would cavatappi, and enjoy its versatility in both hot and cold dishes. Its shape is also ideal for pairing with ingredients like cheese cubes or peas that can hide inside the hollow center.

Creamy Rotini with Chicken and Broccoli

Creamy Rotini with Chicken and Broccoli

This delicious dish is a perfect substitute for Cavatappi Pasta, using rotini instead. It's easy to make and packed with flavor, making it a family favorite.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 4 people
Calories 727 kcal


  • Large pot
  • Skillet or saucepan
  • Wooden spoon or spatula
  • Cutting board and knife


  • 8 oz rotini pasta cooked according to package instructions (reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  • Cook the rotini pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water before draining and set aside.
  • Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a skillet or saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes, or until fully cooked. Set aside.
  • In the same skillet, add garlic and onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
  • Add broccoli florets and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, or until tender.
  • Pour in heavy cream and chicken broth, stirring to combine.
  • Bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken.
  • Stir in cooked chicken, reserved pasta water, and cooked rotini pasta into the skillet with the creamy sauce.
  • Reduce heat to low and let cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  • Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over the top and stir until melted.
  • Serve hot, garnished with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.


  • For a healthier option, use whole wheat or gluten-free rotini pasta.
  • You can substitute the chicken with shrimp or tofu for a vegetarian option.
  • Feel free to add in your favorite vegetables like bell peppers or mushrooms. Add them in step 6 and cook until tender before adding in the cream and broth. Adjust cooking time accordingly.
  • You can also use half and half instead of heavy cream for a lighter option. The sauce will not be as thick, but still delicious.
  • Add in some red pepper flakes or your favorite herbs for an added kick of flavor. Sprinkle over the top before serving.


Serving: 1cupCalories: 727kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 34gFat: 43gSaturated Fat: 21gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 140mgSodium: 382mgPotassium: 794mgFiber: 3gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1214IUVitamin C: 43mgCalcium: 146mgIron: 4mg
Keyword creamy rotini with chicken and broccoli
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5 from 2 votes (2 ratings without comment)
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