Cavatelli With Sausage And Broccoli Rabe

Let’s talk Italian comfort food. Cavatelli With Sausage And Broccoli Rabe is Sicilian comfort food at its very best.  Sweet Italian sausage, tender pasta, and bitter broccoli rabe come together in a cheesy sauce for a meal everyone will love! Pair it with a crusty loaf of Italian bread and a delicious Barolo wine and you have one of my favorite meals of all time.

Brown bowl of Cavatelli With Sausage And Broccoli Rabe, garnished with a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese.

I like to complete this comfort meal with a couple of Italian Aperol Spritz cocktails, a Classic Caprese Salad, and one or two Italian Amaretti Peaches.

What Is Cavatelli Pasta?

Cavatelli is a type of handmade pasta that resembles an elongated shell.  It’s typically made with semolina flour, water, and sea salt. Another, and I think a much easier version, uses only ricotta cheese and flour. It has a slightly chewy texture and the hollow, scooped shape holds onto the delicious sauce. Cavatelli is a great way to begin making homemade pasta because it’s forgiving-it won’t toughen up like some other pasta that uses a pasta machine.

Fresh cavatelli is always my personal favorite, but there are some great dried cavatelli brands that work equally well.  

A woman making homemade cavatelli pasta on a wooden board by hand.

How Do I Make Cavatelli From Scratch?

My favorite recipe for cavatelli uses two ingredients! Yes, you read that correctly, it’s made with 2 ingredients – ricotta and flour! You mix together all-purpose flour and whole milk ricotta until it’s well combined. Then, knead the mixture until a smooth dough is formed. Cover it with a tea towel and let it rest for half of an hour. Have a glass of wine!

Cut the dough into fourths. Roll each fourth into a long pencil-like, snake, and cut it into 1-inch pieces. To form the cavatelli, use two fingers to press firmly onto the cut pasta ball and drag it towards you creating a curled shape. Cook the pasta in boiling water for 5-10 minutes, tasting a piece after 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and toss in your favorite sauce. Come on! How easy is that?

You can also freeze the uncooked pasta by placing your baking sheet and placing the raw cavatelli into your freezer until frozen solid. Place the uncooked, frozen cavatelli into a freezer bag and toss them in the freezer for up to six months. You don’t even have to thaw the cavatelli. Cook them straight from the freezer.

Alternatively, you could form the cavatelli using a fork to drag the cut dough balls towards you or roll them down a ridged cavatelli board. You can find one easily in any Italian grocery or on Amazon.

A recipe that I use to make cavatelli is from my friend Marcellina. You can find her recipe and instructions here.

Homemade cavatelli using a ridged cavatelli board to roll the pasta down the ridges.

What Ingredients Are Needed For This Recipe

  • Olive oil 
  • Italian sausage – I like using sweet Italian sausage, but if you want more heat, use hot sausage.
  • Kosher salt
  • Broccoli rabe – look for deep green, firm stalks with tightly closed, green florets. If you can’t find broccoli rabe, you could use broccoli or spinach.
  • Cavatelli pasta
  • Garlic
  • Italian cheese – I love using a really good quality Italian blend cheese. I make my own blend by grating parmesan, romano, and asiago together.  Please don’t use the fake stuff in the shaker jar. It lacks flavor and is rumored to include sawdust! You want the robust flavor of freshly grated cheese.
  • Ricotta cheese – this is optional but adds a creaminess that can’t be beaten. Use whole milk for the best flavor. Be sure to taste the ricotta to ensure that it has adequate salt. If needed, you can add some Parmesan or a bit of sea salt.

A brown bowl of homemade cavatelli with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli rade, garnishe with a dollop of whole milk ricotta chese.

Steps To Make This Recipe

This is one of those wonderfully easy recipes that doesn’t taste like it was easy to make.

  1. First, saute the sliced sausage in a large skillet until no longer pink.  
  2. Then as the sausage cooks, boil salted water for the pasta.  
  3. Before adding the pasta to the pot, blanch the broccoli rabe quickly.
  4. Add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente. Drain in a colander, but don’t rinse the pasta. Save some of the starchy pasta water.
  5. To the skillet, saute the garlic, then add the broccoli rabe, sausage, and finally the pasta.  
  6. Stir in some of the pasta water and cheese. The pasta water helps emulsify the sauce and makes it creamy without adding heavy cream.
  7. For pure decadence, top the pasta with a mound of ricotta cheese and a sprinkle of grated cheese.
  8. Finally, dig in and enjoy!

Closeup of a brown bowl of Cavatelli With Sweet Sausage And Broccoli Rabe.

Tips And Suggestions

  • Be sure to season as you go. Salt the cooking water for the broccoli rabe and cavatelli. Taste and season the ricotta, if necessary. Taste the cavatelli just before serving and adjust seasonings as necessary.
  • Remember to save about a cup of the cavatelli cooking liquid. The starch in the pasta cooking water will help your sauce look and taste creamy.
  • Always grate your cheeses fresh as opposed to buying pre-grated cheese. The stuff that’s already grated, while convenient, is dusted with a coating that keeps it from sticking together. This coating will give your sauce a gritty feeling.

If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider a few more of our pasta recipes.

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Bowl of tender cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe, garnished with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a sprinkle of parmesan.

Cavatelli With Sausage And Broccoli Rabe


This Cavatelli With Sausage And Broccoli Rabe is Italian comfort food at its best.  Spicy sausage and bitter broccoli rabe are sauteed with tender cavatelli pasta in a garlicky, cheesy sauce.



3 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, sliced

Kosher salt to taste

2 pounds broccoli rabe, stems trimmed

12 ounces cavatelli pasta

4 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

½ cup grated Italian cheese

1 cup ricotta cheese, optional

Shaved Italian cheese for a garnish

Chopped, fresh parsley for garnish


In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil and the sliced sausage.

Cook, turning occasionally until browned and crisp around the edges – about 15 minutes.

Remove the sausage to a plate. Reserve the pan drippings.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a full rolling boil.  Add a handful of Kosher salt to the pot and return to a boil.

Toss in the broccoli rabe and cook, uncovered, until the vegetable is bright green and just tender, but still a bit crisp – about 5 minutes.

Use tongs to remove the broccoli rabe to a fine mesh colander. Chop into bite-size pieces.

Add the pasta to the boiling water.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente – about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the skillet, warm the pan drippings.  Add the garlic and cook until it is golden brown – about 5 minutes. If desired, stir in the red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute.

Add the broccoli rabe and sausage to the pan.  Toss with the garlic and cook until warm.

Drain the pasta in a colander, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Add the pasta with ¼ cup of the pasta water to the skillet.

Toss with the sausage and broccoli rabe.

Stir in the grated cheese.  Stir vigorously until the cheese is melted and a creamy sauce has formed.

Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl.  

Top the pasta with a mound of ricotta cheese.

Sprinkle with the shaved Italian cheese.

Serve the pasta warm with a spoonful of ricotta cheese on top, if desired.

Garnish with a sprinkling of additional Parmesan cheese and chopped, fresh parsley.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Main Dish - Pasta
  • Method: Saute, boil
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe, Italian food, pasta, Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, comfort food, Italian comfort food

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