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What pasta is similar to cavatappi?

Cavatappi is a type of macaroni, or hollow tubular pasta, that is made without using eggs. It features a helical, or corkscrew, shape that sets it apart from other pasta varieties like penne, rigatoni, or ziti. Cavatappi is very versatile and pairs well with a variety of sauces, meats, and vegetables. If you enjoy cavatappi and want to try other pasta shapes that are similar, here are some great options to consider.


Cellentani features the same helical shape as cavatappi but is a little bit shorter and more tightly wound. The name “cellentani” actually means “little cells” in Italian, referencing the shape of this pasta. While cavatappi has a hollow, tube-like shape, cellentani is instead rolled flat to make a spiral shape almost like a cinnamon roll. The texture when cooked is very similar though. Cellentani works perfectly in baked dishes that use cavatappi, like casseroles or macaroni and cheese, since the tighter helical shape helps scoop up sauce.


Gemelli pasta looks like two strands of spaghetti twisted together. The name “gemelli” means “twins” in Italian. While not exactly the same corkscrew shape as cavatappi, gemelli does have a similar texture when cooked al dente, with grooves and ridges that help grab sauce. Gemelli holds up especially well in hearty pasta dishes like ragu, Bolognese sauce, or meatballs. The twisted shape also gives more surface area than spaghetti, allowing it to soak up flavors.


Rotelle, also called ruote, wagon wheel, or chariot wheel pasta, features small wheel-shaped pieces with ridges radiating from the center. The wagon wheel shape has some visual similarity to the corkscrew of cavatappi. When cooked, rotelle has a nice chewy, dense texture that is great at holding onto thick, chunky sauces. Rotelle works very well in baked pasta dishes but also stands up nicely when served with meat sauces or pesto. The small size makes it perfect for soups too.


Radiatori is a small pasta with waves down the length to create a ridged, textured surface, similar to a radiator. The wavy shape gives plenty of grooves for sauce to adhere to, making raditori an excellent substitute anytime cavatappi is called for. It has the same versatility and pairs nicely with cream or cheese-based sauces. Radiatori works well in casseroles or as the base of pasta salads since the textured shape clings to dressings and veggies.

Mezzi Rigatoni

Mezzi rigatoni translates to “half rigatoni” in Italian. It features a short, wide, ridged tube shape that is basically a stubbier version of rigatoni. The tube-like shape allows mezzi rigatoni to scoop up sauce similar to cavatappi while the rigate texture holds onto sauce nicely. This pasta works well in baking dishes like lasagna or pastas with thick, chunky sauces. The shape stands up to prolonged cooking without becoming mushy.


Lumache are small, snail-shaped pasta shells perfect for trapping sauce in the crevices. Their shape is somewhat reminiscent of the spiral, helical cavatappi. When cooked, lumache has a nice firm texture and the grooves on the exterior allow sauce to cling to each piece. Lumache works very well in pasta salads, soups, casseroles, or pasta bakes. The small size makes this pasta perfect for pasta e fagioli bean soup or minestrone.


Calamarata features a wide, hollow tube shape that resembles the body of a squid (calamari in Italian). The rings around the length of the pasta mimic the suction cups on squid tentacles. While the shape is not an exact match for cavatappi, calamarata does mimic some properties when cooked al dente. It has a nice firm texture and the tube-like shape is great for trapping chunky sauces. This heartier pasta pairs nicely with seafood dishes.


Trenne pasta has a triangular, angular shape that allows sauce to get trapped in the crevices and ridges. When cooked al dente, trenne has a similar dense, chewy texture to cavatappi. The angular shape also mimics some of the ridges found in cavatappi. Trenne works nicely baked into casseroles and can withstand prolonged cooking without getting mushy. It also has the versatility to be served with a range of sauces, from pesto to Bolognese.


Campanelle are small, cone-shaped tubes of pasta with ruffled edges on one end. Their cone shape allows them to scoop up sauce similar to penne or cavatappi. When cooked al dente, campanelle has a notably resilient and toothsome texture. The fluted edges provide ridges that grab onto sauce. Campanelle works very well baked into casseroles or tossed with chunky vegetable or meat sauces.


Casarecce features a short, twisted shape that somewhat resembles cavatappi’s helical curls but condensed down into a small package. Casarecce translates to “homemade” in Italian, referencing its rustic look. The twists in the pasta help it hold onto sauces. When cooked al dente, casarecce has a pleasant toothsome texture similar to cavatappi. It works nicely in a variety of pasta applications from casseroles to pasta salads.

Fusilli Lunghi

Fusilli lunghi are long, tightly wound spirals of pasta. Their spring-like shape mimics the corkscrew shape of cavatappi on a smaller scale. When cooked, the fusilli lunghi corkscrews become flexible but still retain a pleasant toothsome bite. The long shape allows them to tangle with sauces and other ingredients. Fusilli lunghi can be served with a wide variety of sauces and ingredients thanks to its versatility.


Farfalle are the classic bowtie-shaped pasta. Although it may not seem similar at first glance, farfalle does share some cooking properties with cavatappi. The ruffled edges and pinched center create ridges and grooves that are effective at trapping and holding onto sauce. When cooked al dente, farfalle has a pleasing dense texture with a slight bounce. Farfalle works nicely in pasta salads, casseroles, or with cream or pesto-based sauces.


Cavatappi is a fantastic pasta shape that brings versatility to all kinds of dishes thanks to its unique corkscrew shape. Luckily, there are lots of other pasta varieties that can mimic cavatappi when its helical curls are not available. Pastas like cellentani, gemelli, rotelle, and raditori all feature spirals or ridges that can provide a similar texture and sauce-holding ability. Tubular pastas like mezzi rigatoni and calamarata also trap sauce effectively in their hollow shapes. Even pastas without an obvious visual similarity to cavatappi like farfalle can produce comparable results when cooked al dente. With all these pasta shapes to choose from, you can find a satisfying substitute to cavatappi for any recipe.

Pasta Shapes Similar to Cavatappi

Pasta Shape Texture Uses
Cellentani Tight corkscrew Chewy, holds sauce Casseroles, baked pastas
Gemelli Twisted strands Toothsome, grooved Hearty sauces, casseroles
Rotelle Wagon wheel Dense, chewy Thick sauces, soups, bakes
Radiatori Small wavy ridges Textured, chewy Cream sauces, salads, bakes
Mezzi Rigatoni Short wide ridges Sturdy, textured Thick sauces, casseroles
Lumache Snail shell Firm, sauce-trapping Soups, salads, bakes
Calamarata Ringed tube Hollow, chewy Seafood dishes
Trenne Triangular Dense, ridged Casseroles, baked pastas
Campanelle Fluted bell shape Toothsome, textured Vegetable sauces, bakes
Casarecce Short twisted shape Chewy, sauce-clinging Salads, creamy sauces
Fusilli Lunghi Long corkscrew Springy, chewy Versatile, pairs with many sauces
Farfalle Bowtie Toothsome, ridged Salads, pesto, cream sauces

Key Factors

When evaluating pasta shapes similar to cavatappi, here are some of the key factors to consider:

  • Ridges, grooves, or indents – Texture helps grab and hold onto sauce.
  • Hollow tube or corkscrew shape – Traps and scoops sauce.
  • Firm yet springy when cooked al dente – Won’t get mushy or clump together.
  • Pairs well with range of sauces – Versatile for multiple uses.
  • Sturdy enough for baking/casseroles – Holds up to prolonged cooking.
  • Fun, interesting shape – Mimics the uniqueness of cavatappi.

Focusing on these factors will help you find a cavatappi substitute with a comparable texture, sauce holding ability, cooking properties, and visual appeal.

Strategic Uses for Pasta Shapes

Certain pasta shapes tend to work better in specific recipes or preparation methods. Here are some examples:

  • Baked pastas/casseroles – Cellentani, rotelle, mezzi rigatoni
  • Pasta salads – Lumache, farfalle, campanelle
  • Creamy sauces – Radiatori, farfalle, casarecce
  • Hearty meat sauces – Gemelli, trenne, calamarata
  • Soups – Rotelle, lumache
  • Seafood dishes – Calamarata

Pairing the pasta shape with the right preparation method can maximize the texture and sauce holding abilities of the different pasta varieties. Cavatappi is very versatile, but some substitute shapes may work better for certain specific recipes.

Tips for Cooking

To bring out the best texture and performance of pasta shapes similar to cavatappi, follow these tips when cooking:

  • Cook until al dente – Firm, not mushy.
  • Don’t rinse after cooking – Preserves starches that help sauce adhere.
  • Reserve some pasta water – The starch can help thicken or emulsify sauces.
  • Slightly undercook pasta for casseroles – Finishes cooking fully when baked.
  • Toss and coat pasta well with sauce.
  • Serve immediately or cool quickly for salads.

Convenient Pasta Options

While dried pasta is very common, there are also some convenient fresh or pre-made pasta options to consider as cavatappi alternatives:

  • Fresh pasta – Sold refrigerated or frozen, cooks faster.
  • Pre-cooked shelf-stable pasta – Just needs quick rehydrating.
  • Canned pasta – Gemelli or rotelle in canned soups.
  • Frozen pasta entrees – Prefabricated casseroles or pasta bakes.
  • Gluten-free pasta – Shapes like fusilli or penne.

While the texture may vary slightly, these convenience options can still mimic some of the sauce holding benefits of cavatappi without needing to boil dried pasta.

Non-Pasta Substitutes

Outside of the pasta category, some other ingredients can substitute for cavatappi in certain recipes:

  • Vegetable noodles – Zucchini, butternut squash.
  • Rice noodles – Pad thai rice sticks.
  • Legumes – White beans, chickpeas.
  • Grains – Barley, farro, spiralized sweet potato.

Swapping in vegetables, grains, or legumes can provide a nice texture contrast and added nutrients. The sauce will cling and coat them in a similar way to pasta. Just take care not to overcook.

Most Similar Store-Bought Pastas

If you can’t find cavatappi, here are some of the most similar dried pasta shapes that are readily available at grocery stores:

  • Barilla Cellentani
  • De Cecco Fusilli
  • Mueller’s Penne Rigate
  • Creamette Rotelle
  • Rondo Mezzi Rigatoni
  • Bionaturae Casarecce

Checking the dried pasta aisle for these shapes will give you some good alternatives to cavatappi that mimic its texture and sauce holding capability. The brands listed offer very consistent shapes and cooking properties.


With its unique corkscrew shape, cavatappi pasta provides a fun, versatile base for all kinds of dishes. Thankfully, many other pasta varieties share similar properties when cooked al dente. Shapes like cellentani, rotelle, gemelli, or fusilli lunghi all offer comparable textures and an ability to grip sauces in their ridges and crevices. Tubular pastas like calamarata or mezzi rigatoni also trap and scoop up sauce effectively. Even flat ribbons like farfalle can make great substitutes. With all these pasta shapes readily available, you’ll have no problem finding a cavatappi stand-in that will bring that same enjoyment to your favorite recipes.