Cavatini has been a family staple recipe since we first married. A lot of people have eaten this main dish from my kitchen over the years. We have served it to company, made it as an entrée for youth camps, and given it away for meals to new moms.
This is our all-time easiest and favorite recipe. It only uses a handful of ingredients but it is rich on taste and super kid-friendly. This is my go-to dish when I need to take a meal to someone without advanced notice–or I get unexpected company that shows up at my door. Everyone loves it. I usually double the recipe so it makes a lot. It’s just fabulous comfort food. Serve it with a salad, garlic bread and brownies and you’re all set.
I use ground beef, pepperoni, pre-made spaghetti sauce, rotini noodles, parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese. That’s it. The recipe is inspired from a dish that used to be served at the Pizza Hut salad bars during the 70s and 80s. But I really didn’t have a recipe.
You can add onions, mushrooms, peppers & garlic if you like, or use spaghetti sauce that already has it. You can omit the ground beef and use spaghetti sauce with ground meat or Italian sausage — or skip it entirely. But I really don’t recommend cutting out the pepperoni because that’s what gives this casserole its zip. If you want more kick, add 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper. If you want more seasoning, add 1 tsp. each of oregano, basil, parsley, and garlic salt.
I initially posted this recipe in July 2012. The pictures were of a poor quality so I’ve updated them (March 2014) so you can get a better idea of what this dish actually looks like. If you’re looking for a wonderful Italian main dish that’s super easy to make, economical and kid-friendly, then I highly recommend Cavatini. You won’t be disappointed.
Well, I’ve updated the pictures again, circa July 2017. This time I made this amazing main dish for our Friday night care group. I substituted gluten free pasta by using Ronzoni’s gluten free rotini noodles. I don’t think anyone could tell the difference! It’s always a big hit whenever I serve it.
Cavatini has always been one of our favorite main dish meals. My kids used to love having this for dinner when they were growing up.
Cavatini has lots of savory ground beef and pepperoni in spaghetti sauce with noodles and cheese galore!
I normally use rotini noodles, but I’ve also used farfelle noodles (bow-ties), penne, ziti or any other kind of noodle I have on hand. They all work quite well.
Here’s what I did:
I used these ingredients. I also added a partial jar of leftover spaghetti sauce for another recipe to make the full 48-ounces for a double batch recipe. I had already browned ground beef. I use 93%- 96% lean. Drain if you need to.
Boil and cook your noodles. I substituted gluten free rotini for regular rotini. (Gluten free noodles are slightly more fragile than regular noodles so take care not to overcook them. It’s better to cook them al dente rather than all the way through.) Drain.
Add cooked ground beef and spaghetti sauce.
Add pepperoni. I removed mine straight from the freezer so there are some ice crystals on the pepperoni.
Stir ingredients to combine.
Spray a 9×13″ glass baking dish with cooking spray. Pour Cavatini mixture into prepared dish.
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Since I was out of straight parmesan cheese I substituted a six-cheese Italian blend. Cover with foil (or the noodles will dry out).
Bake until bubbly–about 30 minutes depending on how much you make and the size of your casserole dish.
Remove casserole from oven and sprinkle top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
Return to oven for about 5-10 minutes until cheese melts. Don’t let the casserole stay in the oven so long that the cheese burns on top!
Cavatini is an amazingly kid-friendly meal. Whenever I have to prepare food for teenagers, this is usually on the menu!
Every bite of Cavatini will thrill your taste buds. You can use ANY flavor of spaghetti sauce you like.
You will love the way this casserole tastes!
Here’s the recipe.
(My concoction, but inspired by a dish Pizza Hut used to serve at their salad bars in the 70s and 80s)
- 1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained
- 1 32-oz. jars Prego spaghetti sauce
- 8-oz. box Rotini noodles, cooked and drained
- 3-oz. pkg. pepperoni
- Parmesan cheese
- 8-oz. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
- Mix cooked beef, pepperoni, noodles and spaghetti sauce.
- Place in a 9×13” baking dish that’s been sprayed with cooking spray.
- Sprinkle generously with Parmesan cheese.
- Cover with foil.
- Bake about 30-45 minutes at 350°, or until mixture is bubbly.
- Sprinkle with Mozzarella cheese and heat an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted.
The pepperoni gives this Italian dish a nice kick of flavor.
We have served this simple main dish to hundreds of people over the years and without fail, everyone has raved over it!
Cavatini is the real deal! Your family will love it.