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Cavatelli with Hot Italian Sausage

By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:

More comfort food from Italy! This time with the flavor of southern Italy.

Frederick II meets Al-Kamil. Nuova Cronica, c. 1348.

Cavatelli is a local type of eggless pasta, typically served with thick sauces. Cavatelli is a short, concave pasta, and its name means "little hollows." It has been part of the culinary heritage of the Molise and Apulia regions in southern Italy for centuries and spread over the peninsula at the beginning of the thirteen century.

This particular kind of pasta is known as a peasant food and is one of the oldest pasta shapes in Italy. But in 1200, cavatelli was enhanced by cooks of the noble families with rich sauces made with sausages and ground lamb or pork. Then, when the New World was discovered, the tomato took center stage and was used in one of the best sauces to serve over cavatelli (still is).

Frederick II of Naples was fond of them, and legend has it that cavatelli was invented under his reign. It was the main course of court dinners and banquets, usually cooked with sausages and peas. Surely it was also served at the historic “Colloquium General”—the meeting of all royal officials and dignitaries held in Foggia Apulia on April 8, 1240.

Cavatelli with Sausage

1 lb (500 g) cavatelli pasta

3 tbsp. Olive Oil

1 hot Italian sausage

1 onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp chili flakes

14 oz (400 g) canned crushed tomatoes in thick purée

3 tbsp. grated Pecorino Romano


In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over moderate heat. Remove the sausage skin and add the sausage to the oil, breaking up the meat with a fork until it is no longer pink.

Reduce to moderate heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan.

Stir in the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent.

Add the tomatoes and chili pepper flakes. Simmer until thickened.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the cavatelli "al dente." Drain the cavatelli and toss with the sausage sauce and the Pecorino cheese.

Serve with additional Pecorino Romano.


Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), The Grimore, The Magic of the Moon, and Magic Herbs (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).

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