Monday, April 28, 2014

Recipe: My Mom's Cavatini

So, just a quick recap.

My family is not Italian.

At all.

But when I was growing up, we were kind of poor really poor.

We were always fed. And happy. But sometimes things got...creative.

Like this dish, which I'm pretty sure my mom copied from Pizza Hut/invented by throwing together everything in the fridge and praying.

And it worked!

This dish was a staple of my childhood, and we make huge batches of it to freeze, share, or just gorge ourselves on. It lasts forever frozen, the leftovers reheat well, you can put really anything into it, and it's so good.

So here's how to make My Mom's Cavatini!

First, here's my mom:

Now, the ingredients!
This is endlessly customizable. If you don't like something, or really like something, add more or take it out. I won't judge!

Rotini pasta (depends on how many people you're feeding how much you need - we used 2 bags for a giant buffet pan full)
Tomato Sauce (again, depends on how many people)
Diced Italian Tomatoes
Mushrooms (we use fresh, but canned are fine)
Green Peppers
Black Olives
Canned Green Chiles (I know these aren't really Italian - but they're so good!)
Pepperoni (you COULD use turkey pepperoni I guess, but it's gross and you're a bad person for thinking about it)
Garlic (or garlic salt or powder)
Italian Seasoning
Crushed Red Pepper

So you want to have a large pot to make the sauce in.

Start by chopping everything to roughly the same size.

First we did the pepperoni and onion.

(Sausage would be good, or chicken - we just always do pepperoni because it's cheap!)

Then the green pepper:

Just throw everything in as you go.

Then the mushrooms.

(We used about half this package.)


Next the olives.

I love olives.

So much.

You can can chop them:

Or, you can be like my mom. She crushes them "like they're the heads of her enemies."

(In the background, you can hear my dog and my parents' dogs squeaking a toy, then playing. General chaos, really.)

Also, does anyone else feel like this when they hear their own voice recorded?

Is that my voice?


Next the diced tomatoes. We used 2 cans.

Then the chiles and tomato sauce. About 1 can of chiles and 2 of sauce. Really you're just trying to get a consistency you like, so sauce or don't sauce as you please!

Then stir it all together!

Then take a picture of the dogs begging!

You want to stir it, maybe add a bit more sauce, and put it on low-medium low heat. You don't want to turn the heat up too high because you'll burn the sauce. Low and slow baby, low and slow.

Stir for a bit, then add the salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper to taste. We like spices, but it's a matter of taste.

Then cook this for about 30-45 minutes or so. Longer won't hurt it, just remember to stir. The longer it cooks the more the flavors come together. Low and slow means you won't get squishy onions or peppers, so keep an eye on it, taste it every once in awhile, and just let it go.

So this results in some liquid, clearly. What my mom does, which is genius, is drain the sauce but save the liquid, then just add water to it to cook the pasta in. So all of that veggie liquid is getting cooked into the pasta as well. Doesn't use as many pots AND flavors the water.

It looks disgusting.

But this adds so much flavor!

Here's the sauce with no pasta.

When the pasta is just cooked (I like my pasta almost undercooked - and remember, you're going to bake this!) the pasta gets drained and then goes into the sauce.

(Also, we use rotini but you can use whatever.)


Then you put a bunch of cheese on top!

Grated mozzarella is what we use, but fresh would be good, or an Italian blend.

Bake at 350 until the cheese melts.

We serve cavatini with garlic bread to mop up the sauce.

And here's the finished product about to be eaten!

So basically this is the perfect meal. And, really, yeah pepperoni isn't that good for you, but if you used whole wheat (which I hate) or veggie rotini, and cut down on the cheese, this is super healthy. As is, there are a ton of veggies, and it's cheap, filling, and a great meal that I've never EVER had anyone dislike!


  1. Yum! Made me hungry and made me remember a meal or two of this! Also, I really love the pic of you and Anna. BTW, you really look like her! I notice it more every time I see you!

    1. Aw, thank you! I'm blonde now, but when my hair is darker it's kind of freaky!

  2. That is such a mouth-watering dish! I love pasta, so seeing your post really made me crave to eat a plate. Hahaha! The ingredients are all easy to find, and I can't wait to try to make my own version. Thanks for sharing that amazing recipe, Amber! Happy cooking!

    Brian Carter @ Restaurant Business Broker

    1. Thanks Brian! It came out of just throwing things together, but that's the best sometimes!