Baked Ricotta Cavatelli in a Mascarpone Cheese Sauce
Inspired by a dish at Carmine’s Chicago, this Baked Ricotta Cavatelli in a Mascarpone Cheese Sauce is made with Handmade Italian Ricotta Cavatelli. This version of homemade pasta is similar to gnocchi in texture, but made with ricotta cheese rather than potato.
This post was originally published on January 15, 2010. It was updated with additional photos and commentary in June 2020.
Back in October when Bob’s and my families came to Chicago for my thesis seminar, we went to Carmine’s restaurant. Carmine’s is located on one of the hottest streets in Chicago, Rush Street, very close to what is referred to as “Viagra Triangle.” I don’t need to get into that, but basically it’s a premium location.
The restaurant has a nice ambiance. The first floor has a bar area that is louder than the table-only upstairs. Our party of 10 was seated upstairs away from the windows, but I can imagine that a table by the windows would give you an incredible view of Rush Street.
I ordered the most delicious pasta dish called the “Cavatelli al Forno,” described as “Homemade ricotta dumplings simmered in marinara with imported cheeses, topped with mozzarella and baked.”
The cavatelli had a texture almost gnocchi-like; dense but soft. I loved everything about this dish. It was super rich, but unbelievably tasty.
Coincidently, I had a recipe for ricotta cavatelli saved on my laptop desktop for quite some time before this visit to Carmine’s, and this was just the push I needed to try making it at home. I decided to try to recreate the entire dish, or at least my interpretation of it.
Handmade Italian Ricotta Cavatelli
I’ve never made my own pasta before, and although this is a tad different than most homemade pastas, I really enjoyed the experience! Shaping the cavatelli took quite a bit of time, but it was fun.
Like most homemade pasta, the dough comes together quickly, but the shaping of the pasta takes some patience. It’s just like working with Play Doh. You use the palm of your hand to rub the dough back and forth on a cutting board to shape it into long rolls, then cut the roll into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces. After the pieces have been cut, use your index and middle finger to press down on the top of the piece and push down and toward you to shape the cavatelli as in the photos below.
After the cavatelli are formed and rest for 30 minutes, they are added to salted, boiling water. Initially, they will sink to the bottom, but within 3 to 4 minutes, they will float to the top. When they float, they are done! You can pour them into a strainer or use a slotted spoon to transfer the into the strainer in batches. They are then ready to be used in the Baked Ricotta Cavatelli in a Mascarpone Cheese Sauce or topped with your favorite sauce. To save them for a later date, you can freeze them in a single layer at this point.
Baked Ricotta Cavatelli in a Mascarpone Cheese Sauce
To make this baked pasta dish, you melt the mascarpone cheese in a large pan and stir in your favorite tomato sauce. You are welcome to use homemade sauce. My favorite jarred sauces are Trader Joe’s Tomato Basil Marinara and Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce.
The pasta is then poured into a baking dish. Alternatively, you can use a cast iron skillet for melting the cheese and adding the sauce. The skillet can go right in the oven so no need to transfer to another dish. Top the pasta with slices of mozzarella or Provolone and bake.
This was a really delicious dinner! It’s very rich, filling, and satisfying. My only problem was that the cavatelli recipe doesn’t call for salt. I figured this was not a problem given the ricotta and the fact that the pasta is bathed in cheesy tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella, but I thought that the actual cavatelli themselves were a little bland. A sprinkle of salt into the dough would have made a big difference, so I’ve added it to the recipe below.
UPDATE: When I remade this adding the salt, the cavatelli were perfectly seasoned! All 3 of my kids ate this dinner and asked for more! That almost never happens! I highly recommend this dish!
These are the original photos published on January 15, 2020.
Gluten Free Baked Cavatelli
I made the Handmade Italian Ricotta Cavatelli using Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour in place of all purpose flour. The gluten free version was so good!!
Looking for More Pasta Recipes?
Check out my favorite Pastas:
Turkey Lasagna St Louis Style
Garlicky Shrimp Pasta
Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Linguine
Chicken and Pasta with Dijon Mascarpone Marsala Sauce
Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes
Summer Vegetable Pasta
Roasted Vegetable Orzo
Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers, and Onions
Spaghetti and Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Meatballs
Mushroom and Mascarpone Ravioli
Looking for more Ricotta Recipes?
Check out my favorite recipes featuring Ricotta cheese:
Easy Blueberry Cheese Danish
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes
Ricotta Gnudi in a Parmesan Broth
Five Veggie, Four Cheese Lasagna
- 3 cups all purpose flour or gluten free flour (1 pound)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 16 ounces ricotta cheese (1 pound)
- 2 large eggs (lightly beaten)
- Put 2 1/2 cups of the flour into a bowl and toss with the salt. Make a well in the flour, and add the cheese and eggs. Gradually work the mixture together, adding more flour if necessary, to make a soft but not sticky dough. The gluten free flour likely will not need more than the 2 1/2 cups.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it is smooth. Let the dough rest at room temperature in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, for 30 minutes.
- Form the dough into a round and cut into quarters. Working with one quarter at a time (cover the remaining dough in the bowl with plastic wrap), on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a rope, around 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch in diameter.
- With a knife, cut the rope into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces, depending on the size pasta you prefer. With your index and middle fingers held together, gently press down on each piece, beginning at the top and moving down toward the bottom, dragging your fingers toward you and causing the pasta to roll over on itself.
- Transfer the formed pasta to a lightly floured jelly-roll pan and let dry at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil.
- Salt the water, and add the pasta. Cook until the cavatelli are al dente. They are done when they float to the top, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the cavatelli, then use them them for Baked Ricotta Cavatelli with Mascarpone Cheese Sauce, or add your favorite sauce and serve. Alternatively, freeze them for later use.
- 1 batch Handmade Italian Ricotta Cavatelli
- 24 ounces of your favorite pasta sauce
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
- grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 slices mozzarella or Provolone cheese (or enough to cover the dish)
- olive oil for greasing baking dish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
- In a large saucepan, melt mascarpone cheese over medium heat. Stir in pasta sauce. Season with a little Parmesan cheese, if desired.
- Add ricotta cavatelli to sauce and stir to coat. Transfer to greased 9×13-inch baking dish. Top with mozzarella slices.
- Bake until cheese is melted, approximately 20 minutes.