Cellentani Vs Cavatappi – What’s The Difference?

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How many different types of pasta can you name? Some of the most popular types include spaghetti, macaroni, penne, fettuccine, lasagna, fusilli, and linguine.

With over 50 types of distinct pasta, and even more if you differentiate them based on their sizes, it is almost impossible to get bored of this delicious food.

Cellentani and cavatappi are two other widely-used pasta types, though not as popular as the ones listed above. They both are rather similar in terms of their shape and size and it can often be difficult to tell them apart.

It is very important, though, to understand what makes them different from one another so that you can try these uniquely shaped pastas at home.

So, what is the difference between cellentani and cavatappi? The main difference between cellentani and cavatappi is that the former has more ridges than the latter. Apart from that, they both are tubular and corkscrew-shaped pasta and are used in similar pasta dishes.

Read on to find out more about the differences between cellentani and cavatappi, how they are used, whether one can be substituted for the other, and much more!

What Is Cellentani?

Cellentani (chay-len-TAH-nee) is a small tubular pasta meaning “whirls” in English, which is an excellent way to describe its shape that can be seen as locks of hair.

It has a ridged surface (with more ridges than cavatappi), is ideal for holding creamy sauces, tomato sauces, and chunky vegetable sauces, and is popular in dishes such as pasta salads.

What Is Cavatappi?

Cavatappi (cah-vah-TOP-pee) is also a short tubular pasta that gets its name from the Italian word for “corkscrew”. It is corkscrew-shaped, although relatively smoother in appearance, and is native to Southern Italy.

Also referred to as double elbows by some English speakers, cavatappi usually has lines or grooves on the outside surface.

Best used in entrées, side dishes, baked dishes, and pasta salads, it works wonderfully with just about any type of sauce and ingredients due to its spiral tube shape.

Difference Between Cellentani and Cavatappi

Cellentani and cavatappi are very similar to one another and you may not even be able to tell them apart unless you are looking closely. The main difference between them is that cellentani has more ridges than cavatappi.

Despite the subtle differences, you will often find several pasta brands using the two interchangeably. In fact, in certain areas of Italy, cavatappi is known as spirali, toriglione, and cellentani.

Best Uses For Cellentani and Cavatappi

Since cellentani and cavatappi are incredibly similar in their shape and size, they can often be used interchangeably and in the same recipes.

Due to their spiral and tubular shape, both types are ideal for all kinds of thick and light sauces, although the thicker the sauce, the better the pasta will hold on to it.

A popular choice for making pasta salad, the ridges and curves in cellentani and cavatappi allow them to incorporate minor ingredients such as finely chopped vegetables and dressing into every bite.

Compared to other pasta types, both cellentani and cavatappi retain their shape much longer, making sure you don’t end up with mushy pasta for pot lucks and catering events.

If you want to experiment with fun shapes when making your macaroni and cheese, you may opt for either of the two. The creamy cheese will stick to the pasta and it won’t turn mushy even when it is baked in the oven.

Since both cellentani and cavatappi are tubular and have a large hole going through their center, the pasta sauce will seep into the pasta.

This guarantees you’ll never get a dry bite, with every single spoonful having all the flavors you’ve incorporated into the dish.

When it comes to the flavor profile, regardless of whether you use cellentani or cavatappi, both will be the same and make an excellent base for your favorite pasta dish.

When it comes to choosing one out of the two, it all comes down to the texture you prefer since cellentani has more ridges than cavatappi.

Therefore, if you prefer a smoother texture, we suggest you go with cavatappi. However, for more texture, cellentani is the better choice due to its ridges.

Substitutes For Cellentani and Cavatappi

You can easily substitute cellentani for cavatappi, and vice versa, in any pasta dish without any issue. But for times when you can’t get your hands on either, you can substitute them with similar hollow and tubular-shaped pasta such as:

Elbow Macaroni

Elbow macaroni is an easy-to-find pasta that can easily be substituted in place of cellentani or cavatappi. It is a short, curved tube that is semicircular and available in different sizes. 

With a short cooking time, it can easily be prepared and is used in several recipes including soups, salads, and casseroles.

It pairs well with all kinds of sauces and, in the US, elbow macaroni is most commonly used to make the extremely popular macaroni and cheese.


Gemelli (meaning “twins” in Italian) is another great alternative to cellentani and cavatappi due to its interesting shape that looks like two separate strands of pasta rolled and twisted together.

It is, in fact, one long strand of pasta folded in half and twisted together which results in the pasta sauce holding beautifully in its twists and crevices.

Since it pairs well with all kinds of sauces, including meat sauces, tomato sauces, and cream sauces, gemelli is a popular choice for pasta salads and baked pasta dishes.


Derived from the Italian word fuso which means “spindle”, fusilli has a spring-like shape that is formed by spinning it around a small rod.

It belongs to the short-cut pasta category, and due to its ability to hold onto sauces, dressings, and other ingredients in its grooves, it makes a great substitute for cellentani and cavatappi.

It is available in different colors and varieties and comes in both fresh and dried forms. Its distinct shape makes it the ideal choice for cold salads and baking with layers of meat, cheese, and pasta sauce.


Rotini, meaning “small wheels” in Italian due to its distinct corkscrew-like shape, is similar to fusilli except for the tightness between its spirals.

Rotini is extruded into a twisted shape and can be found in different varieties of 2-edged or 5-edged spirals.

One of the best substitutes for cellentani and cavatappi due to its shape, rotini can retain flavors better and is often served in salads and prepared with tomato-based sauces.


Campanelle literally translates to “small bells” and is a bell-shaped pasta with petal-like edges and a hollow center.

Albeit delicate looking, it is a sturdy pasta that is great for capturing dairy-based sauces, meat sauces, tomato-based sauces, and vegetable sauces.

Related Questions

Now that you know the difference between cellentani and cavatappi, along with their best uses, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have:

How do you cook cellentani and cavatappi pasta?

Cooking cellentani and cavatappi pasta is incredibly easy since they retain their shape for longer and do not turn mushy like other types of pasta.

To cook them perfectly, it is best to refer to the instructions written on the package that they came in.

To cook your pasta, you need to bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and add salt to it. Next, add the dried pasta to the pot of water and give it a gentle mix. Let it return to a boil.

For authentic “al dente” pasta, let it boil uncovered for about 11 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you want your pasta to be more tender, boil it for an additional minute.

Once done, remove the pasta from the heat, drain it well, and serve it with your favorite pasta sauce or make a delicious pasta salad with it.

How can you fix overcooked pasta?

No one likes soggy, sticky, and overcooked pasta. Sadly, it is very easy to overcook pasta, with just a few extra minutes making the difference between perfectly cooked and overcooked pasta.

Your first thought would be to dump the overcooked pasta, but luckily, there are a few ways in which you can salvage your soggy mess.

You may try sautéing the pasta with a little bit of olive oil or butter in a non-stick pan until it regains some of its firmness. Be careful not to sauté it for too long or you might end up with overcooked and burnt pasta.

Alternatively, you may use the age-old method of rinsing your overcooked pasta with cold water. Place a few ice cubes on top of the pasta to make the water even colder. 

How can you avoid overcooking pasta?

To avoid overcooking pasta, you can follow a few easy tips to guarantee success.

These include using a big pot, salting your water, adding the pasta to the water only after it has started to boil, and making sure to stir the pasta frequently.

You can also use a timer to make sure you do not exceed the cooking time, and staying nearby so that you can keep an eye on it.

Up Next: Can Non-Stick Pans Go In The Oven?

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