Caccavelle Pasta alla Sorrentina.

Caccavelle Pasta alla Sorrentina.

Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina is a flavourful and rich traditional baked pasta recipe from Campania, in particular Sorrento. In this version, the pasta is giant 50g pasta shells said to be the biggest pasta in the world!

Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

Pasta alla Sorrentina.

Baked pasta alla Sorrentina is a typical Neapolitan recipe the most famous version of which is gnocchi alla Sorrentina.  For the gnocchi version, potato gnocchi are baked in a tomato sauce with mozzarella and basil. However, there are a number of different ‘alla sorrentina’ recipes. Many Italians also serve other types of pasta this way and I have found recipes for paccheri, strozzapreti, scialatielli and fusilli alla Sorrentina; either al forno (baked) or served without baking.

Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

In addition, there are ‘alla Sorrentina’ recipes that include meat. These are most often those made with filled pasta such as cannelloni (manicotti) or conchiglioni. This caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina recipe includes meat and could also be made with conchiglioni instead of caccavelle.

ingredients for caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

Caccavelle giant pasta shells from Gragnano.

As I mentioned above caccavelle are giant pasta shells which weigh 50 grams each. It seems that they are made by only one company; The Gragnano Pasta Factory in Gragnano, near Naples.

finely chopped carrots, celery and onions in frying pan

You can read more about caccavelle and pasta di Gragnano if you click here! I bought this pasta online and as far as I know you can order it through the producers or online Italian food retailers.

minced veal, carrots, onions and celery in frying pan

Cooking caccavelle.

Caccavelle are usually cooked in individual glazed terracotta pots. In fact, the word ‘caccavelle’ means ‘pots’ in Neapolitan dialect. I’m not sure if the name derives from the fact that these large pasta pieces look like little pots or because they’re traditionally cooked in little pots!

tomato passata, minced veal, onions, carrots and celery in frying pan

Either way, when I ordered this pasta online, I also bought the typical terracotta pots to cook the dish in. However, you can  bake these giant shells in one large oven dish or use small individual oven to tableware.

meat ragu for caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

Making this Caccavelle alla Sorrentina recipe.

Like many other Italian al forno recipes, this caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina takes a little while to make as it includes a meat ragu which has to be made first.

meat ragu in terracotta pots

These kinds of dishes are usually eaten on Sundays or holidays in Italy because they are more time consuming to prepare. Having said that, they are well worth the effort and so delicious!

Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

Apart from the ingredients needed to make the meat ragu this caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina includes some fresh mozzarella, fresh ricotta and grated Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano.

Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

Because the caccavelle are large, they have to be pre-boiled before assembling the final dish and baking it. Each giant pasta shell is then filled with a layer of ragu, then some mozzarella and ricotta, another layer of ragu, mozzarella and ricotta and finally the grated parmigiana.

Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

If serving in individual portions you can leave the caccavelle in their pots. Otherwise plate with some of the sauce from the bottom of the dish.  Whichever way you serve this recipe, I’m sure you’re going to fall in love with this dish AND the pasta.

Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

If you make this caccavelle alla Sorrentina recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon Appetito!

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5 from 12 votes
Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina
Caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
1 hr 10 mins
Total Time
1 hr 30 mins

This delicious Neapolitan baked pasta recipe is made with the biggest pasta in the world filled with meat ragu and cheese and baked in the oven. Perfect for Sunday lunch and holiday menus.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Campania, Italian, Southern Italian
Keyword: baked pasta recipe, caccavelle, pasta al forno
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 4 caccavelle giant pasta shells
For the ragu
  • 1 onion peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 carrots washed and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks washed and finely chopped
  • 300 g veal minced (10oz) you can also use beef or pork
  • 1 Lt tomato passata (33floz) I use Cirio rustica which is thicker.
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Other filling ingredients
  • 200 g mozzarella (7oz) drained and cut into small pieces
  • 200 g fresh ricotta (7oz)
  • 50 g Parmigiano Reggiano (2oz) grated
  1. Start preparing the minced meat ragu which is the main part of the caccavelle filling. 

  2. Wash and finely chop the celery and carrot. Peel the onion and chop finely too.

  3. Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan or skillet and soften the chopped vegetables in the heated oil.

  4. Then add the minced meat and brown it. Use a wooden spoon to separate and mix it. When the meat has browned add the white wine. Let the alcohol evaporate and then add the tomato passata. Mix everything together well.

  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat and simmer covered for at least 30 minutes. The longer you cook the ragu, the better it tastes.

Cook the pasta
  1. In the meantime, put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again. Cook the caccavelle until they are al dente. Usually about 10-12 minutes.

  2. Save a cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta. Make sure there’s no water inside the pasta shells. 

Finish the dish
  1. Cut the mozzarella and ricotta into small pieces. 

  2. If your sauce is too dry, add some of the saved pasta cooking water and mix.

  3. Put a little sauce in each individual small oven dish.

  4. Place a caccavella in each pan and fill the pasta shell half way with some meat sauce. Add the diced mozzarella and a little ricotta. Cover with more sauce, then add more mozzarella, ricotta and again ragu. Finally sprinkle with grated Parmigiano.

  5. Bake the caccavelle in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

If you don't have caccavelle you can make this recipe with other large pasta shells such as conchiglioni or lumaconi. 

The sauce needs to be quite liquidy as the pasta will absorb it and you don't want it to dry out.

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caccavelle pasta alla Sorrentina

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  • Avatar
    Beth Neels
    March 15, 2019 6:45 pm

    I have never seen shells that big! i am going to use your link to buy some! I know my family love them! I also love the way you add all of the vegetables to your sauces! Really bumps up the nutrition!

  • Avatar
    Rose Mary Mariucci
    January 4, 2019 9:02 am

    Very Impressive! Can you buy these pasta shells in the USA or on line?

    • Jacqui
      January 4, 2019 11:09 am

      Hi Rose! Aren’t these pasta shells beautiful? I bought them online via Amazon Italia. However, I’m not sure if they can be bought through Amazon in other countries or online from US Italian food companies. I have also seen this pasta for sale on line on a website called and at Italian airport shops. I suggest you contact the producers to find out more. Do let me know if you manage to get some.

  • Avatar
    December 28, 2018 10:51 pm

    These huge pasta shells are so fun! I love the looks of this meal!

    • Jacqui
      December 29, 2018 1:01 pm

      Thank you so much Kim! I LOVE these pasta shells! I bought more and am looking forward to making more recipes with them!

  • Avatar
    Carla Cardello
    December 28, 2018 6:34 pm

    This dish is so amazing! My family requests it over and over again!

    • Jacqui
      December 29, 2018 1:03 pm

      I agree Carla! My family love these baked shells too!

  • Avatar
    December 28, 2018 6:10 pm

    These are darling! At first I thought they were little bowls made out of pasta, The step-by-step photos make this recipe so easy to follow.

    • Jacqui
      December 29, 2018 1:05 pm

      Thank you Annissa! Well the pasta does actually look like little bowls! I love serving them in those individual bowls though. It looks fabulous!

  • Avatar
    Cliona Keane
    December 28, 2018 6:07 pm

    WOW! Those are some amazing looking pasta shells. I love the sound of this recipe!

    • Jacqui
      December 29, 2018 1:07 pm

      Grazie Cliona! Yes these giant pasta shells are unique and this recipe is so yummy! I can’t wait to try some different recipes with these pasta shells too!

  • Avatar
    December 28, 2018 5:44 pm

    I love this pasta shape. So neat that it makes individual bowls filled with meaty and cheesy goodness. My kids would think these are so fun!

    • Jacqui
      December 29, 2018 1:08 pm

      I love this pasta too Jill. And serving it in individual bowls is very cool! I’m sure your kids would love this for dinner!

  • Avatar
    Monica | Nourish + Fete
    December 28, 2018 5:22 pm

    Oh my goodness, I love how these are served in those adorable individual dishes! What a fantastic presentation for entertaining- or eating on the couch, haha! Love anything “alla sorrentina” and definitely loving this recipe.

    • Jacqui
      December 29, 2018 1:10 pm

      Aren’t they wonderful Monica? I’m totally in love with these pasta shells in their individual bowls. Can’t wait to try some other recipes with them in the New Year!

  • Avatar
    Jessica Formicola
    December 28, 2018 5:16 pm

    This looks like total comfort food! I know my family will love this!

  • Avatar
    Danielle Wolter
    December 28, 2018 4:23 pm

    Just delicious! You had me at fresh ricotta! LOL. This is like ultimate comfort food 🙂

  • Avatar
    Tayler Ross
    December 28, 2018 4:12 pm

    I have never had this type of pasta, but wow does it look good! I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  • Avatar
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    December 28, 2018 2:22 pm

    This looks so good! I am a big fan of pasta and this looks like a dish I certainly need to try!

  • Avatar
    Claudia Lamascolo
    December 28, 2018 1:10 pm

    Everytime I come to this blog I drool all over the keyboard. This looks fantastic as always I love how this is served. What an elegant dish for the holiday! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you. all the best Claudia

    • Jacqui
      December 28, 2018 2:22 pm

      Grazie cara Claudia! I’m happy you like my blog and this recipe. I also love the way these giant pasta shells can be cooked and served as individual portions! Yes, this would make a great holiday dish! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you too. Un abbraccio!

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