Platter of fresh cavatelli pasta in spicy tomato sauce garnished with chopped parsley

Cavatelli with Beets and Spicy Tomato Sauce

  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 75 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 55 minutes


Fresh semolina cavatelli pasta cooked in a bold tomato sauce with jalapenos, beets, and red onions Adapted from a Mario Batali Cooking Video


  • 1 beet, large (golden or red)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • ¼ to ½ of red onion, thinly sliced (use depending on your preference)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 jalapenos diced depending on heat preference, seeded and veins removed (optional)
  • ½ cup grana Padano or parmesan cheese
  • 1 ¾ lb fresh cavatelli pasta
  • Reserved pasta water, about 3 cups
  • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil


Roasting the Beet

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. If you are using the oven for another dish, the beet can be cooked at that temperature. They will cook faster at higher temperatures and slower at lower ones.
  2. If the beet still has its leaves, trim the leaves close to the stem. Scrub the beet thoroughly and wrap individually loosely in foil. Put the beet in a baking dish to avoid leaking while baking.
  3. Roast for an hour, checking occasionally. The beet is finished cooking when you can insert a skewer easily into the center.
  4. Let the beet cool for about 10 minutes or until it is cool enough to handle. Holding the beet in a paper towel or clean kitchen towel, using the other part of the towel to rub off the beet skin. The skin should come off easily; if it does not then put the beet back in the oven to continue cooking.
  5. Cut the beets into ½ inch cubes. Note that if you are using golden beets, you should wait to peel and cube the beets until right before making this dish as they will oxidize and turn brown.

Making the Pasta

  1. Set a large pot to boil and salt the water generously. Once boiling add the cavatelli for 2-5 minutes; cook until al dente. Check for doneness. Drain, reserving 3 cups of the pasta water. Toss the pasta in a tablespoon of olive oil so they do not stick. Set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat.
  3. Add in roasted, cubed beets. Cook for 3-4 minutes till lightly browned, then toss beets and cook 3-4 minutes more.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and add in an additional ½ tablespoon of olive oil.
  5. Add in diced jalapeno and cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Add in garlic and cook for additional 1 minute.
  7. Add in tomato paste, 1 cup of pasta water, and the red onion. Stir to combine. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Add in an additional ½ cup of pasta water. Stir to combine.
  9. Add in the reserved cavatelli pasta. Stir to coat with sauce.
  10. Cook pasta in sauce for another 5-7 minutes. If at any point your sauce gets too thick or you want it to be thinner, add in additional pasta water starting with a ¼ cup. The sauce should end up smooth and creamy.
  11. Once the sauce is at the consistency you want, add in the ½ cup of grana Padano and stir to combine. Serve immediately.


  • The recipe calls for a large amount of pasta because I made it with fresh cavatelli, which are denser. If you don’t have fresh cavatelli you can certainly substitute dried pasta, but I would start with ½ to ¾ can of tomato sauce then add more as needed.
  • Save your pasta water!!! I tend to cook the pasta before the sauce, so I have the starchy pasta water on hand to add. I would save about 3 cups of pasta water to be safe.
  • The red onion and jalapeno quantities are personal preference. I use more of both because I love red onion and the heat from jalapenos, but feel free to use less or omit completely.
  • Category: Pasta
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: pasta, cavatelli, tomato sauce, tomato paste, jalapenos, red onions, beets