Napoli forward Cavani was a revelation in Serie A last season, scoring 26 goals in 35 games to finish second in the scoring charts behind Udinese's Antonio Di Natale.
But this season he has struggled to find the net. Although he scored a hat-trick against AC Milan, he has managed to score only one other goal in seven more championship games.
He has only one goal in his last 11 internationals and failed to score in Uruguay's Copa America victory in July.
But Tabarez is delighted with the 24-year-old's contribution to the team.
"He's an important player for us. He fights hard, he tries to play and when he doesn't manage to do so, he still fights and that's important," said Tabarez.
"A player like Cavani may not be playing his best (right now) but that can happen.
"Maybe Cavani's best moment was last year but beginnings (to the season) are always difficult.
"Maybe there was a problem at the beginning between his club and national team but the only way to resolve it is to communicate, to do the best for both teams.
"He scored in the first international break (in October) but the importance of Cavani is his sense of the team and it's not just me who says it—the Italy coach (Cesare Prandelli) also said it."
Just as he forms part of a fabled attacking triumvirate alongside Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi and Slovakia's Marek Hamsik with Napoli, Cavani is part of a similar trio in the national team with Liverpool's Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan of Inter Milan.
Suarez stayed on the bench in Tuesday's 1-0 victory against Italy here while Forlan, 32, has been injured for a month.
But Tabarez believes that former Manchester United striker Forlan can still play an important role for the struggling Italian giants.
"I think so, there's no reason not to, he's a very good player," said Tabarez in Italian (he coached in Italy for a couple of seasons in the mid-1990s, including an unsuccessful spell with AC Milan that lasted just 11 league games).
"He's very technical, he shoots very well and for us he decides when to go for goal and when to come back into midfield.
"He gives us the possibility to play with three forwards. None of them are creators or midfielders but when we play with Forlan, Cavani and Suarez, we play very well because each has his function.
"Suarez goes to get the ball, he's very creative, he scores goals. To facilitate this Diego can adapt to any role.
"I can't wait for him to come back because he has courage and wants to show what he can do. I'm sure he will."