3 Cheese Cavatappi

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Creamy, dreamy, and delicious, cavatappi is baked in a velvety rich cheese sauce.

This dish makes a great side or main dish! Pump up the flavor and add in some steamed broccoli and rotisserie chicken for a heartier meal. Add the cheeses listed in the recipe below or use your own favorites.
taking a spoonful of 3 Cheese Cavatappi out of the casserole dish

What is Cavatappi?

Cavatappi is a macaroni masterpiece! The noodles are are corkscrew-shaped and ridged, so they cling to all that cheesy sauce!

This hearty, rustic shape pairs well with thick sauces (like this cheese sauce) or meaty sauces like a bolognese sauce! The spiral shape will catch all of the sauce in the curves for great flavor in every bite.

This dish is a great way to use up leftovers, add some cooked, chopped bacon, or slices of cooked chicken breast for a heartier dish.

ingredients to make 3 Cheese Cavatappi

Ingredients and Variations

Cheddar, Gruyere, and Parmesan cheese deliver full flavor! Switch it up by using your favorite cheeses; Swiss, Havarti, or mozzarella.

In case cavatappi can’t be found, choose a pasta with a shape that will hold the cheese sauce. Rigatoni, penne, fusilli are good choices.

This is a basic cheese sauce that starts with a roux  (butter and flour cooked together).  Milk is added and cooked until thick and bubbly.

How to Make Cheese Cavatappi

  1. Cook Pasta – Cook pasta al dente (a little bit firm). Keep in mind it’ll cook a bit more in the oven.
  2. Make Sauce – Meanwhile, saute onion in butter. Whisk in flour and cook. Stir in milk and cream until smooth.

melting cheese sauce to make 3 Cheese Cavatappi

  1. Add Cheese – Add seasonings, remove saucepan from heat, and mix in cheese.
  2. Bake – Combine cavatappi and cheese in a dish and bake until golden and bubbly.

3 Cheese Cavatappi in bowls and a casserole dish

Serve With…

This cavatappi is rich so we love to serve it with something fresh and/or light.


Secrets for Success

  • Once flour & butter are cooked add milk/cream a little bit at a time stirring after each addition. The mixture will be very thick at first.
  • Once the sauce is thickened remove it from the heat before adding the cheese. Cooking cheese at a high temperature can cause it to separate.
  • To brown the cheese a bit, turn the oven on to broil for a minute or two before serving.

Creamy Cheesy Pasta

Did your family love this 3 Cheese Cavatappi? Be sure to leave a comment and rating below! 

close up of creamy 3 Cheese Cavatappi
5 from 7 votes
Review Recipe

3 Cheese Cavatappi

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 47 minutes
Rest Time 5 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 12 minutes
Servings 6
Author Holly Nilsson
This 3 Cheese Cavatappi is creamy, cheesy, and perfect for a crowd!


  • 1 pound cavatappi
  • 1 small onion diced, about ⅔ cup
  • cup butter
  • cup flour
  • 1 ¾ cups milk
  • 1 ¼ cup light cream about 10-12% MF
  • ½ teaspoon seasoned salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1 cup gruyere cheese or swiss cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup fresh parmesan cheese shredded


  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese shredded

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  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Cook cavatappi al dente (firm) according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, cook onion in butter over medium heat until tender. Whisk in flour and let cook 2 minutes while stirring.
  • Add in milk and cream a little bit at a time stirring until smooth after each addition.
  • Stir in seasonings and bring to a boil over medium heat and let boil 1 minute.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in shredded cheeses until smooth and creamy.
  • Toss sauce with cooked cavatappi and spread into a greased 9x13 pan.
  • Top with remaining cheese and bake 22-27 minutes or until bubbly. Do not over cook.
  • Rest 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. 
To reheat, simply put in the microwave on a plate until heated through. 

Nutrition Information

Calories: 931, Carbohydrates: 69g, Protein: 42g, Fat: 54g, Saturated Fat: 33g, Cholesterol: 167mg, Sodium: 1003mg, Potassium: 420mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 1732IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 989mg, Iron: 2mg

(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)

Keyword 3 cheese cavatappi, cheese cavatappi, cheese cavatappi recipe, how to make cheese cavatappi
Course Dinner, Entree, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine American
3 Cheese Cavatappi in a bowl with writing
close up of 3 Cheese Cavatappi with writing
3 Cheese Cavatappi in casserole dish with writing
3 Cheese Cavatappi close up with a title and finished dish plated
About the author


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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

More Posts by Holly

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