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 23 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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3 Cheese Cavatappi

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


  • 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.


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. 
5 from 23 votes

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.

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


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About the author

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!
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Recipe Rating


  1. Thank you for this recipe. This has been my go to mac and cheese recipe for Thanksgiving for YEARS and it’s always been a hit.5 stars