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.
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 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
- Cook Pasta – Cook pasta al dente (a little bit firm). Keep in mind it’ll cook a bit more in the oven.
- Make Sauce – Meanwhile, saute onion in butter. Whisk in flour and cook. Stir in milk and cream until smooth.
- Add Cheese – Add seasonings, remove saucepan from heat, and mix in cheese.
- Bake – Combine cavatappi and cheese in a dish and bake until golden and bubbly.
This cavatappi is rich so we love to serve it with something fresh and/or light.
- Cucumber Dill Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
- Favorite Roasted Cauliflower
- Cabbage Salad
- Easy Kale Salad
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
- Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- Chicken Alfredo Bake
- Easy Stuffed Manicotti
- Velveeta Mac and Cheese
- Homemade Chicken Spaghetti
Did your family love this 3 Cheese Cavatappi? Be sure to leave a comment and rating below!
3 Cheese Cavatappi
- 1 pound cavatappi
- 1 small onion diced, about ⅔ cup
- ⅓ cup butter
- ⅓ 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.
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and brands of ingredients used.)