A cheesy creamy sauce baked into spiraled al dente cavatappi noodles and topped with some fresh parsley. This baked creamy mac and cheese with cavatappi is sure to give you all of the nostalgic mac and cheese feelings you miss from your childhood. Creamy baked mac and cheese with cavatappi is the ultimate comfort food and is a recipe the whole family will adore.
This mac and cheese recipe is the perfect side dish, especially around the holidays. The thing I love about mac and cheese though is that it is more of a year round holiday side dish. It is not only great for the holiday season, but also for summer July 4th barbecues or a side dish at Easter. It is also a great recipe to make for a party. This is a go to recipe when it comes to kids parties when a large amount of guests need to be fed.
This was inspired by my Smoked Mac and Cheese with Bacon which can also be found on this site, and pairs well with this Double Bacon Smash Burger with Onions and Campfire Sauce.
- cavatappi pasta
- white cheddar cheese
- cheddar cheese
- heavy whipping cream
- salt and pepper
- garlic powder
See recipe card for quantities.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a pot, boil cavatappi noodles according to the directions on the package. Shred the block of cheese.
In a skillet on medium heat, melt butter. Add in flour to create a roux. Mix constantly to make sure the flour does not burn. Add in heavy cream and mix well. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes
Add in the shredded cheese. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook on medium low heat until the cheese is completely incorporated.
Mix together the cheese sauce and the noodles. Add the cheesy noodles to the casserole dish. Bake 10-15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
Hint: add extra pre-shredded cheese or panko bread crumbs on top of the mac and cheese prior to baking. Letting this extra cheese or bread crumb get a nice golden brown on top gives your dish an extra layer of texture and flavor.
- Cavatappi Noodles - if you need to use gluten free noodles, this is perfectly fine and can be switched out. You can also use elbow macaroni if you do not have access to cavatappi pasta.
- Cheese - dairy free cheese can be used as well, just switch it out. You can also add in cheese like monterey jack, pepper jack cheese or parmesan cheese in addition to the sharp cheddar to add extra flavor to the creamy baked macaroni and cheese.
- Heavy Whipping cream - you can switch this out for half and half or almond milk if you need a diary free version or whole milk is also an option.
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes while cooking to imbue heat into the dish. You can also add a little hot sauce to the cheese sauce if desired. Buffalo mac and cheese is an easy flavor to acquire with this recipe.
- Deluxe - add bacon, because who doesn't love bacon to elevate a dish? You can also add cream cheese to the homemade cheese sauce to add an extra layer of comfort and creaminess.
- Kid friendly - this recipe is already totally kid friendly but you can also choose to use some fun noodle shapes to make it more fun for kids. Elbow pasta might also be a better choice because it may be easier for younger children to eat.
See this Deluxe version on my website!
You don't need much for this recipe, just an oven, a casserole dish and a large skillet will do the trick! Make sure the baking dish you use is large enough to hold all of the macaroni and cheese. I suggest to use at least a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish. A large pot of salted water is also needed to cook the pasta.
I also suggest to use a cheese grater to grate the cheese by hand. Freshly grated cheese will allow it to melt into the cheese sauce much more evenly and will not leave behind specs of cheese. Sometimes that can happen with pre-shredded cheese bought in a bag because the preservatives covering the cheese prevent it from melting evenly.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to one week. This mac and cheese can also be frozen for up to two months in an airtight freezer safe container.
The mac and cheese leftovers can be reheated in the oven at 350 degrees for about 5-10 minutes depending on how much you are heating up. You can also pop it in the microwave to heat it up much faster.
Do not add too much flour to your roux! You want your cheese sauce to be thick and creamy, but not too thick. The cheese itself will help to also thicken the cheesy sauce but the flour helps to give extra thickness so that the bechamel sauce binds to your pasta. Additionally, always shred your cheese yourself from a block of cheese. You do not want to use pre-shredded cheese because it will not melt into the sauce evenly.
While I love a good stovetop mac and cheese recipe, I must admit, this homemade mac and cheese definitely takes the blue ribbon. There is just a fresh cheesy creaminess that stovetop cannot replicate.
When you add the flour to the butter, you create a roux. When a liquid is added, in this case heavy whipping cream, the roux acts as a thickener to make a creamy, cheesy sauce that is not too thin. If the sauce is too thin, it will run off of the noodle. When it is thicker, it binds nicely to the noodles to create the perfect mac and cheese duo. Make sure you cook the roux for about 2-3 minutes before adding the heavy whipping cream so that you do not have a raw flour taste standing out above the other awesome flavors in this sauce.
While it is suggested to include sharp cheddar to give that true mac and cheese flavor, there are a few cheeses that can be added in order to enhance those flavors. One of the best cheeses to add is pepper jack. Not only does it melt into the cheese sauce nicely, but it also adds a kick of slight spice. Nothing overwhelming but it definitely adds some delicious flavor. Another cheese that can be added is parmesan. This adds a nice level of salty flavor to the recipe. If parmesan is being added, shred it yourself. Parmesan is a harder cheese and does not melt super easy so shredding it with a cheese grater will speed up that process and allow it to incorporate into the cheese sauce evenly and nicely.
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
These are my favorite dishes to serve with Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese with Cavatappi:
Creamy Baked Mac and Cheese with Cavatappi
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a pot, boil cavatappi noodles according to the directions on the package. Shred the block of cheese.
- In a skillet on medium heat, melt butter. Add in flour to create a roux. Mix constantly to make sure the flour does not burn. Add in heavy cream and mix well. Allow to cook for about 3 minutes
- Add in the shredded cheese. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook on medium low heat until the cheese is completely incorporated.
- Mix together the cheese sauce and the noodles. Add the cheesy noodles to the casserole dish. Bake 10-15 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
- save leftovers in a Tupperware for up to 1 week.
- when eating leftovers, reheat in the oven for best results.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove