If you need a quick but delicious mid-week dinner then you’re in the right place. This creamy baked cavatappi pasta is an adult version of your childhood favorite mac n cheese and will bring back so many great memories with every cheesy bite.
Cavatappi is a variety of macaroni and literally as ‘corkscrew’ in Italian. It’s shaped like a tube which makes it perfect for cooking with rich creamy sauces like in this recipe.
What Are The Main Ingredients In Creamy Baked Cavatappi Pasta?
There’s nothing difficult about this recipe and most of the ingredients you’ll need should be sitting in your pantry already, or at least only a short drive away at your local grocery store.
- Cavatappi Pasta
- Olive Oil & Unsalted Butter
- All-purpose Flour
- Heavy Cream
- Salt & Pepper
- Cheddar Cheese
Can I Use Substitutes?
This recipe can easily be substituted with more dietary-friendly alternatives especially for those who are dairy-free or vegan. You can use any plant-based milk or vegan cheese you would like. When buying vegan cheese, make sure to buy a block and not pre-shredded cheese as this will be more difficult to melt. Violife tends to do the best vegan cheese as it melts more easily than dairy cheese does.
You can also use gluten-free pasta if necessary and also substitute the all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour.
What Additional Ingredients Go Well With This Recipe?
- Extra Cheese - If you’re cheese lovers like us, then you can add as much extra cheddar cheese as you like or even use some other types of cheese to give this recipe a more well-rounded flavor that exudes class. Sometimes, if we don’t have cheddar lying around in our cupboards or when we’ve experimented with this recipe in the past we’ve used gouda or even some parmesan to mix in with our creamy cavatappi pasta.
- Garlic - Garlic will take this recipe up a notch if you’re looking for something with extra pizzazz. When melted the unsalted butter in the pan, add in 2-4 minced garlic cloves to fry them before adding in the rest of the creamy components. You can also use garlic oil to infuse the liquid mixture when layering your creamy cavatappi pasta into your baking dish, sprinkle some garlic powder between each layer to give this recipe an extra something.
- Chicken - If you want to cook this recipe as a main dish for your family, then why not add in some good protein by using some chicken. You’ll need to grill or fry off your chicken before adding it with the cavatappi pasta into the creamy sauce.
How To Make Creamy Baked Cavatappi Pasta
Cook Your Pasta
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil on the stove. Once boiled add in your cavatappi pasta and cook until it’s al dente. (Watch whilst it cooks or cook for 1 minute less than recommended on packaging)
- Drain the pasta and then add to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and mix gently so the pasta doesn’t all stick together
Make Your Cheese Sauce
- In a large pan or skillet, melt your butter on medium heat, once melted add in your flour, salt and pepper, and whisk for 2 minutes until blended well.
- Now pour in your heavy cream and milk and continue to stir thoroughly. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue to cook until the mixture has thickened slightly.
- Remove your pan from the heat and add in 1 cup of your shredded cheddar cheese (or substitute cheese) and mix until it’s melted and thickened.
Assemble Everything In Your Baking Dish
- Before adding everything to your baking dish, you’ll need to add your al dente cavatappi pasta into your cheese sauce in the pan and mix gently so everything is evenly coated
- Pour half your cheesy pasta into your baking dish and then sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese
- Add the remaining cheesy cavatappi and then sprinkle with what cheese you have left.
- Bake your creamy cavatappi pasta in the oven for 15-20 minutes, remove and leave to cool for 5 minutes before garnishing with chopped parsley before serving
Our Best Tips For Perfecting This Recipe:
- Cooking your cavatappi pasta al dente in the pan of water is key to achieving the right consistency once it’s baked. Overcooking the pasta in the water will turn your pasta to mush when it’s cooking in the creamy sauce in the oven.
- Don’t leave your creamy mixture unattended whilst cooking on the stove, otherwise you could risk the mixture burning if the heat is too high. Make sure to continuously stir it throughout cooking.
- Remember, this recipe is what we love and what you love might be different - so don’t be afraid to add extra seasoning like salt and pepper to your taste or even add in some dried or fresh herbs or spices whilst making the creamy sauce.
How To Store Your Creamy Baked Cavatappi Pasta
This recipe is ideal for making for the week ahead, so once it’s finished baking in the oven, transfer it to an airtight container and let it cool thoroughly before putting it in the refrigerator. You can then microwave your portion of your delicious cavatappi pasta when needed.
This recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days and keeping it in an airtight container will ensure it lasts longer. If this recipe is used for meal prep, make sure you’re reheating individual portions and not the entire quantity of the recipe each time.
Creamy Baked Cavatappi Pasta Recipe Card
Preparation Time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 15 mins Total Time: 30 mins
Calories per serving: 523 kcal Serves: 6 people
Mac n cheese was a firm favorite in our families growing up, but now we’re older and considered ‘adults’ we thought we’d try and bring our take to this classic family dish. This Creamy baked cavatappi pasta recipe has all the same delicious ingredients that make mac n cheese so popular but with a grown-up twist that will have all your dinner guests going back for seconds.
As we mentioned above, you can substitute or remove any of the ingredients in this recipe for dietary requirements. This serves around 6 people depending on how generous you are with your portion sizes and works wonders as both the main dinner meal or even as a side dish on Thanksgiving.
- ½ lb of uncooked cavatappi pasta
- 2 tsp of olive oil
- 3 tbsp of unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp of all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cup of milk
- ¾ cup of heavy cream
- 1 tbsp of salt
- ⅛ tsp of black pepper (and more to garnish)
- 2 ½ cups of shredded cheddar cheese
- Fresh parsley (for garnishing)
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and then grease a square baking dish and set it aside for later (make sure your baking dish is big enough by adding the uncooked pasta to it beforehand to see if it all fits)
- On the stove, bring a large pan of water to the boil and add half a teaspoon of salt. Once the water is boiling add in your cavatappi pasta, stir to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan, and cook until al dente (overcooking will result in the pasta being soggy when it’s baking in the oven)
- Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it and drizzle the pasta with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix to make sure the pasta doesn’t stick together. Set it aside on the counter to cool whilst you continue to make your cheese sauce
- In a new saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter over medium heat (turn down if it begins to burn) and then add in your flour, the remaining half a tablespoon of salt and black pepper and whisk for 2 minutes to ensure everything is mixed
- Then gradually begin pouring in your milk and heavy cream into the pan and continue to stir. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook the mixture for a few minutes until bubbles start to appear on the surface. Stir again and again and continue to cook for 2 more minutes until it slightly thickens.
- Remove the pan from the heat and then add in 1 cup of your shredded cheese and stir until it’s all melted into the mixture
- Now add your cooled cavatappi pasta into the cheesy mixture and toss to coat them or stir gently to make sure you don’t break the pasta
- Pur half of your cheesy pasta into the baking dish and sprinkle ½ cup of your shredded cheese evenly over the top
- Then add the remaining cheesy cavatappi to the baking dish and sprinkle with the remainder of the shredded cheese that you have left
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese has all melted
- Once out the oven, let it sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly, and then garnish with some chopped parsley (or another herb of your choice) and serve to your guests