Cavatappi Mac and Cheese

Cavatappi Mac and Cheese

This is a case of the “I didn’t know what I was missing” until I tried Edouardo Jordan’s recipe for macaroni and cheese. Before this, I had made my cavatappi mac and cheese like a lasagna, following the “bake until bubbly” methodology. It always resulted in a dry mac and cheese.

But now I’m going to share with you a secret – how to cook a cavatappi mac and cheese so that you get a heavenly, gooey mess of pasta noodles with a crispy browned top. The key is in the timing.

Adaptations to the original recipe

I’ve made a few edits to that original recipe. The first is to sub out gruyere for the camembert. No one in my family except for me likes stinky cheeses. If you like stinky cheese, I would definitely recommend trying it as written.

The second edit was to make use of the food processor to shred all of that cheese. A pound of cheese in total. I don’t think it matters whether you have only cheddar and gruyere in the cheese sauce and only cheddar and Parm in the top or all three everywhere. It’s ok to try to make your life a wee bit easier.

Tips and tricks for this cavatappi mac and cheese

Yes, it really does use a pound of cheese. I grate all of the cheese together in the food processor for ease.

pound of cheese
cubes of cheese in a food processor
chunks of cheese in the food processor

The below panels show the steps in making the cheese sauce.

four panels showing the steps to making a cheese sauce for the cavatappi mac and cheese

Panel 1: make the roux by stirring the flour into the melted butter, stirring constantly until it has slightly darkened.

Panel 2: stir while you add the milk and cream and continue stirring until the sauce has thickened and coats a spoon.

Panel 3: add in about two-thirds of the cheese, reserving the remainder to put on top of the baking dish.

Panel 4: stir in the cheese, paprika, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

In my opinion, the main thing to pay attention to is timing, so you can get the warm cheese sauce and warm pasta together and under the broiler before they get a chance to cool. If you read the article, Jordan suggests spreading it out into as thin a layer as possible in multiple cast iron pans. Since we don’t like a very browned top, my goal is to get it in and out quickly.

FAQs about this cavatappi mac and cheese recipe

Can I substitute other pastas for the cavatappi?

Of course. You could go traditional with macaroni and cheese. Or sub penne or any other short pasta.

Can I use other cheeses?

Absolutely. You can sub in any cheese you like as long as it melts. Or just add the camembert and make a 4 cheese mac and cheese.

Can I use all milk instead of the cream?

Yes. If you would like to reduce the fat content slightly, you can use only milk, although it will taste just a bit less rich.

What goes with mac and cheese?

I make this cavatappi mac and cheese to go with roast chicken or sausages on the grill. I also include it as part of my taco meatloaf bowl.

What wine would you drink with the mac and cheese?

If we are going white, I might try a viognier, which is often said to be the white wine for red wine lovers. If you want a red, I’d pick a light to medium bodied Beaujolais or pinot noir.

Can I freeze this?

It’s never as good as when it’s made fresh, but, yes, you can freeze any leftovers in an airtight container. Reheat it in the oven in a casserole pan with a little bit of water and covered in foil.

Cavatappi mac and cheese

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 387kcal
Author uglyducklingbakery


  • Food processor for grating cheese (optional)


  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese give or take to total one pound or 16 ounces of cheese
  • 5 ounces gruyere give or take
  • 3 ounces Parmesan give or take
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon salt plus more to taste and more for the pasta water
  • teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
  • 1 pound cavatappi or short pasta (e.g. penne, macaroni)


  • Start the water for the pasta and turn the oven to broil. Eventually, when the pot comes to a boil, add salt, let it come to boil again, and cook the pasta to al dente.
    1 pound cavatappi or short pasta (e.g. penne, macaroni)
  • Meanwhile, cut up the cheese into cubes and blitz in the food processor.
    8 ounces cheddar cheese, 3 ounces Parmesan, 5 ounces gruyere
  • Make the cream sauce. In a medium size saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat, then add the flour, whisking constantly to make a roux.
    4 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • Slowly pour in the milk and cream, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened (some say "until it coats the back of a wooden spoon").
    1 cup milk, 1 cup cream
  • Add in about two thirds of the cheese, reserving enough to top your pan. Then add the paprika, salt and pepper. Taste and then adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
    1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • When the pasta has finished cooking, drain the pasta and return it to the past pot. Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and then mix them together in the pasta pot.
  • Pour the mixture into a 9 inch by 13 inch glass pyrex or other baking pan. Top with remaining cheese and slide the pan under the broiler until browned to desired brownness, about 5-10 minutes, watching it carefully so it does not burn.


Calories: 387kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 343mg | Potassium: 172mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 731IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 390mg | Iron: 1mg

What’s next?

If you make this cavatappi mac and cheese, please comment here or share a pic with me on Instagram!

Check out some other uglyduckling pasta recipes like cavatappi alfredo and peas, pink sauce pasta, a one pot pasta with ricotta and lemon, or my sausage ragù.

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