Food You Can Eat: Cavatappi Tre Formaggi

Image via The Kitchen Whisperer, who I think used cheddar cheese, because your cavatappi will not be this dark and orange-y. Note the corkscrew shapes, especially lower right.

Or, as we uncultured backwoods dwellers call it, “mac ’n cheese.”

Cavatappi is one of the myriad forms of Italian pasta. It’s the Italian word for corkscrew, and if you look at the header image, lower right, you’ll see the similarity. For something this cheesy you want something for the sauce to cling to, and the familiar elbow macaroni doesn’t do it justice. You can also use orecchiette (“little ears”) or rigatoni (“rigato” means ridged.)

1 lb. Cavatappi or another pasta

1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)

1/4 cup flour

1 tbsp. Hèrbes de Provence, my favorite, or if you have Italian seasoning, use that. I will never stop talking about Hèrbes de Provence.

2 cups whole milk, no skim, no fat-free, and on the other hand half-and-half or cream would make this unappealingly over-rich

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup shredded provolone cheese

1 cup shredded (not grated into a fine powder) parmesan cheese

So this is simple and requires no baking. 

Boil the cavatappi or whatever pasta until al dente, drain it, and put it somewhere. You might want to put it in a big serving bowl, see last step.

In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat, then add the flour and the seasoning and whisk away constantly for about 2 minutes. You have to keep everything in motion because you don’t want buttered, Hèrbes de Provence flour balls, not here anyway. I would probably eat them but we’re only in the first stage. Add in the milk and whisk that too and you’ll see/feel it thickening. Now add the cheeses maybe 1 cup at a time, don’t just dump it all in, and stir until you get a thick creamy sauce out of it.

Now, if your saucepan is big enough add in the cavatappi and mix it around (I use a wooden spoon) so that every morsel is coated with the cheese sauce. If not, pour the sauce over the cavatappi in that big serving bowl I mentioned and mix it there.

This is a really heavy recipe so although you’re only using 1 lb. of pasta you’re also using over 1 lb. of cheese. This can feed four as a main. I serve this as a side with unadorned chicken breast and if you do that this makes enough for six. Portions approximate; you may well have leftovers. Never fear, though, this refrigerates well, for a couple of days at the very least, and can be brought back to life as long as you don’t microwave it.



  1. I will never stop talking about Hèrbes de Provence.

    And I will never stop cheering you on for this!

    The timing of this article makes me regret my life choices… I have boxed mac & cheese with tuna and frozen peas planned for lunch. Womp womp womp.

    • Whenever you see a recipe that says something like “combine 1/8 tsp. A, 1/8 tsp. B, 1/4 tsp. C, small pinch D, etc.” and it’s the usual, you can add up the amounts, sub in HdP for the whole thing, and save yourself a lot of time (thyme.) HdP often has a teeny bit of lavendar in it, that’s what makes it Provençal, but not always.

    • LENTIL SALAD my friend.

      Cook your lentils, add some finely chopped scallion, some chopped artichoke hearts, and whatever else you like with lentils. Sometimes I do chopped raw asparagus when the spears are nice and thin. Sometimes I add cucumber. Really, all sorts of options.

      Vinaigrette time. Make one of your choice that’s pretty neutral. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Lemon, olive oil, white wine vinegar works. Add a hefty amount of the herbes de provence and mix all together.

      Tastes better the next day.

  2. Look at you and your FANCY mac&cheese.

    Also have you ever made this but intentionally added more liquid and used it as the carb/sauce part of a casserole?

    I’m not entirely sure what else would go in that casserole, but I do know I’d eat a lot of it.

  3. Kitchen Whisperer’s recipe includes an XL egg, maybe that’s why it’s color is stronger from the yolk?

    I also admit being a midwesterner, I was SHOCKED there was no dry mustard powder in your recipe.

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