These mini bites of mac-n-cheese are hit in our house. Whether it’s a snack before soccer practice or served as part of my Back To School Party menu cooking mac-n-cheese in mini-muffin tins seems to bring new excitement to a classic. It’s the creamy, cheesy flavors you and your kids crave but with a little crunch from the breadcrumbs and parmesan.
My recipe for these little gems starts with a traditional homemade mac-n-cheese. I freshly grate medium cheddar and white cheddar, but use whatever you like for cheeses. Monterey Jack, all cheddar, Pepper jack. I do recommend freshly grating though because there are stabilizers in the pre-shredded kind that can affect the creaminess and the overall texture. That said, I have friends who swear that the pre-shredded works just fine.
While you are shredding start a large pot of water and salt it generously. Then cook the pasta until al dente – maybe 5 minutes -drain and set aside. Next step is to preheat the milk and cream mixture. Just short of a low boil or you can curdle the milk. Then I make a roux which is equal parts butter and flour. Cook them until the flour isn’t raw and there is a hint of a nutty smell in the air.
Then add the warm cream and milk to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it starts to thicken. Then remove from the heat and add in the cheese a handful at a time and stir gently until melted.
Next, season with salt and maybe a little pepper – but definitely salt. Then toss in the noodles. Now you have a delicious macaroni and cheese.
But to make them into cute little, mouth-watering bites you need a few more small steps. Gently mix in the panko breadcrumbs and the 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and refrigerate for at least 20-30 minutes. You want to get it to set a bit. Then spray the mini muffin tins with some cooking oil and, using an ice cream scooper, press the macaroni into the scoop to get it to really meld together. Then place mixture in each tin. Repeat until all the tins are filled. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the parmesan and a little drizzle of olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes and then broil for the last 30 seconds to a minute for a golden crust.
- 8 oz elbow macaroni
- 5 oz mild cheddar, freshly grated
- 5 oz white cheddar, freshly grated
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup half and half
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- Olive oil for drizzle
- cooking spray for pan
- Bring a large pot of salted water to low boil. Add in the pasta and cook until al dente (5 minutes). Drain and set aside.
- Place the whole milk and Half&Half in a small sauce pan and bring a simmer and set aside. Be careful not to bring to a boil.
- Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and add in the butter. Once melted add in the flour. Whisk until smooth and continue cooking until it turns a deep golden brown and takes on a nutty smell. Immediately add in the warm milk and cream mixture and continue stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens.
- Remove the pan from heat and add in the cheeses, one handful at a time, stirring to incorporate. Add in the cooked macaroni noodles and gently mix to incorporate. Season well with salt and add in pepper if desired. Pour mixture in a large bowl and add in the Panko breadcrumbs and ½ cup grated parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until mixture is cooled.
- Remove the pan from heat and add in the cheeses, one handful at a time, stirring to incorporate. Add in the cooked macaroni noodles and gently mix to incorporate. Season well with salt and add in pepper if desired. Pour mixture in a large bowl and add in the Panko breadcrumbs and ½ cup grated parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate for a min of 20 minuts or up to 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350. Spray mini muffin tin with cooking spray. Using an ice cream scoop press the macaroni into the scoop to form a ball. Place in muffin tin and continue until you have approximately 24 macaroni bites. Top with remaining parmesan cheese and drizzle with a touch of olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes and place under the broiler for the last few seconds until golden brown.