Allana's Back to School Mac n Cheese Bites
For the past three years, late August has been particularly nostalgic. As college kiddo’s everywhere head back to their various alma maters, my heart aches for the familiar experience : decorating dorm rooms, buying fresh notepads and pencils and obviously, cafeteria food. O.K., just kidding on that last one. But still, while my four years spent in college were nothing short of spectacular, I wouldn’t necessarily recall food as my fondest of memories.
So, imagine my surprise a few days ago when I stumbled upon a recipe that I only wish would’ve been around my freshman year. What’s wonderful about these miniature mac n’ cheese bites is that they’re adorable enough to satisfy the children, filling enough to satisfy the adults and easy enough to cook up in a college dorm kitchen. You could serve these as passed appetizers at a party or lined up on a platter as the perfect after-school snack. Either way, they’re adorable, adaptable and 100% delicious.
With a few tubes of Gourmet Garden left in my fridge, I knew I wanted to add some spice to my mini bites. The original recipe was adapted from Food & Wine, but I wanted to add a bit of heat, so I tossed in some Monterey Jack cheese and Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper and a touch of Italian herbs. The beauty is, you can make these mini bites out of anything you’d like - I imagine they’d be tasty with blue cheese & some caramelized onions or you could even transform them into a Mexican dish with the addition of Gourmet Garden Cilantro & Taco Seasoning, green and red peppers. Prep can be done ahead of time and they only take 10 minutes to bake - so believe me when I say, it’s a no-sweat recipe. The finished product is practically perfect - a brown and crispy exterior with cheesy, gooey noodles on the inside. Eat them in one bite or two and be sure to make plenty - these little nuggets will disappear within minutes.
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine Mac n Cheese Bites
- ½ pound elbow macaroni
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup milk
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
- 4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¼ teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika 1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden garlic
- 1 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs
- ¼ cup Monterey Jack (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water.
2. Brush four 12-cup, nonstick mini muffin tins with butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano and a pinch of Monterey Jack if using; tap out the excess. In a large saucepan, melt the 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and American cheeses and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni. Once macaroni is combined, toss the noodles with the Gourmet Garden Garlic, Chili Pepper and Italian Herbs. Mix thoroughly to combine.
3. Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano on top. Bake the mini macs in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using a small spoon, carefully loosen the mini macs, transfer to a platter and serve.