You can automatically transform scraps of leftover macaroni and shredded cheese into a vat of good old-fashioned mac and cheese, but for a more refined and compact look, jam them into muffin tins. This straightforward "snack" makes a quick and easy hors d'oeuvre for last-minute entertaining. Any melt-prone cheese will do, but if you've got classic cheddar cheese at the ready, it's the best type to use. For the pasta, I used the more obscure mostaccioli, a thinner and shorter penne with sharper ends. It was stubborn and didn't quite budge that easily from its snug compartment. Plus, the noodles protruded in jagged, abstract positions. The muffins didn't look like the elegant savory cakes I was dreaming about. For an aesthetically focused treat such as this, old school elbow mac's curved shape will stay more circularly intact and may prove more seamless to pluck out. You can customize muffin mac and cheese to your liking, maybe throwing in diced ham or bits of parsley or spinach, and topping it off with panko for extra texture. I'd probably hold back on the chocolate chips, though.
Mac and Cheese Muffins
Source: Food and Wine magazine
- 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I just used straight up Parmesan cheese)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
- 4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
- 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.
- Brush four 12-cup, nonstick mini muffin tins with butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano; 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.
- 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.