Deliciously rich, creamy and topped with crispy cheesy bread crumbs, these Mac and Cheese Bites are comfort food at its best and are the perfect appetizer!
I like to make these mac and cheese bites in mini muffins pans, which make them the perfect bite size for serving to guests. But they can also be made in standard muffin pan cups for a more substantial serving, or a side. Directions are given for both.
Pasta: Elbow macaroni is traditionally used for mac and cheese. It works well because its short and tubular, which means it's perfect for trapping pools of the cheese sauce. But there are other options, including tubes like ziti, penne, rigatoni and corkscrew shapes like fusilli. For the bites, I would opt for elbow because it also has a small shape that will fit nicely into the mini muffin pan cups.
Cheese: Cheddar is the classic cheese for macaroni and cheese beacuse to mekts week and has great flavor. But you can certainly switch it up and use a combination of Cheddar and
Breadcrumbs: I like to use panko breadcumbs for this dish, but regular seasoned or unseasoned bread crumbs are also fine to use. Panko crumbs are lighter and drier than the regular variety.
How to make the bites
1. Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook according to package directions, until al dente. Drain well (1).
2.Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in the flour over medium heat, whisking for 2 minutes. (2) Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking often until bubbling, about 5 minutes. Add the egg yolk and paprika and stir until well bended (3). Stir in the pasta until well coated (4).
3. Generously brush 12 standard or 36 mini nonstick muffin pan cups with the melted butter. Sprinkle with ¼ of the breadcrumbs, shaking out the excess.
4. Spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared cups, packing them cups gently. In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan cheese and the remaining bread crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the bites.
5. Bake until golden and sizzling, about 10 minutes for mini and 20 minutes for standard-size cups. Remove the pan to wire rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a small spoon around the edges and remove the mac and cheese bites from the pan. Serve warm.
- Mac and cheese lends itself to many variations, including adding chopped ham, cooked bacon, chopped onion, peas, chopped mushrooms, chopped fresh spinach, sautéed diced bell peppers, or small steamed broccoli or cauliflower florets.
- Be careful not not to overcook the pasta, otherwise it'll be mushy and it won't hold up well once baked. Cook it until just al dente, or has a toothsome bite.
- Be sure to let these sit for at least 10 minutes so they will hold together when removed from the pan.
yes, you sure can1 Cheddar is classic for food reason, as it melts well and tastes great. But other cheeses such as Monterey Jack, Colby, Fontina or Gruyere are some other options.
Can I make the bites ahead?
You can assemble the bites ahead, but hold off baking them until you're ready to serve. Cover and refrigerate the assembled bites, and then bake as directed when ready to serve.
Panko is a type of bread crumb that is made using white bread. There are two varieties of panko: white panko, which is made from white bread without any crust, and tan panko, which is made from the entire loaf. The bread is dried as large flakes, rather than crumbs, which gives it a light, airy, and delicate texture.
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Mac and Cheese Bites
- 8 oz. elbow or other small shaped pasta
- 2 Tbs. butter, plus more for greasing
- ½ cup breadcrumbs, panko or regular
- 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup milk
- 8 oz. (2 cups) shredded Cheddar cheese
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter 48 nonstick mini or 12 standard-size muffin pan cups. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the breadcrumbs and shake out the excess.
- Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir well, and cook according to package directions, until al dente. Drain well.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour whisking for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking often, until bubbling, about 4 minutes. Stir in the egg yolk, paprika and ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ tsp. pepper until well blended. Add the cheese, stirring until melted. Stir in the pasta until well coated.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared cups, packing them gently. In a small bowl, mix the remaining breadcrumbs with the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle the mixture over the bites.
- Bake until golden and sizzling, about 10 minutes for mini and 20 minutes for standard-size cups. Remove the pan to wire rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a small spoon around the edges and remove the mac and cheese bites from the pan. Sevre warm.