Let’s face it. Macaroni and cheese makes most people happy. It really doesn’t matter how old those people are. It’s just a happy dish and it’s tasty. Mac and cheese = tasty. Small things also make people happy. Mini cupcakes, muffins, petits fours. People think they are cute. Mini things = cute. So what we have here is tasty and cute. It could be worse.
If you want to have a guaranteed hit on your party menu, make these little guys. The look on people’s faces as you pull them out of the oven (that combination of “that smells so good” “they are so cute!” and “mac and cheese!”) is priceless. I would make these for every single event I do, but they really need oven time right before serving. Sometimes I am catering a party where that is not an option, so they don’t appear on the menu. I have made them a few hours in advance and then just reheated them right before party time. It works but they really are best if you bake them off just as guests are arriving.
This recipe calls for good old American cheese slices presumably for their melt-ability. This last time, I went for the more “natural” version – Horizon brand – and I have to tell you they were better with the cheap stuff. Just like you want to bake with Jif rather than an all-natural brand of peanut butter, you want to make these with Kraft rather than the all-natural.
½ pound elbow macaroni
1½ tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 tbsp. flour
¾ cup milk
4 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded (1 packed cup)
4 ounces deli-sliced American cheese, chopped
1 large egg yolk
¼ tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water.
Spray four 12-cup nonstick mini muffin tins with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. Parmesan.
In a large saucepan, melt the 1½ tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in teh 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 Parmesan 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.