Two-bite Mac and Cheese Cups

Mac and Cheese Cups Recipe @fifteenspatulas

Now you can hold mac and cheese in your hands.

You’re welcome.

Seriously though, how cool are these macaroni and cheese cups? Bring them to your 4th of July party and I promise people will rave about these little bites. We Americans have a crazy obsession with macaroni and cheese. You just can’t go wrong with it.

I mean, can you think of a more American dish? A burger, possibly…but no, I think mac and cheese wins.

Macaroni and Cheese Cups @fifteenspatulas

And since you all know I’m addicted to making appetizers in my muffin tins (evidence here), it was time to take this American classic and present it in a fun, new way.

The trick to pulling these off is to make them more cheesy than saucy. That way they hold together, and you can hold your mac and cheese cup in one hand and your glass of wine in the other! That’s classy. We’re setting new standards today.

Macaroni and Cheese Cupcakes @fifteenspatulas

As with any dish with few ingredients, it’s important to use good quality components. This dish is all about the CHEESE!

In this recipe I like to do a blend of Cracker Barrel Aged Reserve for an earthy, aged sharp flavor, and Cracker Barrel sharp yellow as well (because that one is my favorite). They each have different flavor profiles and team up nicely to add two dimensions of cheesiness to this appetizer.

…plus, I confess that I always have a really hard time deciding which kind of Cracker Barrel cheese to use. I have six different kinds in my fridge right now. I’m not kidding. So my solution in these kinds of situations is to use more than one.

Cheddar Mac and Cheese Cups @fifteenspatulas

You guys know that I only specify brands for ingredients if it’s essential, and Cracker Barrel is the way to go here. They’ve been committed to cheesemaking for the past 60 years, and they really know their cheese.

After you’ve grated your cheddar, melt a few tablespoons of butter with some paprika in a big pot:

Cheddar Cheese Mac and Cheese Bites @fifteenspatulas

Add flour to make a roux, then whisk in some milk, al dente macaroni, and your cheese.

That’s right, six ingredients! Pasta, butter, cheese, milk, flour, and paprika. So easy.

Cram big moundfuls of the macaroni into muffin cups and get ready to send them into the oven:

Mac and Cheese Bites @fifteenspatulas

Bake them until they’re all bubbly and gooey, and top them with some snipped chives or chopped scallion greens:

Baked Mac and Cheese Cups @fifteenspatulas

Let them set up and cool for about 10 minutes before attempting to take them out, then serve up the cheesy goodness.

I hope you all have a great Independence Day! Cheers to America. I truly feel so blessed to live in this country.

And PS, if you’re not from America, make these anyway =) You’ll love them!

Two Bite Mac and Cheese Cups Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 8 oz Cracker Barrel aged reserve, grated
  • 4 oz Cracker Barrel sharp cheese, grated

Directions:

  1. Grease a nonstick mini muffin pan very well with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, then cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package says. My elbow macaroni said to cook for 7 minutes, so I drained it after 5. After you’ve cooked and drained the pasta, return the empty pasta pot to the heat and turn the heat down to medium. Melt the butter and add the paprika. Add the flour and stir the mixture around for 2 minutes. While whisking, add the milk. The mixture will be very thick, but that’s intentional. Just make sure you have stirred out any lumps. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cheeses and drained pasta, stirring it all together until the cheese and sauce are well distributed.
  3. Portion your mac and cheese into the muffin cups, either with a spoon or a 3-tbsp cookie scoop. Pack the mac and cheese into the muffin cups with your fingers really well. If you don’t pack the mac and cheese down, they won’t hold their shape when you take them out after baking, and you certainly don’t want them to fall apart.
  4. Bake the mac and cheese cups for 15 minutes until bubbling and gooey. Remove them to a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes, then carefully run a plastic knife or toothpick (assuming you need to not destroy the nonstick coating on your pan) around the edges to loosen. Remove the mac and cheese cups from the pan and garnish with chopped chives or scallion greens. Enjoy!

Disclosure: I am currently a brand ambassador for Cracker Barrel Cheese. I only work with brands that I would tell you about regardless of whether or not I was working with them. I have been compensated for my time but all opinions are honest and my own.