MAKES ABOUT 24 CUPS Grab-and-go mac and cheese? Yes, please! These tasty morsels of cheesy goodness excerpted from Gluten-Free on a Shoestring blogger Nicole Hunn’s latest (and totally awesome) cookbook, Gluten-Free Small Bites: Sweet and Savory Hand-Held Treats for On-the-Go Lifestyles and Entertaining, are the consummate crowd-pleasing side dish. To ensure they hold their shape, let them cool completely before serving. Nicole explains, “There are two basic styles of macaroni and cheese: custard style and cheese-sauce style. Custard style is more like a casserole, as it contains eggs and must be baked. Cheese-sauce style is essentially a cheese sauce made from a flour roux, folded into boiled pasta, and served immediately. These mac and cheese cups are a hybrid of sorts, as they’re made with a gorgeous mozzarella and Cheddar cheese sauce but with the addition of one egg—just enough to help the cups hold together beautifully when they’re baked but not so much that they bake up like miniature casseroles. The best of both mac and cheese worlds! Plus, they freeze and reheat perfectly.
8 ounces small dried gluten-free pasta (like elbows)
1 to 2 tablespoons (14 to 28 g) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, chopped
3 tablespoons (27 g) Basic Gum-Free Gluten-Free Flour (see below)
6 fluid ounces (½ can) evaporated milk
1 to 1¼ cups (8 to 10 fluid ounces) milk, at room temperature
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 ounces sharp yellow Cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg (50 g, weighed out of shell), at room temperature, beaten
Boil the pasta in a large pasta pot to an al dente texture, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and toss it with olive oil to prevent it from sticking together. Cover the pot and set it aside.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Generously grease the wells of two 12-cup standard muffin tins, and set them aside.
To make the cheese sauce, melt the chopped butter in a medium-size, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine well. The mixture will clump at first, and then smooth after it cooks for a minute or so. This is the roux that will thicken the cheese sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture has just begun to turn a very light-brown color, about 2 minutes. Add the evaporated milk to the roux very slowly, stirring constantly to break up any lumps that might form. Add 1 cup of milk, and whisk to combine well. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced by about one-quarter, about 7 minutes. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the shredded cheeses, salt, and pepper, and mix to combine. The cheese sauce should be very thickly pourable. Add the beaten egg to the remaining milk, and pour the mixture into the cheese sauce, mixing constantly. Pour the hot cheese sauce over the cooked pasta, and stir carefully to coat all of the pasta in the cheese sauce without breaking up the pasta at all.
Fill the prepared wells of the miniature muffin tins just past the top with the macaroni and cheese mixture, and press down carefully but firmly to pack the mixture into the well. Place the muffin tins, one at a time, in the center of the preheated oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the muffin tins for 5 minutes before running a toothpick around the edge of each muffin well to loosen the cups and popping them out. Serve warm.
Make-Ahead Option: These mac and cheese cups can be baked ahead of time. Cool the cups completely, then freeze them in a single layer on a baking sheet before sealing them, frozen, in freezersafe wrap and returning them to the freezer. Defrost at room temperature, and reheat them in a microwave oven before serving. If you don’t have a microwave, you can reheat them in the oven. Place the cups on a lined baking sheet and preheat your oven to 300°F. Sprinkle them each with a few drops of water and place them in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until warm. Do not overbake.
Bigger Bite Option: Rather than baking this mac and cheese as individual cups, it can be placed in a greased 12 x 9-inch baking dish and baked at 350°F until lightly golden brown all over and set, about 35 minutes.
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