For the Love of Mac & Cheese (not gluten or dairy free)

Last night my roommates and I hosted a macaroni and cheese cook-off. The only thing healthy about this was the green beans we made as a side/palate cleanser. Actually, I take that back. There's nothing wrong with a little pasta, cheese and milk when it agrees with you. These dishes were made with real, wholesome ingredients. And that's perfectly healthy ... you know what I'm going to say, right? ... "in moderation." But making it your entire meal like we did last night ... not so healthy. Nevertheless, I'm sharing this because who doesn't love mac & cheese? We've all got to splurge every now and then. What else is Thanksgiving week for?

The winner was Mac & Cheese Cupcakes (our apartment's creation). We think the bite-size minis would make a perfect party horderve (pictured top left). Other contenders ranged from the classic elbow mac and cheddar, to the gourmet: Martha Stewart's cafe macaroni and cheese (pictured bottom left). The top right picture is of our entire spread. There would have been enough food to feed ourselves (eight mac & cheese-loving girls) and then put that guy on Man vs Food to shame. There were a lot of leftovers.

In the end it was the crispy edges on the cupcakes that gave them a leg up over the rest (pictured bottom right). The recipe (slightly adapted) from Epicurious is below. Enjoy, "in moderation." Come to think of it, these individual servings help make that whole moderation thing a little easier too. That is, if you can stop at just one.

Mac & Cheese Cupcakes

Here's what you need:

  • 8 ounces small elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chives, snipped
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • breadcrumbs

Here's what you do:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cook the macaroni according to the package, until tender. Drain and toss with a little olive oil and set noodles aside.
Butter cupcake pans (2 large or 4 mini) and sprinkle with breadcrumbs, then set aside.

In a large sauce pan, whisk together the milk and cornstarch until it's well blended. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Stir in the mustard, pepper, and salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thickened. Once thick, stir in the cheddar cheese until it's melted and smooth. Fold in the macaroni. Then stir in the chives.

Spoon macaroni and cheese into the cupcake pans. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then dust tops with breadcrumbs.

Bake until golden brown on top, about 15-25 minutes.

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