Prep Time: 20 min
( Serves 20 )
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup elbow macaroni (uncooked)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole milk (warmed)
1/2 cup sharp Cheddar cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup Gruyère cheese (shredded)
1 whole large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218ºC). Use 1 tablespoon of butter to generously grease a 24-cup mini-muffin tin (Note: you only need to grease 20 of the cups). Sprinkle each cup with a thin layer of breadcrumbs. Make sure to reserve some breadcrumbs for topping the mac and cheese later on.
2. In a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat, bring 3-4 cups of water to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the water. Once boiling, add macaroni noodles to the pot and allow to cook until they're just barely al dente. (The pasta should be just a tad soft but undercooked, as it will continue to soften as it cooks in the oven).
3. Remove pot of pasta from heat, drain the macaroni, and rinse it under cold water. Return macaroni to the pot and set aside while you make the cheese sauce.
4. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute (while stirring constantly), or until the mixture turns slightly beige and is bubbly. Increase the heat to medium and slowly whisk in the warm milk. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and allow to continue simmering for about 2 minutes (still whisking constantly) until the sauce thickens.
5. Add cheddar and Gruyère to the sauce in 1/2-cup increments, whisking until the cheese melts before adding more. Pour the sauce over the macaroni and stir to combine.
6. In a bowl, combine egg yolk, heavy cream, smoked paprika, black pepper, and 1/2 tsp salt. Beat until well mixed. Add egg mixture to pot of pasta and stir until everything is well-combined.
7. Press about 1 tablespoon of the macaroni mixture into each mini-muffin cup until all of the macaroni has been used up (about 20 mini cups total). Sprinkle breadcrumbs over each cup.
8. Bake macaroni cups for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the tops are lightly browned. Remove pan from oven and allow the macaroni cups to rest for 5 minutes in the pan. Flip pan over onto a serving platter to remove cups and arrange as you'd like.
9. Garnish mac and cheese cups with chopped chives. Serve immediately.
NOTE: The mac and cheese cups can be baked, cooled, and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 2 days. Reheat them in a 375 degrees F until warmed through, 7 to 10 minutes.