I love going out to eat. I get so excited to read a new menu. I love watching other people’s food go by just to see what’s coming out of the kitchen. If there’s a table that looks right into the kitchen, all the better. On a good day, we’ve gone to a place where I want to try a bunch of different stuff. My husband and I will negotiate to make sure we’re not getting the same thing so we can taste each other’s food. There’s the internal struggle about whether to get a cocktail or a dessert because I know I can’t afford both.
But lately, when my food arrives, I’m often underwhelmed. I don’t know if it’s because I’m used to outrageous American food or if British restaurants just aren’t that great unless you’re rich. More often than not, what I’m eating looks impressive, but it’s not any better, and occasionally noticeably worse, than what I could make for myself at home.
Mac and cheese is one of those foods that’s hit or miss out in the restaurant world. Sometimes a place will describe this supposedly legendary mac, and what you end up with is pasta in a soupy white sauce with some shredded cheddar sprinkled over the top. The whole thing gets shoved under the broiler and brought to you bubbling and boring rather than properly incorporated, creamy, dreamy, gooey, and good. I assure you, today’s recipe is anything but disappointing.
These Mac & Cheese Cups have a buttery, cracker crumb crust, so we’re already off to a good start. I swear Ritz crackers are a true manufacturing miracle. We’re mixing our al dente macaroni with cheddar and garlic and herb soft cheese for a punch of bold flavor. A few more creamy ingredients help hold everything together. Pop all this into a muffin cup to bake, and you’ve got something truly awesome.
Mac & Cheese Cups are also versatile. We ate them for lunch in front of the TV while watching football, still warm and gooey, but you could also make them into a cheesy side dish for dinner, or serve them up at a party. These are good hot or cold. When they’ve been chilled, they actually hold their shape really well and are much easier to eat with your hands, so if you’re serving them at a party, don’t be afraid to make them ahead and stash them in the fridge.
There’s a lot of great food in the world, but chances are, some of the best food will come from your very own kitchen. Why not start with Mac & Cheese Cups. I assure you, they’re awesome.
- 6 ounces elbow macaroni
- 1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs, or similar (about 12 crackers)
- 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1.5 ounces butter, melted
- 2.5 ounces garlic and herb soft cheese, such as Boursin or cream cheese
- 0.5 ounces cold butter
- 1 egg
- 100 ml milk
- 30 ml sour cream
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- Preheat your oven to 350F (175C), and lightly grease the cups of a standard 12 cup muffin pan.
- Put a large pot of water on to boil. Once it's boiled, add a fat pinch of salt and your pasta. Cook for one minute less than the package instructions, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Drain.
- While your pasta is cooking, combine your cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup of your shredded cheddar, and your melted butter in a mixing bowl until fully combined. Divide your crumb mixture between your 12 muffin cups. I use the bottom of a shot glass to gently press the crumb mixture into the bottom of each cup to flatten it down. Set this aside until your pasta is ready.
- Once your pasta is cooked, combine the cooked pasta, remaining cheddar, garlic and herb cheese, and cold butter in a mixing bowl. In a measuring jug, add in your milk, use displacement to measure out your sour cream, then crack the egg into the jug. Give this mixture a good whisk to smooth it all out, then pour it over your pasta mixture. Finally, sprinkle in your salt and crushed red pepper flakes, and give the whole thing a good stir until it's evenly combined.
- Evenly divide your pasta mixture into the twelve cups. Bake for about 20 minutes or until it's bubbly and just starting to hint at browning.
- Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before attempting to remove them. I use an offset spatula to get them out. Run your spatula around the edge of each cup to loose then up, then carefully slide the spatula down the side and underneath. They should release fairly easily.
- These can be served hot, cold, or anywhere in between.