Mac and cheese is my desert island food. There aren't many things I'll eat until I feel sick, but when mac and cheese is available, I can't say no. It's too savory, too creamy, too cheesy, too perfect to turn down.
Part of the magic of mac and cheese is the number of varieties. The orange powder kid variety? Add a few extra spices and you've got a perfect late-night meal. Bubbly, golden-brown restaurant mac and cheese with fancy cheeses? I'm sorry, I really don't have to explain why this is delicious. And there are endless options for add-ins! Bacon! Pulled pork! Roasted vegetables! These little guys have added beer and caramelized onions. It's a rich, classic, party-perfect combination.
It's obviously not healthy, but thank god Resolution Season (i.e. January) is over and we can move on to more indulgent times of year, like Super Bowl Sunday, Valentine's Day and Leap Day (yes, celebrating this with treats is a thing that's going to happen). These little cups are the perfect way to stop yourself from eating until you're ill. Stop at two! Or three if you're feeling crazy. And they make adorable appetizers to boot. Best of all, they're based on Katie's utterly perfect creamy baked white macaroni and cheese recipe — throughly tested and throughly loved.
for the pasta
- 16 oz macaroni pasta — I used large sea shells
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 1/2 cup milk
- 12 oz beer — I used Brooklyn Lager, which has a pretty mild taste. But for more beery flavor, use an IPA.
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
- 8 oz fontina, shredded
- 8 oz fresh parmesan, shredded
for the beer caramelized onions
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 1 T olive oil
- 6 ounces beer (I used Brooklyn Lager again here)
- salt & pepper to taste
for the topping
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- salt and red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary
- fresh lemon zest
- Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a cupcake tin and set aside.
- Thinly slice onions. Coat the bottom of a nonstick skillet with olive oil. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low heat, stirring frequently. When onions turn light golden brown and begin to reduce, add beer cook down until onions begin to turn golden brown and jammy. Remove from heat.
- In your largest pot, cook pasta 3-4 minutes less than the directions say (for example, ours said to boil the pasta for 11-12 minutes, so I cooked it for 8). Drain water and set back into pot. Add a bit of olive oil to avoid sticky pasta.
- In a large pan, melt butter with salt and pepper. Once melted, add flour, stirring to combine and let cook for one minute.
- Add milk and bring to a boil, whisking continuously to avoid any crud on the bottom of the pan. Add cheeses, beer and caramelized onions, stirring constantly to combine until the cheese is all melted and sauce thickens.
- Add beer-cheese sauce to pasta and stir to incorporate, then add scoops of mac & cheese to prepared cupcake tin. The sauce to pasta ratio will be high, but fear not. The sauce will bake and hold together the noodles into the cupcake shape. Be cautious not to overfill the pan. The sauce will bubble up and could run over if you're not careful.
- In a small pan or pot, heat olive oil. Add garlic and let it cook for a minute until it starts to brown, then add bread crumbs with salt and red pepper to taste. Sprinkle in the rosemary and lemon zest and stir to combine. Cook until golden color, then sprinkle over pasta cups.
- Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes until the cups start to brown and bubble.
For classic mac & cheese, check out Katie's incredible creamy baked white macaroni & cheese, the base for this recipe.
Photos and text by © Theresa Berens, 2016. All rights reserved.