Okay, who out there has not only seen, but loves the show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives? It's been one of the best food shows out there for a long time in my opinion. How else would we get to see so many food establishments and the unbelievably inventive culinary creations that exist out there? One such recipe that caught my eye was an episode where they featured mac & cheese mini muffins with garlicky panko crumbs, cheddar, gruyere and goat cheese. It was a place called The Duce in Phoenix, AZ. This is my attempt to re-create that.
When I see recipes I like on television, I text myself the ingredients while I'm watching it. There were no measurements mentioned in the recipe, so I worked that out as I made it. Also, I'm not normally a mac & cheese person. I didn't want to do a mac & cheese recipe for my website because everybody does that. But mac & cheese mini muffins with toasty panko and three cheeses? I simply had to. When I saw that episode of "Triple D" I was drooling over this recipe.
Mac & Cheese Mini Muffins Are the Perfect Snack for a Crowd
In my attempt to arrive safely and successfully in Flavortown, I purchased all of the ingredients that I had texted myself. And I have a huge confession to make: I've never made homemade mac & cheese in my entire life. Ever. Also, I did not test this recipe before making it on camera. I simply purchased the ingredients and winged it. I am happy to report this recipe turned out great!
Look, mac & cheese isn't rocket science. It's pasta and cheese sauce. But it does really matter what you put in that cheese sauce. There's a ton of combinations and I loved that this one included goat cheese. It didn't overwhelm the sauce, but added this elevated feel, flavor and texture to the whole dish.
This is a great appetizer/snack idea, but you could really eat this for dinner too. Gatherings come to mind for this one - holidays, Super Bowl Sunday, poker night, movie night, after-school snack. In fact, this is a great make-ahead recipe. I put the majority of these cute, little mac & cheese mini muffins in the freezer and pulled them out when we got the craving. If you've got mac & cheese lovers in the house you seriously can't go wrong with this one!
If You're Looking for More Yummy Snacky Foods, Here You Go:
- Killer Chicken Quesadillas
- Beef and Cheese Empanadas
- Fancy French Fries w/Garlic, Butter & Parmesan
- Stuffed Mushroom w/Sausage, Panko & Cheddar
- Nana's Weird Hot Dog Appetizer
- The Best Pan-Fried Mozzarella
- Honey Butter Bourbon Shrimp
- Potato Bacon Croquettes w/Gorgonzola Bechamel
Cute, Little Mac & Cheese Mini Muffins
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 48 mini muffins 1x
In my attempt to arrive safely in Flavortown, I purchased the ingredients for a mac & cheese mini muffins recipe I saw on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. It was "off-the-hook."
- 1 box of elbow macaroni (1 lb)
- 1 teaspoon salt (in the pasta water)
- ¼ cup of chopped scallions, optional garnish
For the cheese sauce
- 1 cup gruyere, shredded
- 1 cup seriously sharp cheddar, shredded
- 1 cup of crumbled goat cheese
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 2 ½ cups warm milk
- ½ teaspoon salt, more if needed
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
For the breadcrumbs
- 2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs
- 1 cup finely shredded parmesan
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 ½ cloves garlic, finely diced
NOTE: YOU WILL NEED A MINI MUFFIN PAN TO MAKE THIS RECIPE. I USED THE ONE WITH 24 MINI CUPS IN IT. (see note 3)
- Don’t forget to check out my video for this recipe with step-by-step instructions.
- As you’re getting set up, put a large pot of water on the stovetop and bring your salted water to a boil (high heat).
- Shred the gruyere and parmesan cheese and set aside. I used the larger shredder side for the gruyere and the smaller, finer shredder side for the parmesan.
- Finely dice the garlic.
- Add the 1 lb. box of elbow macaroni to the boiling water with salt to taste, about a teaspoon. Cook per package instructions.
- Panko bread crumb mixture. Put the plain panko breadcrumbs into a large bowl and add the shredded parmesan. Mix together. Add the garlic and olive oil. Mix thoroughly until all the mixture is lightly coated in the olive oil.
- Chop the scallions if you’re using for an optional garnish.
- Make the cheese sauce. On low-to-medium heat, melt butter in a pot and once melted add the flour to make a roux (thickening agent). Whisk together and heat for a few minutes to cook off the raw flour taste. I always microwave the milk for a minute, then add it to the roux. Mix well. Let it cook a couple of minutes and it should start to thicken. Add the gruyere, sharp cheddar, goat cheese, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Taste it. If you think it needs a touch more salt – add it here. Mix well, then remove from heat.
- When the macaroni is finished cooking, drain the water. I put the macaroni back into the same pot I cooked it in. Pour the cheese sauce into the macaroni pot and mix together.
- Generously spray your mini muffin pan with a non-stick spray (like Pam).
- Spoon in ½ to ¾ of a teaspoon of the panko mixture into each mini muffin cup. Using a small round measuring spoon press down gently in the center of the panko in each cup. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 3 minutes or so. Just long enough to toast the panko. Ovens are all different – keep your eye on it and make sure it doesn’t burn.
- When you remove the muffin pan from oven make sure you have a trivet or sheet pan to put the hot muffin pan on.
- Spoon the mac & cheese into the muffin cups. (video shows this well)
- Sprinkle more of the panko mixture on top of the muffins.
- Put muffin pan back in the pre-heated oven at 400 degrees and cook for 8-10 minutes. Tops should be golden and crispy.
- Let them cool for 10 minutes before removing from the muffin pan. They will fall apart if you try removing them straight out of the oven. My muffin pan is Teflon so I used a plastic take-out knife to gently remove the mini muffins from the pan.
- Garnish with scallions if you’re using them. If there’s any extra toasty panko bits on the bottom of the muffin tins, sprinkle that on top as well.
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- For the cheeses: I almost always have a block of fresh parmesan on hand so I used that. You can use already-bagged shredded parmesan too. I bought bagged seriously sharp shredded cheddar. I think the original recipe used orange cheese, but I forgot the day I went shopping so used white cheddar. With gruyere I can almost never find it already shredded so I bought one small block.
- Yes, you can freeze them. I double Ziplock bagged them and stuck them in the freezer. They tasted great reheated!
- I only had ONE mini muffin pan so I cooked these in two batches.
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