Macaroni & Cheese Bites with Tomato Jam

Today I’m bringing you one of my favorite appetizers to serve at events where kids are in attendance, Macaroni and Cheese Bites! Mac and cheese is always a hit with adults and children alike, that’s no secret. But when you transform that ubiquitous comfort food into a bite sized version people go absolutely nuts!
I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve to take this cheesy, gooey treat to the next level- first, sprinkle a layer of golden, buttery panko breadcrumbs on top of each one. You could also use crumbled potato chips if you’re feeling lazy, they would produce virtually the same end result. The point is, a little crunch goes a long way, creating a lovely textural balance. Listen to me, getting all technical…
My other little secret is the tomato jam. I love that it adds another layer of complexity and a fun pop of color, keeping this one bite item from being too one note. And the intense, sweet tomato flavor really packs a punch. It’s my fancy little interpretation of ketchup, and since this recipe makes more than enough for the mac & cheese bites I have been loving the leftover jam with butter, toast and arugula and on crackers with goat cheese!
adapted from Food & Wine
Ingredients
for the macaroni & cheese bites:

1/2 lb elbow macaroni
2 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 tbsp
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk
4 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

for the tomato jam:
1 lb ripe plum tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions
for the tomato jam:
1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then pour into hot, sterilized jam jars, screw the lids on and turn the jars upside down to cool completely.

for the macaroni & cheese bites:
1. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add panko, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 425Β°. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain, shaking off the excess water.
3. Brush four 12-cup, nonstick mini muffin tins with butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan and tap out the excess.
4. In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the flour over moderate heat for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking, until boiling, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan and whisk until melted. Off the heat, whisk in the egg yolk and paprika. Fold in the macaroni. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Spoon slightly rounded tablespoons of the macaroni into the prepared muffin cups, packing them gently. Sprinkle toasted panko over the top.
6. Bake the mini macs in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 10 minutes, until golden and sizzling. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using a small spoon, carefully loosen the mini macs. Top each with a dollop of tomato jam, transfer to a platter and serve.

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