I first saw this idea on "Picky Palate," (see my blog list), and wanted to try it. Only one problem... the hubby doesn't like spaghetti. I love pasta...did I mention I lived in Italy for 2 years, but married a man who just can't make a meal outta pasta?
I had to come up with another plan, and still make it appealing to the kids. So...here's my take on these cute little "cups" of pasta. Honestly...I'm the one who was craving macaroni and cheese, but I wanted to add protein and a veggies, so that explains the ham and peas. I am using a standard mac and cheese recipe, (I found mine on the Internet, and altered it to my liking)-- I suppose you could make it out of the box, but this is really easy...you have to try it!
I really like bread crumbs on top of mac and cheese, and using panko bread crumbs makes a nice crunchy topping. You can find panko bread crumbs in the asian section of the grocery store. I find myself using them more and more instead of regular bread crumbs, to coat chicken, fish, sprinkled on top of casseroles, etc.
Once the milk comes to the boil, let it simmer for a few minutes; it should get nice and thick. Add your cheese, a cup at a time, stirring with a large spoon until it's all nice and melted, and then throw in the parmesan cheese.
You now have a luscious pot of cheesy goodness...go ahead and sample away, but be careful, it's really good, and you don't want to sample too much...
Season to taste with the salt, white pepper, and nutmeg. I use the white pepper because black pepper would just show up too much. But if all you have is the stuff in the red and white can, don't worry, it's no big deal. I like a trifle more nutmeg that the recipe calls for, but do it the way you want to.
I assume you saved the pot you cooked the pasta in, because you are like me and are intent on washing as few dishes as possible, right? Toss your pasta back in that pot, add the cheese sauce, and stir. Then add the ham and peas, and gently stir again until everything is coated in cheese heaven.
Preheat the oven again to "broil." Take a clean spoon (not the one you've been using to sample with...but hey, it's your kitchen, so if you do, I'll never know), and put a nice big spoonful of mac and cheese into the pie crust cups. Sprinkle with some of the panko crumbs, and then give each cup a squirt or two of the butter spray. (You'll have some left over, you can use it to make 12 more cups or just save it to eat later--I had some for lunch the next day..mmm).
Slide the pasta filled cups into the oven about 4-6 inches away from the broiler for about 3-4 minutes or until the panko crumbs turn a glorious golden brown. DO NOT LEAVE THEM! Every broiler is different, but they're all notorious for burning your food if you are not vigilant. So stand right there and watch 'em... and make sure the little ones are at least 1,000 feet away when you take them out, or those precious little fingers will get burnt to a crisp.Let the pasta cups cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving. This time, Christina ate a few bites, the older two cleaned their plates and Gabriel...sigh...I have to be honest...refused to eat it. He didn't eat it last time either. This is my baby boy who is a world class eater, but for some reason, mac and cheese is not his thing. Oh well. Rebecca did say:
Good enough for me...God bless your table tonight!