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Cheese-Filled Mac and Cheese Bites



– 4 ounces small elbow macaroni pasta – 1 1/2 Tablespoons Real California unsalted butter – 1/4 medium yellow onion, diced – 1 1/2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour – 1/2 cup Real California milk – 1/2 cup Real California half and half – 4 oz shredded Real California Cheddar Jack cheese blend – About 4 oz block-style Real California Cheddar cheese – 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard – 1/2 teaspoon salt – 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg – 3/4 cup panko, crushed Cheetos, or crushed potato chips – Barbecue sauce, ketchup, or your favorite dipping sauce (optional)
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Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 50 minutes, plus time for mac and cheese to cool and for assembled bites to freeze

Makes: 4-6 servings (18 bites)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle in flour and, whisking constantly, cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add milk and half and half, whisking out any lumps. Cook, stirring and scraping the pan occasionally, until sauce thickens and comes to a simmer, 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in shredded cheese, mustard, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

Drain pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in cheese sauce. Transfer entire mixture to a rimmed baking sheet, spread it out to an even layer, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, put panko in a small bowl. Line another rimmed baking sheet with parchment or plastic wrap. Cut block-style cheese into 18 ½-inch cubes (you may not need all the cheese).

Form about 2 Tablespoons of cooled macaroni mixture into a ball. Press a cheese cube into the center, then seal the ball around cheese. Roll ball in panko, coating all sides, and arrange it on the lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining macaroni mixture and cheese cubes. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until thoroughly frozen, at least 4 hours.

Using the Ninja Foodie Air Fryer, insert the crisper basket and close the hood. Select AIR CRISP, set the temperature to 425°F, and set the time to 9 minutes. Select START/STOP to begin preheating. While the unit is preheating, remove mac and cheese bites from the freezer and spray on all sides with cooking spray. When the unit beeps to signify it has preheated, arrange half of mac and cheese bites evenly in the basket. Close hood and cook for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, turn mac and cheese bites using rubber-tipped tongs. Close hood to resume cooking for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, check mac and cheese bites for doneness. If desired, close hood and continue cooking up to 2 more minutes. When cooking is complete, remove mac and cheese bites using rubber-tipped tongs. Repeat with remaining mac and cheese bites.

Serve as is or with dipping sauce.

Created in partnership with Ninja Foodi.