Photo Credit: Ray Kachatorian
Baked Macaroni and Cheese Cupcakes
Serves 6 to 8
Vegetable cooking spray
2 cups dried breadcrumbs
8 ounces small pasta such as pennette, shells, or elbows
8 ounces ground turkey or chicken, preferably dark meat
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups grated white cheddar cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 cups chopped broccoli, blanched, see Cook's Note
1 pound asparagus, cut into 3/4-inch pieces, blanched
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 2 12-cup muffin or cupcake pans with vegetable cooking spray. Using 1 cup of breadcrumbs, coat the inside of each muffin cup with breadcrumbs, shaking off any excess.
In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey, or chicken, if using, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until cooked through. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and place in a large bowl. Add the cooked turkey and the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the prepared pasta mixture into the cupcake molds, filling evenly to about 2/3 full. Place a few pieces of tomato, broccoli and asparagus in each cup. Top with a thin layer of the remaining breadcrumbs and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool for a few minutes and carefully unmold with a spoon.
Cook's Note: To blanch vegetables, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the vegetables and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until very crisp. Using a small strainer, remove the vegetables and place immediately into a bowl of iced water. Drain and use.