Ever since I saw Cheesecake Factory’s fried mac and cheese balls on ‘Unwrapped’ I have been obsessed. They’re almost a staple now when I visit Cheesecake Factory. I went camping this weekend and thought they would make great outdoors side dish. I was right. These balls are some work, and next time I will moderate the recipe, but they got great reviews!
I searched the web and found the recipe below over and over claiming to be the secret recipe. Below are my notes/tips in pink.
- 1 pound Cavatappi (also called cellentani or double elbows, is macaroni formed in a spiral tube shape with ridges) In the interest of trying to be health conscious I used whole wheat maccaroni elbows, they turned out great and no one noticed the pasta was whole wheat
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk, warmed, plus 2 tablespoons for egg wash
- 1 pound grated Sharp Cheddar
- 1 pound grated smoked Gouda
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cups seasoned bread crumbs
- Vegetable oil, for frying I didn’t have enough vegetable oil so I used olive oil. It produced a more golden brown coloring than regular vegetable oil.
- Marinara sauce, to serve
- Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again and set aside.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour into the butter and stir it with a whisk. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Whisk the warmed milk into the flour mixture, working out any lumps. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.Remove from the heat, add the cheeses, and stir until melted and smooth; season with salt and pepper. I found I needed to put this over heat again in order to get the cheese to melt. Fold the cheese sauce into macaroni. Pour the mac and cheese into a shallow pan and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours. I didn’t have a large enough pan so I used the big pot I boiled the maccaroni in (which had cooled by now). This wasn’t too shallow and in retrospect I should have left them in the fridge for another hour or so. One comment on a review said she used Velveeta cheese. Next time I think I will try Velveeta. Personally, I think 1 lb of smoked Gouda was too over overpowering of a flavor. What I liked is that these balls were cheesy, but not too gooey, so they didn’t feel too heavy. If you want more cheesy I would def substitute Velveeta and, if you want more of an American mac and cheese flavor substitute American for Gouda. Also, one commenter said she called Cheesecake Factory and they told her they used White Cheddar, Fontina, and Jack cheeses. Next time I think I will use White Cheddar and Fontina instead of Gouda.
- Shape the cold mac and cheese into meatball-sized balls and place them onto a waxed paper-lined tray. It makes this sooo much easier if you have an ice cream scooper!! Freeze the balls overnight. This took up a lot of room in the freezer, so beware. I forgot to buy wax paper at the store, so instead I used a regular cookie sheet and sprayed it with cooking spray. Worked great. TIP: If you’re using wax paper for actual baking, then you might not really need wax paper, you can substitute with aluminum foil or a metal pan.
- Beat the eggs and 2 tablespoons milk together to form an egg wash and pour it into a shallow bowl. Put the bread crumbs into another shallow bowl. I used the bread crumbs I had available, a mix of regular and whole wheat bread crumbs. I wanted to make this recipe a little healthier so I tried to opt for whole wheat whenever I could. Next time for a little more flavor I may try the Italian seasoned bread crumbs.
- Remove the mac and cheese balls from the freezer. Dip the frozen balls into the egg wash then into the break crumbs. Put the balls back into the freezer until you are ready to fry.
- Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 350 degrees F. I do not have a deep-fryer. Instead, I heated oil over a gas flame. This resulted in my first batch, two balls, being burnt. I had only left them in for less than a minute. Make sure the flame is on medium heat at the most.
- Fry the mac and cheese balls until they are golden brown and center is hot, about 4-5 minutes. If you are not using a deep-fryer make sure to experiment on the first two or three. The balls need to cook for a couple of minutes so they are completely warm through-and-through. If you cook them only a fraction of the time the balls will look fried from the outside but may still be partially frozen or pretty cold on the inside.
- Serve hot with your favorite marinara for dipping and add some grated parmesan!
What do you think, can you not wait to try these?!
After I got back from the camping trip I reheated a few up in a frying pan over low heat. I turned them and directly added marinara sauce. They were till very good!!
I keep some of the balls frozen for about a month until one night when the power went out and I fried these up for my roommates– they were a big hit!