There are “leftovers,” and then there are “planned-overs.” The latter is a concept frequently referenced by my aunt, who is all in favor of planning to have extra portions of a recipe, specifically to be used in something else later on.
This is a planned-over that I’ve tried (and missed) before, but this time, it was a big-time winner. Friends, it’s comfort times two—mac and cheese, waffled!
These are easy to make, but obviously, you need to have a waffle maker to make this happen. My first (failed) effort was on a Belgian-style waffle maker—not a great idea, and I’m certain the thick, deeply indented shape contributed to the not-so-fab outcome. For the best texture and even, perfectly crispy edges, go with a standard square-style waffle maker. Mine has a non-stick coating, so pulling the finished waffles off the iron was cheesy-breezy.
To plan ahead for these planned-overs, skip back to my basic mac and cheese recipe, and follow the instructions, but stop after the stove-top stage—no casserole into the oven, or else your mac and cheese waffles will be dry and tough. Reserve about 1/2 cup of the cheese sauce, for decadent drizzling on the finished waffles. Go ahead and bake some of the mac and cheese if you’d like, but hold back enough to make waffles in whatever quantity you wish.
Here, I spread the unbaked portion of mac and cheese evenly into a 9 x 13 glass casserole dish, about 1 inch deep. Cover and chill until you’re ready to dive into this decadence.
Ready to get cooking?
Here’s a quick recap for making my bechamel-based cheese sauce. Use the link to the original recipe for ingredient amounts and detailed descriptions.
Prepared basic mac and cheese, reserve 1/2 cup of the cheese sauce for serving.
1 large egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
3/4 cup unseasoned panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or parm-romano blend*
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Reserved cheese sauce
1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half
At our house, we always have a 50/50 blend of deli-quality parmesan and romano cheeses. We purchase the cheese in blocks and shred it with the food processor. It beats the daylights out of store-bought parmesan cheese, and we save a good bit of money in the long run.
The visual description will probably cover it for you, but written instructions are included below, just in case.
Cut chilled mac and cheese into squares or rectangles, to match the size of your waffle maker sections.
Place the beaten egg into a shallow glass dish. Dip each piece of mac and cheese into the egg wash, using a spoon as necessary to fully drench the mac and cheese with the egg mixture.
Combine panko crumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper in a second shallow glass dish. Dredge the egg washed mac and cheese in the crumb mixture, pressing crumbs into the nooks and crannies to ensure even coating. Transfer coated mac and cheese to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow them to rest about 15 minutes.
Preheat the waffle iron to 400° F.
Press additional crumb mixture onto any bare spots on the mac and cheese. Arrange the pieces into the waffle iron, and press to close. Allow them to bake about 10 minutes, or until they are golden brown and lightly crispy on the outside. They should also release easily from the iron.
While the mac and cheese waffles are baking, warm the leftover cheese sauce, whisking in up to 1/3 cup heavy cream or half and half until the sauce is thinner and pourable.
Serve the decadent crispy waffles with a generous drizzle of the cheese sauce.
We served these as a hearty side to some juicy, quick-brined pork chops and leftover collard greens. But wouldn’t they also look great alongside some southern fried chicken or meatloaf or burgers or—OK, with just about anything? 😊