Faith Kramer's Hanukkah Mac and Cheese Balls. (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Faith Kramer's Hanukkah Mac and Cheese Balls. (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Fritter away Hanukkah with this fried mac and cheese

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These mac and cheese balls combine two Hanukkah traditions — fried foods and dairy foods — for a fun holiday appetizer or snack.

Give them a kick by using pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheeses, or customize them to your taste with a mixture of Monterey Jack, Colby, and/or cheddar cheeses.

These fritters are best served warm and can be made a day ahead and reheated. Eat them plain, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, or with a dip of marinara or pizza sauce.

For best results, use a deep-fry/candy thermometer. If not available, drop a small cube of white bread in hot oil. If it browns in about 45 seconds and the oil around the bread bubbles immediately and continuously, the oil is ready. Repeat the test between batches and after adding extra oil.

Mac and Cheese Balls

Makes about 30-32 fritters

  • 8 oz. uncooked elbow, fusilli or other “short” pasta
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. powdered mustard
  • 2½ cups total shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, pepper jack and/or Colby cheese
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup (approx.) store-bought dried unseasoned fine breadcrumbs
  • Neutral oil for frying

Make pasta according to package directions. Cook until tender but with a bit of resistance in the center. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a 4-qt. saucepan or pot over low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually add milk, whisking constantly, until smooth. Adjust heat to medium-low and bring to a simmer, whisking often. Simmer uncovered (lower heat if necessary), whisking occasionally, until very thick and smooth, about 5-10 minutes, but timing will vary (volume should be reduced by half).

Turn off heat, but leave pan on burner. Use spoon to stir in salt, pepper, mustard and cheese until incorporated in the sauce. Stir in the pasta and green onions until fully coated. Take pan off burner. Let rest for 20 minutes. Add eggs. Mix until well combined.

Wet hands. Squeeze, press and roll 2 Tbs. of mixture between your hands to make a compact, dense, 1-inch-diameter ball with no bits of pasta or green onion sticking out. Roll in crumbs, making sure ball stays compacted. (If it doesn’t, recompact and roll in crumbs again.) Make 5 or 6 balls while oil gets up to temperature.

Cover the bottom of a wide, deep, 6- to 8-qt. pot with 1 inch of oil. Clip on deep fry/candy thermometer. Heat over high heat until the thermometer reads between 340 and 375 degrees. Adjust heat to maintain temperature, or you can remove pot from burner (turning off heat first) for a few minutes if oil gets too hot.

Add balls to pot. After a minute, turn the fritters with metal tongs or long-handled metal slotted spoon. Fry about 2 minutes total, adjusting heat as needed to maintain temperature, until browned all over. Remove to a paper towel-covered plate to drain.

Roll the next batch. Add to oil when it is between 340 and 375 degrees. Add oil if needed, but return to temperature before frying.

Repeat until done.

If serving soon, keep fritters warm on an ungreased baking sheet in 250-degree oven between batches. To make ahead, arrange between waxed paper layers and store airtight overnight at room temperature. Reheat in 350-degree oven on ungreased baking sheet until warm, about 10 minutes. Serve warm as is, garnished with Parmesan cheese and/or chopped parsley, or with a dip such as purchased marinara or pizza sauce. Warm up sauce if desired.

Notes: To avoid fritter fail, be sure balls are to size and very compact. Only fry when oil is between 340 and 375 degrees. Cool used oil, strain, and store airtight in a jar for future use.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].