Make mac and cheese:Cook the pasta to al-dente in well salted water, as directed on the packages. Drain.Meanwhile, make the roux by adding the butter into a large saucepan over medium high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk until the roux smells slightly nutty, about 3 minutes.When the roux starts to smell nutty, whisk in the milk slowly. Heat the milk while whisking occasionally until it's hot and thickened slightly. Turn the heat to low and add the grated cheese. Whisk until all of the cheese are melted.Add the cooked pasta and mix until the cheese sauce is evenly distributed. *If the saucepan is too small, combine the sauce and the pasta in a heat-proof bowl.*
Chill and cut mac and cheese:Pour the mac and cheese into a parchment lined ½ sheet pan. Spread the pasta out evenly into a 1 inch thick layer. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight, until the pasta is stiff and holds its shape. *Make sure to cover the mac and cheese when chilling to prevent it from drying out.*Once the mac and cheese is stiff enough, cut it into 1 inch squares using a knife or a bench scraper. Loosen all the squares from the parchment paper.
Preheat oven, fryer, or air-fryer to 375°F.
Bread mac and cheese bites:In a large mixing bowl, combine panko, parmesan, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Mix to distribute evenly.In one medium bowl, beat the eggs with ¼ cup of water for egg wash. In another small or medium bowl, prepare 1 cup of flour.A few mac and cheese bites at a time, very lightly flour each square. Then coat each lightly in the egg wash. Lastly, toss each square in the seasoned panko. Repeat these 3 steps until all is breaded. *Make sure to shake off excess flour, egg, and panko between each step.*
Bake, fry, or air-fry the bites:To bake: Line the mac and cheese bites, about ½ inch apart, on a wire rack supported by a sheet pan or cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F for about 20 minutes until the outside is golden brown and crispy and the inside is throughly hot.To fry: Fry the bites for about 5-7 minutes until they're golden brown. *Make sure to not overcrowd the fry basket to get a good fry and not cool the oil too much.*To air-fry: Air-fry the bites on the perforated basket, lined ½ inch apart, at 375°F for about 15 minutes or until they are golden brown and hot throughout.
Serve hot and enjoy! These mac and cheese bites are great by themselves and amazing with marinara. They are surprisingly awesome with ketchup as well!