December 5, 2012

Panera Bread's Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is one of the greatest comfort foods.  It doesn't matter if you are 5 years old, 28 years old, or 55 years old.  This creamy, cheesy classic dish is just classic comfort food.

Panera Bread's version of this comfort food is insanely yummy.  It is cheesy, velvety, creamy deliciousness.  The Panera Bread recipe calls for hot sauce, but since I'm not a huge hot sauce fan, I left it out.  Because I wanted to use what I had on hand, I used different cheeses than what the recipe called for, and you can, too.  If you are trying to capture the "signature" Panera mac and cheese flavor, check for the white American cheese in the deli section of your grocery store.

If possible, try to avoid using pre-shredded cheese for this recipe.  Pre-shredded cheese is coated in corn starch, so it does not melt as easy as "regular" cheese.  The food processor comes in handy for shredding cheese.  I can throw a "chunk" of cheese into the food processor, and it is instantly grated!

By using a "flatter" pasta like orecchiette or shells, the cheese sauce can really meld into all areas of the pasta.  The slight hint of dijon mustard gives a perfect punch to the rich cheesy flavor.  YUM.

As we near Christmas, the holidays can feel like a holidaze, especially as depicted by this classic Chevy Chase scene.  Take a pause, and enjoy some comfort food--like this dish--with a Christmas movie.  Comfort food and Christmas are good for the soul!

Panera Bread's Macaroni and Cheese
Yields 4 to 6 servings

1 16-oz. package of pasta (mini orecchiette or shells)
1/4 cup butter (salted or unsalted)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups 2% reduced fat milk (I used 1.5%)
1 cup (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese*
1/2 (4 oz.) shredded white American cheese*
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. hot sauce, optional

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

While pasta boils, melt butter over low heat.  Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, and whisk constantly.  Gradually whisk in the milk.  Cook over medium heat, and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and bubbles.  Remove from heat.

Add cheeses, Dijon mustard, and salt, and stir until the cheese melts and sauce becomes smooth.  Stir in the pasta, and cook over medium heat for a minute or two (or until thoroughly heated).

* Note: Because I had a medium cheddar cheese and an aged white cheddar/parmesan cheese (Costco's Lake Country cheese), I used those in lieu of the White American cheese and white cheddar called for in the recipe.  Any combination of cheddar cheese would yield a great result!

Source:  Adapted from Panera Bread


  1. I still think of the baked macaroni and cheese I had at the restaurant at the Culinary Institute in New York. It was out of this world. I haven't made mac and cheese in a long time and now I want some. :)

  2. Nothing like macaroni and cheese to make someone smile :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  3. I didn't know pre-shredded cheese had corn starch on it! Glad you shared that, the only thing that keeps me from shredding my own is laziness ;)

    This mac n' cheese looks phenomenal!

  4. Great addition with the dijon...I could really use something like this to stick to the ribs on a cold night like tonight!

  5. I love Panera macaroni and cheese and I'm glad to have this recipe for it! Thanks for the tip about the pre shredded cheese! This looks fabulous and perfect comfort for this hectic season!


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