Oddly enough, I've never had the mac and cheese at Panera but I do love everything else there. When I think of Panera, I'm reminded of my cousin Jen who lives in Arizona where the chain does not exist. So, anytime she visits somewhere that has one, it's usually at the top of her list to visit.
This mac and cheese was served at my Father's Day lunch this year to accompany AB's Who Loves Ya Baby Back Ribs. It was picked especially for my father-in-law and he approved. Eating firsts, seconds, and THIRDS. It was very saucy and creamy, just the way I like my mac to be. The only reason I still think the other mac edges this one out is because I think that one is a bit more creamy and uses a sharper cheese, which I prefer.
One Year Ago: Summer Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (Another Panera inspired recipe!)
Two Years Ago: Firecracker Shrimp
Three Years Ago: Pasta Salad
Panera Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb. pasta shapes, such as shells
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2½ cups milk or half-and-half
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1½-2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- ¼ tsp. hot sauce
- 4 oz. white American cheese, finely chopped (available at the deli counter of most grocery stores)
- 8 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain well. Return to the pot off the heat.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook until light golden brown, whisking constantly, about 1½-2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Stir in the salt, mustard, and hot sauce. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until it bubbles and thickens, about 6-8 minutes.
- Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the cheese a handful at a time, mixing until fully melted before adding more. Once all the cheese has been added and the sauce is smooth, pour the sauce over the pasta in the stockpot. Mix well until the pasta is fully coated in the sauce. Serve immediately.