Saturday, May 5, 2012

Macaroni & Cheese ala Panera

Macaroni and Cheese ala Panera

This may come as a shock to many, many people, but after trying a few homemade mac n' cheese recipes, this one being the most recent, I think I've come to the realization that my personal favorite for mac n' cheese comes in a blue box with a picture of Spongebob Squarepants. My 9-year-old son Ezra agrees. I'm fixing some for breakfast for him right now as I type this. (Unfortunately, its ridiculously high sodium content and my high blood pressure prevent me from sharing the box with Ezra. Sigh.)

I made the recipe below at the request of my good friend at work who threw the challenge at me. She said she thought it tasted great. It looks great.  It tasted good.  I just don't like it when mac n' cheese gets really thick and gluey, which is what happened here. I thought about reducing the amount of flour called for, but decided to just go for it. I used two cups 2% milk with 1/2 cup heavy cream.  Everything else I followed. When I looked for "white American cheese" all I found was what was called "Swiss style" processed cheese slices. I know that's not where I went wrong. The flavor of the mac n' cheese was fine. It's the texture I don't enjoy.  
Oh, and my friend told me that Panera's mac n' cheese has little crunchy bread crumbs or something. I think maybe I just need to scoot on over to Panera and try their mac n' cheese.  Yeah. That's what I need to do.
This recipe comes directly from the Panera website, so if you click on the title of the recipe below, you should be taken there to see it for yourself.

Panera Bread’s Signature Macaroni & Cheese 
Adapted by Head Chef Dan Kish

1 (16-ounce) package of rigati pasta (or other small pasta shells)
¼ cup butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2½ cups 2% reduced fat milk (or cream)
6 slices white American cheese, chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) shredded extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon hot sauce
1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

2. Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.

3. Gradually whisk in milk (or cream); cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.

4. Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.

5. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated).

Serves 4 to 6

Sorry, Panera.  Kraft mac n' cheese still has my vote.


  1. I don't know what happened but the cheese sauce for this came out super thick and floury and there was way too much for the amt of pasta specified in the recipe. I won't be making this again.

    1. Anonymous, I would have to agree with you. I was not a fan of this one, but my friend loved it. Sorry you had to waste the ingredients. :(


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