Panera Mac and Cheese

Anybody need this sign?

Anybody need this sign?

Say hello to some of the best mac and cheese on the planet! It’s not baked, it’s absurdly cheesy, and it reheats beautifully – no separated sauce! I’m pretty excited about this dish, but then again, I’m pretty excited about mac and cheese in general. It’s a wonder it took me this long to post a mac and cheese recipe, since pasta with cheese is my favourite comfort food.

Panera Mac & Cheese chilling out in the pot, anticipating the forks that lurk nearby...

Who knows what beauty lurks in the hearts of lettuce?

This recipe is adapted from Panera’s official recipe for their mac and cheese. Having never been to Panera, I cannot say whether or not the recipe is true to the store’s dish, but I can say that the texture of the roux is thick and creamy, and the flavours are complex. I consider this a go-to mac and cheese recipe, as it’s insanely delicious and comes together within 30 minutes. I made this for a quick dinner one night, then made red wine beef stew the next night, and weirdly enough, the mac and cheese and beef stew were made for one another. No kidding, the beef stew with this mac and cheese was one of the most delightful things I have ever tasted. All credit for figuring this out goes to Husband, as he had the brilliant idea of adding some of the stew meat to his dish of mac and cheese. Thanks, honey! 🙂

See the thick texture of the roux?

The roux was so molecular!

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Panera Mac and Cheese

Ingredients:
1 lb. pasta, your choice of shape (I used penne)
1 TBS olive oil or butter for tossing with cooked pasta, optional
4 TBS salted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups half & half
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (the original recipe calls for 1/4 tsp hot sauce, but this was all I had on hand)
1/2 lb Swiss fontina cheese, grated or chopped
1/2 lb white American cheese*, grated or chopped
1/4 lb Swiss cheese, grated or chopped

Method:
Cook pasta according to instructions on package, making sure to generously salt water. Drain and return to pot off the heat. Set aside and cover to keep warm; toss with 1 TBS butter or olive oil if desired.

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until light golden brown, about 5 – 10 minutes. Whisk in the milk and half-and-half until no lumps remain. Whisk in the salt, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook the sauce, whisking constantly, until it bubbles and thickens noticeably, about 10 minutes.

Remove sauce from heat and gradually add cheese, one handful at a time, whisking until each handful of cheese is melted before adding the next handful. Once the sauce is smooth, pour over the pasta in the pot and stir until the pasta is evenly coated. Serve immediately.

*White American cheese is available at most deli counters.

Source: Adapted from Panera Bread, via Annie’s Eats

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2 thoughts on “Panera Mac and Cheese

  1. Pingback: Red Wine Beef Stew | KitchEnchanted

  2. Pingback: Tropical Carrot Cake | KitchEnchanted

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