Panera has been one of my favorite lunchtime spots for quite a while now. I always say that Panera is my favorite fast food restaurant but really it’s unfair to put Panera into the same category as McDonalds, Burger King and the like. Their food is infinitely better. I love almost every soup, salad and sandwich on Panera’s menu. But my very favorite thing to order? The mac and cheese. You can only imagine how excited I was to come across the recipe for Panera’s mac and cheese online a few months back.
I love Panera’s mac and cheese recipe for a few reasons. First, it is made on the stovetop and only takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. I love baked mac and cheese (especially my mom’s recipe) but it’s also nice to have a go-to stovetop recipe in your repertoire. Second, the white cheese sauce is perfectly creamy and delicious. The dijon mustard adds a little bit of tang but you can cut back on the amount below if you are not a fan. If you love Panera’s mac and cheese as much as I do or even if you have never tried if before, this is a recipe you definitely want to keep around.
- 16 oz medium shells or other pasta shapes
- 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 2½ cups milk
- 4 oz white American cheese, chopped
- 8 oz extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- In a large pot, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain well and return the pasta to the pot.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauce pan set over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Cook the mixture for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat and cook the milk mixture until it thickens and bubbles, about 6-8 minutes.
- Remove the sauce pan from the heat. Add the cheese a little at a time, whisking until all of the cheese has melted before adding more. Add the mustard and salt. Whisk until combined.
- Return the sauce pan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Evenly coat the pasta with the sauce and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.
Source: Recipe adapted from Panera Bread