So I have a confession to make...I am totally and completely, without a doubt hooked on Panera's Macaroni and Cheese. If I didn't have kids I would have never know it even existed. (ouch the thought alone!)
It's on the kids menu. A bit on the pricey side. But hey what can I say I'm hooked.
So you can imagine my extreme excitement when Panera posted their recipe on their site awhile back (Yes Panera does share quite a few amazing recipes on their main site, definitely worth a look if you are a regular there and are on a budget.)
This means that I can have my own Panera macaroni and cheese, not have to pay $10 for a small bowl, and I don't even have to leave the house....Bring it on!!! I can make a full meal portion for a fraction of the price. You would think they used imported specialty cheeses in their dish for the price they make you pay!
Surprisingly I'm not a mac n cheese type of girl. I find the texture, taste and overall appearance lacking. The only good thing about mac n cheese dishes is the crispy buttery breadcrumb layer on the top.
I have failed miserably at each of my attempts to make a creamy, cheesy dish that does not separate or have a floury taste like I find most recipes do.
This recipe has none of those lacking qualities and where the other recipes fail, this one overly exceeds expectations. This macaroni and cheese dish is full of flavor decidedly creamy and lacks at nothing in my opinion. However...I do not advice doubling this recipe. Keep it simple and stick to one batch at a time. it's hard to keep the creaminess once doubled.
Also I was shocked at the secret ingredient they use to provide a zap to the flavor.....hot sauce!
This dish doesn't even need a buttery crispy layer of toasted goodness. this dish chooses to go stag.
My kiddos are in bed being entertained by the bear himself "Winnie the pooh". although I think he's doing a horrible job. Pitter-patter of feet and giggles can be heard. hmmmm this needs some investigation.
I'm planning on busting my kids, making some tea and then sitting down and dreaming of eating this amazing mac n cheese....since the most devastating thing is that this creamy dish from heaven is off limits to me. With a whopping 27 points for one normal serving (or large serving at Panera the small kids version is 13 points for anyone interested.)
Enjoy your night and definitely give this a whirl it's a lot cheaper and oh so good. Comfort food done best!
- 1 (16-ounce) package of small shells pasta
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2½ cups 2% reduced fat milk (or half & half)
- 4 oz or 6 slices white American cheese, chopped (you can find this at the deli counter)
- 1 cup (8 ounces) shredded extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and set aside.
- Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 11/2- 2 minutes until light golden brown, whisking constantly.
- Gradually whisk in milk (or cream); cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add cheeses little by little stirring until just incorporated. Add mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until all the cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.
- Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated).
Serves 4 to 6
Recipe courtesy of Panera bread, Adapted by Head Chef Dan Kish