Monday, April 02, 2012

Panera's Stove Top Mac and Cheese

I love mac and cheese. I'm trying to eat less of it these days because it isn't exactly healthy, but that doesn't mean I've stopped loving it's cheesy goodness. I have a favorite baked version, but I've yet to find a stove top recipe that tastes as good. Then I saw Tara rave about this recipe for Panera's Stove Top Mac and Cheese and I figured I'd give it a whirl.

Disclaimer - I've never had Panera's mac and cheese (I can count on one hand the number of times I've eaten at Panera), but this was creamy, cheesy and delicious, with a nice tang from the Dijon. I might cut back on the mustard the next time simply because I felt it was bordering on overwhelming the other flavors. Otherwise this was fantastic and easy. I served it with pan-grilled ham steaks and roasted asparagus, which is unusual for me because generally I like to keep the mac and cheese the star of the show. This time I really wanted it to be a side dish.

Panera’s Stove Top Mac and Cheese
Smells Like Home

16 oz pipette pasta or other small pasta shapes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half
4 oz white American cheese, chopped or torn into pieces
8 oz extra sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (like Frank’s)

In a large stockpot, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a 4-quart sauce pan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and has started to bubble, whisk in the flour; cook for 1 1/2 minutes whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in the milk until no lumps remain. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook milk mixture, whisking frequently, until it thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes.

Remove sauce pan from the heat and by the handful, stir in the cheeses allowing all of the cheese to melt into the sauce before adding more. Stir in the mustard, salt, and hot sauce. Return the sauce pan to the heat and stir in the pasta. Be sure to stir up the sauce from the bottom of the sauce pan and thoroughly coat all of the pasta with sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes over medium-low heat until heated through. Serve hot.

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  1. I saw this on Pinterest and wanted to make it because I love Panera's Man & cheese( although insanely unhealthy.) Did it taste like it?

    1. I've never had Panera's mac and cheese (maybe I should add that to my post?) so I can't say whether it's a good copy or not. But Tara from Smells Like Home says it is so I have to take her word for it. :)

  2. This looks fabulous. I have been eying this recipe for a long time. I so have to make this ASAP! :D -Kim

    1. It's SO good. I've since had the real deal and this tastes just as good.

  3. I have this recipe pinned as well. It just looks so creamy and cheesy-I can't wait to try it!

  4. Sigh. What isn't to love about this recipe? It looks absolutely divine!

  5. But American Cheese? Really? You know I love Mac n cheese and am always looking for new recipes to try but anything with velvetta or American Cheeses and I bypass it because it can't be legit.

    1. Don't knock it, D. American cheese adds a wonderful creaminess. And if it's good enough for Panera and America's Test Kitchen it's good enough for me! :)


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