Macaroni and Cheese (Panera Style)

I am a huge fan of macaroni and cheese and have always wanted to find a great stove top version.  I have seen this recipe popping up on many blogs lately and decided that it was worth giving a try.  I have never tried the macaroni and cheese at Panera, actually I was unaware that they even had macaroni and cheese on their menu.  That being said, I can not rate this recipe based on having tried the original.  Since the recipe came right off of their website I would assume that it is pretty close to their original recipe. 

Since I was making this recipe as a side dish and only my husband and myself were eating it, I decided to cut the recipe that you see below in half.  There was more than enough for us both to have some at dinner and then enough that we were both able to have some for leftovers the following day.  I have probably mentioned before that I am not a fan of leftovers.  Most things just do not taste the same, or even half as good, the second time around.  I will admit though that this mac and cheese reheated nicely.  I was expecting the sauce to separate and be gloppy on the noodles but it wasn’t, and the taste was actually pretty good.  Speaking of the taste, you are probably wanting to know just how delicious this mac and cheese really was.  Well friends, it was good.  Thick, creamy, cheesy, and perfect in almost every way.  One thing I must mention is when the recipe says serve immediately, you might want to go ahead and do that.  The sauce thickens very quickly after being taken off of the heat and once that sauce has thickened it is much harder to enjoy.

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Macaroni and Cheese (Panera Style)

Ingredients
1 pound pasta shapes, such as shells
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2½ cups milk or half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
1½-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon hot sauce
4 ounces white American cheese, finely chopped*
8 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded

*White American cheese is available at the deli counter in most grocery stores.

Directions
1 – Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Drain well.  Return to the stockpot off the heat.

2 – Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Stir in the flour and cook until light golden brown, whisking constantly, about 1½-2  minutes.  Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps remain.  Stir in the salt, mustard, and hot sauce.  Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook the sauce, stirring frequently, until it bubbles and thickens, about 6-8 minutes.

3 – Remove the sauce from the heat.  Stir in the cheese a handful at a time, mixing until fully melted before adding more.  Once all the cheese has been added and the sauce is smooth, pour the sauce over the pasta in the stockpot.  Mix well until the pasta is fully coated in the sauce.  Serve immediately.

~yields 6-8 servings

Recipe as seen on Annie’s Eats

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