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Copycat Panera Bread Mac And Cheese

This is comfort food at its most irresistible.

Panera Bread has so many menu items that we absolutely love, and of all the options from bread to soup, salads, and desserts, there is one item that defines comfort food. Panera’s mac and cheese is one of the most crave-worthy items on the entire menu, and we’ve had our fair share of mac and cheese in our time. There’s just something about this one that we go gaga over. It’s so creamy and cheesy, with a great tang and perfectly cooked noodles. We’ve done our best to recreate this recipe in our own kitchen and boy does it sure taste good.

We all know that the secret to a good mac and cheese is the cheese, so we’ve picked two that are absolutely amazing here. We like the American cheese for its meltiness (of course this is a real word) and the sharp cheddar for that wonderful bite. To take the flavor up a notch, we add hot sauce, not too much because this is definitely not a spicy mac and cheese. The hot sauce adds great flavor and really pairs beautifully with the cheese. Dijon mustard is the next ingredient and it too works wonders with the cheeses and hot sauce. Now, all we need are the noodles, but let’s be honest, we could drink this cheese sauce straight from the saucepan!

While the cheese is still warm, we toss in the shell-shaped noodles and give it a good stir. We love the goopy-gooey sound the cheese makes as we stir everything together. One bite of this and you’ll barely be able to put the spoon or fork down and it’s definitely worthy of the mac and cheese we love at Panera Bread. This won’t stop us from frequenting the restaurant in the future, but now we know when a mac and cheese craving hits, we can whip up our own favorite recipe right in the comfort of our own home.

Serves 6

45 minutes

  • 1 (16 oz) package rigati shell pasta
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 6 slices white American cheese, cut into strips
  • 8 oz extra sharp white Vermont cheddar, shredded
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce
  • Cracked black pepper, garnish (optional)
  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan on low heat. Add flour and whisk until thickened. Bring heat up to medium and slowly add milk, stirring until mixture has thickened and begins to bubble.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat and add American cheese, cheddar cheese, dijon mustard, salt, and hot sauce. Stir until cheese has melted and is smooth. Add pasta to saucepan and stir until pasta is coated with cheese sauce.
  4. Optional garnish of fresh cracked black pepper to serve. Enjoy!
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