July 23, 2012

Panera's Macaroni and Cheese

There is one food that is my absolute weakness.  Macaroni and cheese.  I grew up loving the Kraft blue box and progressed to Stouffer's until I was old enough to start making some from scratch.  I love it, and now my daughter loves it.  Whenever we're anywhere and I ask her what she's hungry for she will always say macaroni and cheese.  Every time.  She hasn't been all that receptive to the homemade versions I've tried so far.  I was finally able to figure out that she just wants plain no frills macaroni so I made it as simple as possible and she'll eat it that way.  She'll also eat Panera macaroni and cheese (which is odd considering several of my homemade variations have been similar) so I was thrilled to see that they actually publish their recipe online.  How convenient! 

The first time I made this recipe I was on my way over to a neighbors house for a 4th of July party.  This recipe is easy to make and doesn't require any baking at all, it's all done on the stove top.

You probably have most of these ingredients on hand already.

The thing I love about this version is how creamy it is without baking and not baking it makes it quick. I also like the flavor of the hot sauce and the Dijon mustard even though you can't really identify either flavor, you just know there is something unique.  The amazing thing is that my daughter actually eats it!  If she only knew she was eating hot sauce and Dijon mustard!

My new favorite way to make Macaroni and Cheese! Yum!

Panera Macaroni and Cheese

1 (16-ounce) package of rigati pasta (or other small pasta shells)
¼ cup butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
2½ cups 2% reduced fat milk (or cream)
6 slices white American cheese, chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) shredded extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon hot sauce 

Boil the pasta until al dente in a medium saucepan. 

While the pasta is boiling, melt the butter in another larger saucepan.  When melted stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. 

Slowly add the milk and stir with a whisk to get the clumps out.  The sauce will begin to thicken.  Once thickened remove from the heat and add the cheese and the rest of the ingredients (except the pasta). Whisk until smooth. 

Add the pasta and stir well and serve while warm. 

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