Panera’s Mac and Cheese is a favorite comfort food for many. Its rich, creamy texture and bold cheddar flavor make it irresistible. But did you know you can recreate this delicious dish in your kitchen? We’re here to guide you through the process so you can enjoy Panera’s Mac and Cheese without leaving home.

panera mac and cheese

Ingredients Needed

To get started, gather the following ingredients:

  • 16 oz elbow macaroni
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

Step 1: Cook the Pasta

  1. Boil Water: In a large pot, bring water to a boil.
  2. Cook Macaroni: Add the elbow macaroni and cook according to the package instructions until al dente.
  3. Drain and Set Aside: Drain the pasta and set it aside while you prepare the cheese sauce.

Step 2: Prepare the Cheese Sauce

  1. Melt Butter: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
  2. Make a Roux: Once the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk continuously for 1-2 minutes until it forms a smooth paste (roux).
  3. Add Milk and Cream:
  • Gradually Whisk: Slowly whisk in the whole milk and heavy cream.
  • Simmer: Continue whisking until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
  1. Add Cheese:
  • Shred Cheese: Ensure the white cheddar cheese is finely shredded for easy melting.
  • Incorporate Cheese: Gradually add the shredded cheese to the saucepan, whisking continuously until melted and smooth.
  1. Season:
  • Add Salt and Pepper to taste, and whisk to combine.

Step 3: Combine Pasta and Cheese Sauce

  1. Mix Together:
  • Return Pasta: Add the cooked macaroni to the saucepan with the cheese sauce.
  • Stir Well: Gently stir to ensure all the pasta is evenly coated with the creamy cheese sauce.
  1. Heat Through:
  • Simmer Over Low Heat for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure everything is well combined and heated through.

Step 4: Serve and Enjoy!

  1. Portion Out:
  • Dish Up the mac and cheese into bowls.
  1. Optional Garnish:
  • Top with Fresh Herbs like parsley or chives for an extra touch.

Pro Tips for the Perfect Creamy Texture:

  • Use Freshly Grated Cheese: Pre-shredded cheese often contains anti-caking agents that can affect the smoothness of your sauce.
  • Low and Slow for the Sauce: Be patient when making the cheese sauce. Continuous whisking over medium heat helps achieve that silky texture.
  • Don’t Overcook the Pasta: Al dente pasta holds up better when mixed with the sauce, giving you the perfect bite.

Recreating Panera’s Mac and Cheese at home is easier than you might think. Follow these steps, and you’ll have a comforting, creamy dish that rivals the original.

Happy cooking!

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